Youth have been vocal advocates and at the forefront of climate politics for a number of years now. And they are making great strides and getting communities, school districts, companies, and even politicians to change and take more action towards clean energy and sustainable practices.
For example, just last week, the Long Beach Unified School District in California, unanimously approved a proposal known colloquially as the Green School Operations—Energy and Sustainability Policy. The school board’s action was the culmination of two years of activism by a dedicated group of LBUSD students across a number of high schools and middle schools within the district. The students provided a consistent and constant presence at board meetings for the past two years. They demanded a specific timeline for the district to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce energy and water consumption by maximizing the efficiency of current district buildings, to purchase clean renewable energy from its utility provider and to explore installing renewable energy systems.
The district, which has 85 school and a $1.2 billion operating budget, has agreed to phase out any machinery that operates on fossil fuels and to transition to zero-emissions vehicles and machinery, by 2045. The students cheered when the school board passed the measure in a 4-0 vote.
And this is just one example of youth who have led change here in the state of California. But youth have been leading change and advocating for the environment all over the country and all over the world.
Another example is Florida resident Delaney Reynolds whom I wrote about for Sierra Magazine back in 2017. Reynold’s The Sink or Swim Project helped get new solar requirements passed in the Miami area so that every new construction had to be built with sustainable solar power. At one point, she sued Florida Governor Rick Scott over his climate inaction. “The lawsuit says the young people, like Reynolds, have been ‘seriously injured’ because of Florida officials’ ‘indifference’ to their ‘fundamental rights to a stable climate system,’” according to news media.
A similar “confront your elected officials approach” has been taken by Sunrise Movement, a U.S.-based, youth-led organization that champions green new deals, good jobs for all people, nonviolence in word and dead, and connections with all people telling their stories and coming together as community. They have been calling on President Joe Biden to act immediately and to declare a climate emergency. Sunrise Movement’s motto is “We are the climate revolution.”
And one of the things the members of the climate revolution—whether they are the students at LBUSD, Delaney Reynolds, or the thousands of teens and twenty-something-year-olds that comprise the more than 400 “hubs” of the Sunrise Movement—seem to understand is that while individual actions are important, infrastructure changes are what is needed to reverse the climate crisis.
William Lawrence, one of Sunrise’s co-founders told The New Yorker, “Even if you change all the light bulbs in the country, you don’t come close to preventing catastrophe. What kind of plan is that, where even if you win you still lose?”
The Sunrise Movement and others realize that leaving most of the remaining coal, oil, and gas reserves in the ground is one way to combat the crisis. But to do that takes a lot of lifestyle changes and political lobbying.
And this is why many youth who care passionately about their fellow human beings and their own lives and the planet and everything on it end up going the political activism route. They feel panic because their elders aren’t affecting change. They don’t want to sit by and idly do nothing, pretending we as a human species aren’t headed for disaster.
Youth are woke and they want others to wake the f— up, get politically active, and be forces for change. Their futures depend on it and so do ours.
(If you missed February’s blog about children who are role models, check it out here.)