Imagining Our Futures series featuring Catherine
Art of Catherine by Megan Rizzo

IMAGINING OUR FUTURES is an as-told-to Prism series that started with a simple question: how do young people navigate the emotional and mental toll of climate change? With each conversation, the gravity of the question revealed itself again and again, this time in the form of hopes and dreams for the future, a place that young people have no choice but to imagine into existence. Climate features reporter Ray Levy Uyeda spoke with three young people to hear their perspectives on how they are making sense of the changing world. Check out their stories here.

When 17-year-old Catherine is not working at a local ice cream shop, she spends the majority of her time in Columbus, Ohio playing and making music. She plays the flute and releases her songs under the stage name “Bloo.” She hopes one day to record and perform professionally. She lives with her parents, dog, three cats, and over 50 fish.

Born in Shanghai and raised outside of Columbus, Catherine’s awareness of global climate change and its local environmental impacts is growing. Midwestern winters have grown shorter and more sporadic, and hot, humid summers have gotten longer. While some of her peers take action by protesting specific policy decisions, Catherine prefers to wait and gather information, which she said can be difficult because the news doesn’t report on climate issues often.

In June 2023, while packing for a summer family trip, Catherine spoke with Prism about why it can be difficult to understand climate impacts, as well as her love of music and future career goals. Here she is, in her own words:

I live in music; it’s what I spend most of my time doing. My love for music started when I was in the fifth-grade band. It was once a week, and I played the trombone, but I don’t play it anymore. I was like, Wow, this is really interesting, being able to play music. In the sixth grade, I switched to the flute. We had band practice every single day, but because there were multiple band classes, we didn’t get to hear what the final composition sounded like until rehearsal for our first performance. At rehearsal, we played the first song together, and that was when I felt actual shivers down my spine. I didn’t realize that being able to make music would make me feel that way. It just shook me to my core. Even if we weren’t good, it still impacted me. 

Most of my friends are in performance art. I met most of them in orchestra, band, or color guard. A lot of my friends like music as well. It’s really nice to be able to surround myself with people who have the same interests as I do. In the future, I want to go to college for music production—like mixing and mastering, and audio engineering-type stuff. I want to minor in performance, too. My passion is making music somewhere in between pop and classical music, the kind of music that someone might listen to on Spotify. It can be hard to stay motivated and to keep making stuff though. 

Even though I’ve played music for years, I still get very nervous performing live. During competitions, even if I didn’t actually mess up the notes but didn’t play it 100% correctly, I would feel so bad about myself afterward. I learned that I shouldn’t be as afraid of playing solos because, at the end of the day, no one will really care or remember afterward. 

I used to spend a lot of time in my room working on music—only recently have I begun to appreciate nature and being outside. When I go to a forest or a place where there’s no man-made structures, it makes me forget that everything around us is usually manipulated by people. When I’m in the complete wilderness, I’m reminded of how the world originally looked. It’s really sad how it’s rare to see a patch of empty grass or [an empty] field. 

I didn’t know that the world was gradually being negatively affected by what us humans were doing on Earth. I’m concerned about what the future will look like if no change occurred to prevent the earth from worsening. 

People talk about climate change at school, and sometimes people even protest. I don’t know if the protests are impactful or not. Sometimes I worry about climate change, like when I see a post or infographic go viral on social media. When Biden approved the Willow project, one post that had a million likes circulated around school, but I just remember that it didn’t actually explain much—just that there was something called the “Willow project” that would affect climate change, but not why, how, or what was happening. I don’t hear a lot about climate issues happening locally. I’d like more information. 

When the media talks about climate change, I feel like the information is almost minimized. Instead of dedicating just one day or one article to speaking about climate change, perhaps news stations could periodically—let’s say once a week—return to the topic since climate change isn’t stopping anytime soon. If it’s still an issue, why drop the topic? Consistency is important.

That being said, I can definitely feel the changes in weather patterns every year. Two years ago, it started to get warm in March, which meant that spring and summer began earlier. This past winter, it began getting cold in mid-December, which was late. Even then, I feel that the only time I ever hear about climate change is once or twice a year on the news, but it seems like it’s not actually being fixed or there’s not an effective way of addressing it. It’s worrying.

I turn 18 next year, and while I don’t really like politics I know that if I don’t vote on issues, then that’s just one less voice. I don’t really know what I want for policies or candidates, but I feel like there isn’t really a good option for whatever you’re hoping for. There’s always consequences for any candidate or policy, no matter if they’re a Democrat or Republican. 

Ray Levy Uyeda is a staff reporter at Prism, focusing on environmental and climate justice. Find Ray on Twitter @raylevyuyeda.