On stage stood a 9-year-old boy rallying the audience about the urgency of climate action. His voice echoed over the crowd as they chanted back to his calls for a new aggressive environmental policy. He is strong-willed, passionate and determined. His name is Levi Draheim—one of the six kids suing the United States government for failing to adequately protect the Earth from the effects of climate change and maintain it for future generations (Parker, 2018).
And Levi is not alone in his demands for climate action from youth. An entire movement has been born out of the desire to protect the natural world, prioritizing reducing emissions and institutionalizing sustainable systems. It hits even harder as the realization sets in that younger generations are the ones who will directly face the effects of climate change. Enter the Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal.
But what exactly do the policy and movement call for?
Although non-binding, the Green New Deal is intended as a prelude to intense policy development—one with “a statement of intent: the goals that policies must achieve and the principles that policies must abide by” (Roberts, 2019). In the first Whereas clause, the Green New Deal states that to keep global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must achieve:
- Global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030
- Net-zero global emissions by 2050
Such net-zero global emissions goals are proposed to be achieved by a new 10-year national, social, industrial and economic mobilization via methods of:
- 100 percent clean, renewable and zero-emission energy
- Investments in renewable energy infrastructure that will further lead to job development
- An emphasis on justice and equity for frontline and vulnerable communities (McDonald, 2019).
And with 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans supporting the initiative, it sounds like not just children are rallying behind the proactive policy to address climate change (Daily Kos, 2019).
Although some argue that the bill is not plausible nor passable and too expensive, children urge us to remember that the opponent of the Green New Deal is not the chamber of commerce, but rather the changing climate. Environmental effects are not influenced by partisan issues or court decisions. Climate researchers have placed a firm time limit on mitigation and adaptation efforts and legislators now must meet these goals. This is where the Green New Deal comes in. It may be aggressive, but it is simply a resolution that tries to meet the targets that climate scientists have stated.
But who is behind the movement?
The Green New Deal was hatched by the Sunrise Movement, which now consists of recent college graduates, youth activists, and increasing numbers of politicians—such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren—offering support. The Sunrise Movement was developed in 2017 and initially worked to promote candidates that refused to take funding from the fossil fuel industry and were proponents of renewable energy. Now it has developed into a nationwide campaign fighting for the Green New Deal and progressive climate action.
And now advocates like Levi are being heard. The movement is spreading. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, is taking the climate activism international and is responsible for initiating the first student climate strike. Youth like Thunberg and Draheim are shedding light on an issue that has long been bogged down in politics and debate. And other youth are following.
So as we continue to address the climate crisis, we must remember that sometimes the most idealistic are the ones that need to be heard.
McDonald, J. (2019, February 15). The Facts on the ‘Green New Deal’. FactCheck.Org. Retrieved from https://www.factcheck.org/2019/02/the-facts-on-the-green-new-deal/
Parker, L. (2018, November 03). ‘Biggest case on the planet’ pits kids vs. climate change. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/
Roberts, D. (2019, February 23). The Green New Deal, explained. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/12/21/18144138/green-new-deal-alexandria-ocasio-cortez.
Poll: 92% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans support the concept of a Green New Deal. Daily Kos. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/12/17/1819757/–Poll-92-of-Democrats-and-64-of-Republicans-support-the-concept-of-a-Green-New-Deal