We recently spoke on a panel at a town hall, and this is the statement we made in support of a Green New Deal:
By the time both of us were born, it was clear that anthropogenic climate change was an imminent threat. NASA reported that climate change was real in 1989, and nothing was done to address this issue. Throughout our entire twenty-year lifetimes–still–no substantial action has taken place to address this existential threat. Government officials who are funded by the fossil fuel industry are silent while people are dying. We are the ones that are going to live with the consequences of these actions. Now, the future of humanity is in our hands.
The U.N. stated that we have 10 years until there are irreversible damages to the planet and the quality of life to all Earth’s inhabitants. But an entire town in northern California is in ashes. In Flint, children’s brains are forever damaged from lead contaminated drinking water. The Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota was washed away by historic floods. Towns in Oklahoma are suffering from human-made earthquakes due to fracking. So climate change is here, in the United States, not 10 years away. What are we going to do about it?
Many young people wish to make the world a better place. By pushing for a Green New Deal, their dream could become a tangible and exciting reality. The Green New Deal not only addresses climate change, but it also provides an opportunity for a broader scope of social change that galvanizes young people.
With the grim realities of climate change, aspiration is missing. Oftentimes, solutions to the climate crisis are mundane and continue to place power in corporations. Carbon taxes and cap and trade do not galvanize young people. Young people are not interested in band-aid solutions; they are passionate about radical, much needed change. Climate change is often constructed as a problem for society as opposed to a problem of society as a whole, which directs attention away from the underlying root causes of vulnerability and subsequently fails to address disparate impacts. The Green New Deal addresses these systemic issues.
The Green New Deal calls for a variety of social changes that will address climate change concurrently. These changes include universal health care, free higher-education, and a living minimum wage. These are all things that got young people, like myself, involved in politics in support of Bernie Sanders in 2016. He was appealing to issues that young people care about in a new, radical way. Young people will be the driving force of action on the climate crisis, and a Green New Deal is a necessary beginning.
Research conducted by Data for Progress has found that young people are uniquely supportive of a green job initiative and efforts to address environmental racism. It should come as no surprise that activists pushing for a Green New Deal are largely comprised of young Americans. This is a divergence from traditional politics. It will lay the groundwork for the coalitions necessary to fight climate change.
Climate change forces us to be innovative and the Green New Deal is innovative. This crisis gives us the opportunity to rethink everything. Not only does a Green New Deal address all members of our society, but it challenges the way our society is structured, inspiring those previously disengaged. It is an opportunity for real democracy to flourish, providing the foundation for everyone to be a part of this revitalizing discussion.
The Green New Deal addresses environmental justice for all vulnerable members of our society, sparking conversation on how to rectify the environment and to empower those who have had their voices silenced by people who value profit over human life. We support the Green New Deal because it is transparent. It incorporates consultation and cooperation with vulnerable communities, labor unions, and civil society groups in order to foster change. Often, vulnerable groups are left out of the mainstream environmental movement. The Green New Deal embodies inclusion, which makes it extremely palatable for young people.
Many people are indoctrinated to aspire to accomplish certain goals within their lifetime. Many of these goals include getting married, having children, or obtaining a fruitful career. We no longer have these aspirations. Instead, we are more concerned with our future access to clean drinking water, food, and shelter when climate conditions worsen. Many people our age are afraid to have children due to climate change. Why would we want to bring another human being into a world where profit is prioritized over their quality of life?
I know a woman who lives in Portland, Oregon. Through research and acknowledging the threat of a changing Earth, she found Oregon to be the safest option to raise her two daughters. We should be making choices on where to live based on our passions or where we see ourselves thriving, not on whether it is the safest choice due to a threat that our current administration refuses to address.
Why are we the ones pushing for change when people that have power, like city council, have the influence to push for the change we so desperately need? The costs of pursuing a green new deal will be far less than the costs of not passing it. If our city council members do not do anything to address the climate crisis, then we pity their role in history.
We don’t have any time. We are out of time. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but what else are we going to do? It’s our future.