Adolescent Activism

Teens take a stand, set example on climate change


Tribune News Service/used with permission

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, right, speaks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Sept. 23, 2019 in New York City. (Kay Nietfeld/DPA/Zuma Press/TNS/used with permission)

Vincent Buonaspina

Young people are often dismissed in politics for being too naïve and idealistic. However, the long-lasting impacts of climate change and the inaction of older generations are pushing young people to make their voices heard like never before through protests, online activism and climate strikes. This new youth climate activism seeks immediate policy action to combat climate change, and its existence is calling the world’s attention to the planet’s future.
Borrowing the youthful energy of 2018’s March For Our Lives movement, the goal of today’s climate activist is radical climate action. More than two-thirds of Americans believe that climate change should be addressed, yet no legislation has been passed to deal with the crisis due to the inaction of previous generations. Young climate activists are attempting to change that, advocating for eliminating carbon use by at least 2050 and switching to renewable energy sources as well as cutting down on activities such as air travel which contribute to climate change.
On Sept. 20, activists led the Global Climate Strike, the largest climate demonstration in history with more than 2,500 events in over 150 countries. Inspired by sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, millions of students around the world skipped class to demonstrate in the streets.
This was not an isolated incident or even the first global climate strike. Thunberg herself has led numerous strikes, eventually becoming the de facto face of young climate activists by striking every Friday and inspiring others to do the same. After notably travelling from Sweden to the United States using an emissions-free boat to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Thunberg lambasted world leaders.
“People are suffering,” Thunberg stated. “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?…You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”
According to senior Alex Massa, co-president of Hoover’s Bipartisan Club, this activism may make a real impact on global policy.
“It can only help,” Massa said. “As long as young people lead by example instead of preaching to the choir. Greta Thunburg is the epitome of preaching to the choir. Although I support her message, having her as the face of climate activism is not getting non-believers on-board.”
It is a lofty goal to push change on a national level within the United States, as a majority of senators still deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change; however, there are still substantial things to be done on a micro level by students.
“Joining groups like Bipartisan Club is a start,” Massa said. “Otherwise, there are many ways to be involved. Talk about it on social media, cut back on plastics and definitely carpool. Do not be afraid to challenge climate change deniers by putting a face to the name and giving specific examples as to how climate change is affecting the planet.”
This comes as the Earth’s health becomes more bleak with each successive climate report. According to a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from late September, sea levels could rise by as much as 3.6 feet by 2100, tripling the estimates from six years ago and putting cities like Los Angeles in danger of “hundred-year flood events” by 2050. Many young climate activists point to these statistics as the reason why they fight.
“It is not just an environmental issue,” Massa said. “It seeps into every area of life. It threatens our weather patterns. It threatens to destroy coastal cities like New York, Miami and London, causing unprecedented mass migration. While the earth will be habitable, daily life will be unrecognizable.”