Nel's New Day

March 17, 2019

Climate: Youth Take Over Adult Responsibilities

Last October, a UN report on climate warned of catastrophic consequences in ten years just before the Paradise (CA) fire that killed 85 people and destroyed over 15,000 buildings. The United States is the biggest contributor to climate change, and 71 percent of people in the U.S. believe that they have experienced climate change. Yet almost half the members of Congress—over half in the Senate—are climate change deniers, with a focus on destroying the Green New Deal by claiming it is socialism.

Only five percent of people in the U.S. think that climate change can be reversed, but young people don’t follow that belief. One teenager started protesting outside the Swedish parliament last summer, and last Friday her movement to fight climate change went global when hundreds of thousands of students in 123 countries and 1,700 locations participated in the International Youth Climate Strike by leaving schools to demand action. Greta Thunberg [below center], the 16-year-old Swedish activist who inspired the strikes, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Other young people worked with her through social media to organize the rallies and then marched.

The group’s mission:

We, the youth of America, are striking because decades of inaction has left us with just 11 years to change the trajectory of the worst effects of climate change, according to the Oct 2018 UN IPCC Report. We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation—especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low-income communities—are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people. We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure. Additionally, we believe the climate crisis should be declared a national emergency because we are running out of time.

Their demands include renewable energy, no additional fossil fuel infrastructure, a national emergency on climate change, compulsory education on climate change, clean water, emission standards and benchmarks, and all government decisions based on scientific research.

In the United States, the Youth Climate Strike group, founded and directed by three young women from Colorado, New York, and Minnesota, helped organize strikes in over 100 cities across the country.

When 12-year-old Haven Coleman missed a math tutoring session while she was on the phone planning the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, her teacher said, “You better get your priorities together.” Most of the time, Coleman schedules her protests early in the mornings or during lunch. In conjunction with 40 other countries, over 300 people in the U.S. have agreed to lead strikes in their cities on March with events confirmed in 28 states to urge politicians to stem the effects of the “climate crisis.” When she was asked about the reason for her activism, she said, “We can stop the worst effects, so why shouldn’t I try and save all you adults?” She also said, “I’m not going to leave my future in the hands of people who aren’t doing anything.”

Coleman inspired Isra Hirsi, 16, [right] to get involved. The daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (R-MN), involved in climate activism with the youth-led coaltion of organizations Minnesota Can’t Wait, said, “It is my future, it is the younger ones’ future, and it’s less the older ones’ future.” Over 18 months ago, Hirsi started to learn about environmental racism and injustices in places such as Flint (MI) where people still suffer from lead-contaminated water caused by faulty political decisions and not yet corrected. Her friend Maddy Fernands, the group’s national press director, expressed optimism about their actions:

“It’s the young kids, the kindergartners, the high schoolers, the scientists, [who] are saying you’re doing something that’s wrong. [And by doing that,] people will start to react. It’ll become politically unpopular to not support that sort of coalition of people.”

The third co-founder of the U.S. youth strike, 13-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor, [left] started her weekly climate strike in front of the UN Headquarters last December despite the polar vortex weather. Like Thunberg, she was alone. With her asthma, Villaseñor couldn’t go outside on a visit to family in Northern California without feeling “really sick” because of the Camp Fire. When she returned home to New York, she started her research and discovered a story about Thunberg’s speech at the 2018 United Nations COP24 climate conference in Poland and her call to action. Last Friday, she was joined by other young people when she returned to her weekly sojourn.

An excerpt from the article that she and Thunberg wrote for Common Dreams:

“Scientists have also shown us that burning fossil fuels is “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”. Nine out of every 10 children around the world are breathing dangerous air. Our lives are being compromised before we are born. Toxic particles from exhaust fumes pass through the lungs of pregnant women and accumulate in the placenta. The risk of premature birth, low birth weight and cognitive dysfunction this causes is a public health catastrophe. Pollution from diesel vehicles is stunting the growth of our lungs, leaving us damaged for life. Toxic air from burning fossil fuels is choking not only our lungs but our hopes and dreams.

“And the worst effects of climate change are disproportionately felt by our most vulnerable communities. This is not just about cutting down emissions, but about equity – the system we have right now is failing us, working only for the rich few. The luxury so few of us enjoy in the global north is based on the suffering of people in the global south….

“When our house is burning we cannot just leave it to the children to pour water on the flames – we need the grownups to take responsibility for sparking the blaze in the first place. So for once, we’re asking grownups to follow our lead: we can’t wait any longer.

“This movement had to happen. And now, you adults have a choice.”

At the age of nine, Thunberg developed a passion for climate action and gave up flying on airplanes three years ago because of their carbon emissions. An introvert with Aspergers, Thunberg overcame her crippling depression and fear of speaking before groups to communicate her message. When UK Prime Minister accused the walkouts of wasting lesson time, Thunberg tweeted:

“That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”

Other young people have demanded action on climate change by suing the U.S. government for violating its obligation to current and future generations in its failure to preserve a clean atmosphere. Our Children’s Trust lawsuit has 21 plaintiffs, one of them as young as eight when the suit was first filed in 2015. The case has been on the edge of being dismissed several times, but presently it’s on fast-track scheduling by the 9th Circuit Court after the Supreme Court dismissed the federal government’s request for a stay.

Another youth environment group, 350.org, came from a group of seven university students abs environmental activist Bill McKibben in 2008. He said that today’s youth will be forced to live almost their entire life with the consequences of adults’ lack of action on climate change.

After young people confronted Sen. Diane Feinstein for not supporting the Green New Deal, many Republicans, including Meghan McCain on The View, accused Democrats of using “children” as political “props.” Last Friday’s youth strike to protest inaction on climate change may discourage this ploy to silence young people. The “children” who met with Feinstein are members of the climate group Youth vs. Apocalypse, a young people-led organization under the umbrella of the Bay Area’s chapter of 350.org. The leader, Isha Clarke, was invited to speak at a rally organized by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist organization, and joined activists to meet with Feinstein in her office. [visual]

The latest terrifying report about climate change came out of the UN Environment Program last week. Without rapid deep pollution cuts, Arctic winter temperatures will rise up to 9 degrees F within 30 years and another 7 degrees in the next 30 years. Release of the trapped carbon results in this dangerous feedback loop. The disaster will mean far more extreme weather in the United States that experienced recently as well as rapid sea level rise from melting Greenland ice sheets.

The Christian bible orders Christian to care for the planet. Conservative evangelicals might want to consider that when they support climate deniers who care only about lining their own pockets.

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