I recently caught up with a once-and-forever youth climate leader who has since moved on to fill his days with other ways of building global community. I asked what we needed to do to bring him back to the fold. He, in turn, confessed he wished he could borrow one of our own to further his new pursuits. I gave him my blessing– but only if in four years, both of them would come back to us by running for elected office.
He laughed. I wasn’t joking.
Over the past two weeks, I have followed from America’s “other Washington” as literally hundreds of my friends and colleagues have been arrested outside the White House, defending the climate and asking for leadership. I am moved, and I am proud. Holding an elected leader to account is the first step.
The next step? Votes have the most power when they go to someone worth voting for.
Maybe, like me, you are disappointed that with 2012 just around the corner, you don’t yet see a leader worth working–let alone voting– for. But nevermind. Use a campaign to learn the skills you need to run your own. Use the hours you would have spent knocking on doors to make a plan. Get inside the Beltway and learn how DC works (or doesn’t), or get outside of it and be reminded that you haven’t met most of America, and that most of America is coming from someplace else. Better yet, get outside the country and be reminded that most of the world is coming from someplace else. Go to grad school and develop a shiny new arsenal of skills. And sitting in an Anacostia jail cell after the tar sands action, scout your fellow arresteds for your campaign-manager-to-be. I’m joking, but I’m not.
After these past two weeks, the White House no doubt understands that the climate movement is broader, deeper, tougher than they knew. But elected non-climate leaders at all levels of government also need to understand that their seats are imminently at risk. Not by someone worse. But in the name of something better.
The climate movement has sat in solidarity outside Congressional offices, UN meetings, and the White House. It’s time for the next step. See you on the inside?