“Climate Action and Today’s Youth”

This very interesting forum at West Chester University was organized and moderated by West Chester Green Team summer interns (and West Chester University students) Kara Thorpe and Paige Vermeulen. Panelists were Isaac Harte (Delaware Valley Friends School), Will Bradley (Westtown School), and Sam Silverman (also a WCU student, and coordinator of the WCU Sunrise Hub).

The audience of about 20 first viewed the 11-minute video of a 2018 TED talk by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student then age 15 who started the worldwide school strike for climate movement. Her intensity and clearheadedness were most impressive. “The climate crisis has already been solved,” she said: we know the facts, but don’t act on them. “The one thing we need more than hope is action.”

The moderators asked a series of questions for the panel, then turned to the audience for discussion.

Why do Americans just carry on as before? In a word, money: many politicians receive financial incentive to deny climate change. Also: many Americans do not yet feel much impact, have more existential issues in their lives, and are often confused by lies. From the audience: we are trapped by convenience, also by discouragement that the problem is too vast to deal with.

What are the barriers between leaders and action? From the panel: it should not be a political question; some politicians are talking about it but many are scared to speak. The “sponsors” rule as usual. From the audience: the youth strike did empower the young; the young have a credibility that seems more reliable than past alarms. The 2018 IPCC report sounded a real and urgent alarm. The non-binding Green New Deal sets out holistic working goals for 100% green energy by 2050 along with the jobs, sustainable industry, and economic equity that can support it.

Is the Green New Deal too ambitious? From the panel: parts of it, maybe; but this is an existential crisis and we do need to do everything at once. From the audience: the GND should include stopping pesticide use, which threatens the environment and our food supply.

Should dealing with the wage gap really be part of the GND? The panel thought yes: wage justice is part of building a better America.

More comments: there is also a water crisis. Lack of education is also a crisis. Earth Uprising, of pre-college students, launches June 14. The Green Schools Alliance encourages schools to commit to 100%. We need to make clear how people can support our efforts. Greta Thunberg effectively dismisses non-science and uses guilt as a motivator. Harrisburg is “black with coal, oil and gas.” The Green New Deal, given the broad crisis, is “ridiculously moderate.”

Displays in the lobby attracted discussion afterwards. Our community needs more events like this, stressing the role of the young in their own future!

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