© Sarah Houle

Youth Are Calling. Are You Ready to Listen?

We have all heard, and perhaps even been on the receiving end of the “young and naïve” stereotypes. Young and carefree. Young and impressionable. Young and idealistic.  And while all of those adjectives might be accurate, they aren’t stopping youth around the world from calling into question the actions (or lack thereof) of previous generations to address climate change.

This wave of youth activism began last year when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden began camping outside the Swedish parliament and accused lawmakers of failing to uphold their commitments to fight climate change. Greta and her cohort of activists are clear with their message- we want action and we want it now.

© Sarah Houle

The Voiceless Future

There are more young people in the world than ever before and their commitment to social and environmental justice cannot be ignored. Unlike previous generations, these people have grown up learning about climate change and its impacts, watching as most elected officials have failed to take aggressive action at the scale necessary.

Recently, a group of youth caught the media’s attention when they confronted Senator Diane Feinstein about the Green New Deal. In the Senator’s response, she offered them her pragmatic and perhaps even, realistic perspective: the Green New Deal is an ambitious plan that is unlikely to pass Congress. She also pointed out that the very people making this request were not the ones who voted for her–an accurate assessment since they were under 18 years old.

It begs the question…when you aren’t yet allowed to vote, how do you make your voice heard? How do you protect your future and safeguard yourselves against the greatest impacts of climate change?

Organizing for Climate Action

On March 15, youth around the world are walking out of school to participate in the Youth Strike 4 Climate. With over 1,000 events expected across almost 90 countries, the significance of this movement cannot be ignored.

These youth are coming together to say that they want to live their lives full of hope and excitement, not fear for their future. They are calling upon the world’s decision-makers’ to understand the crisis in front of us and commit to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

When it comes to climate change, the deniers–a small but vocal minority–get a lot of attention. However, these young people are telling us to forget the deniers and instead worry about the delayers.

They are the group of people most threatening their future, and there are far more delayers than there are deniers.  Without a doubt, the year 2080 looks bleak for these young people, but the year 2018 didn’t bring much comfort either.

No Matter Your Age–We Must Act

As inspiring as their leadership has been, leaving all of this up to our youth is just irresponsible. They have been forced to fill a void that we adults have left for far too long. It’s time that we each step up and make sure the youngest among us aren’t the only ones raising their voices.

Get engaged and support the young voices that are rising up. Here are just a few ways:

→ Make sure the youth in your community have all the tools they need to tackle this global challenge. That includes ensuring your school district is teaching Massachusetts Science, Technology, and Engineering Standards across K-12 curriculum.  

→ Call your Senator and Representative and tell them that you want bold and swift action on climate change now. Better yet, tell your State legislators that same message. Use the tools at your disposal that many of our youth currently lack–holding the people we voted for accountable to do their job.

→ Join the movement and fight alongside the youth themselves. Find a Youth4Climate Strike near you and support those students by helping to amplify their message.   

2 thoughts on “Youth Are Calling. Are You Ready to Listen?

  1. Elizabeth

    When I was 16 (1988) , I was active in the Chicago Rainforest Action Group. I tried to educate family and friends and strangers on the importance of keeping our rainforests. The fast food industry killed too much for greed. I was ignored, as a female, as a non-scientist, as an artist. My mom told me not to go into biology, as my math was not good enough.
    The times are different today. Our media has finally recognized climate change, and other massive changes that the world must make. I’m glad that a girl was finally given credit for being a citizen scientist.

    Reply
  2. Paul Lauenstein

    Here in Sharon, Massachusetts, four high school students are challenging the town to pledge to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They have filed a warrant article to that effect on the Town Meeting warrant for May 6, 2019. The Town of Walpole has a similar warrant article on their Town Meeting warrant (their Town Meeting is also on May 6). If many towns in Massachusetts were to do that, it would send a strong message to the state legislature that the people of Massachusetts are ready to deal with the problem of global warming.

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