Defining Our Future
Last week, President Obama met with a bipartisan group of 14 Senators and four cabinet officials to talk about climate legislation. To those of us involved in multi-issue progressive organizing, this meeting brought back daunting memories of the fabled ‘bipartisan interest’ that stalled healthcare reform for many months.
At the same time as this high-level meeting was going on, young people across the nation were logging on to ourdecade.org/define to share their vision for how our country’s energy use needs to change in the upcoming decade.
Both President Obama and the youth climate movement are on the same path: both are interested in moving our country away from our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, in cleaning up our air, in strengthening our national security, creating jobs, and, reducing the terrifying effects of the climate crisis. Both can’t do it alone: the youth clean energy movement needs the insight, creativity and energy of its growing base, and President Obama needs 60 Senators to endorse his plan.
The similarities between the two groups end there.
The President’s Plan
The group of 14 Senators that met with the president expressed support for climate action in varying degrees. While Senators Boxer, Kerry, and Graham have been consistently outspoken about the need for climate legislation, other in attendance clearly showed up to channel the interests of their fossil fuel buddies. Senator Murkowski from Alaska, a notorious friend of oil lobbyists, released a statement a couple of weeks ago saying that any climate legislation without permits to drilling in the National Wildlife Arctic Refuge, one of the few pristine areas left in the United States, would be unacceptable for her (CLARIFICATION: Democratic Senators expressly said that there is no way that drilling in NWAR will be part of the bill). Similarly, mountaintop removal coal mining afficionado Senator Rockefeller from West Virginia released a statement following the summit bragging about how strongly he pushed for dirty, toxic, and increasingly expensive coal to be central in the bill.
These two Senators are just two glaring examples of the blatant corruption that is going to be shaping our country’s strategy to reducing emissions and strengthening our economy, but it doesn’t end with them. Unfortunately, many (not all!) of the other attendees also have strong ties to one or another entrenched fossil fuel or nuclear interest. Corporate lobbyists are spending lavishly to shape this legislation to their liking, but this is not just a problem for the prospects of ending the climate crisis. (** Side Note: Healthcare reform, college affordability, and other progressive priorities are also being gutted against the public interest by greedy corporations like never before. It is clear that progressives must unite to end the legalized corruption of campaign financing as soon as possible ***)
Young people aren’t buying it.
The Millennial Plan
The millennial generation is taking matters into their own hands this year. Last week over 1,400 young people across the nation voted in the Define Our Decade referendum in support of the ambitious goal of getting 100% clean, renewable energy by next decade. This goal is not only achievable, but absolutely necessary if we wish to have any chance of tackling all the other progressive priorities. Without climate action, our healthcare system will become overstretched with pollution-related illesses. Wars for oil will not only continue, but intensify. Immigration reform will need to take into account millions of climate refugees. The world can’t wait for the President to buy corrupt votes, we need to start building our clean energy economy now!
That is why thousands of young people will participate in the one of the 10 projects of the Summer of Climate Action to get our hands dirty in communities across the nation that need an extra help to weatherize homes, put up solar panels, or to block a disastrous tar sands refinery.
In addition to being politically active and pushing their Senators to eschew their polluter friends, young people are taking climate actions in their own hands, are you?