A moment when young people demanded action on climate change

Keith Gaby

This year, my sons are seniors in high school and college. I’m incredibly proud of the people they are growing up to be, but this post isn’t really about them – it’s about their generation, the society they will inherit, and how they’ll have a chance to improve it.

2014 was the year Environmental Defense Fund kicked off Defend Our Future, a grassroots effort initially targeted at Colorado to get 100,000 young people to pledge to vote for climate action.

The first week after our launch, we had collected just a few hundred pledges. There was more than a little nervousness around the table at our weekly campaign meeting. There was even talk of a back-up plan in case young people turned out to be as disengaged as some commentators claimed.

But that anxiety disappeared as the numbers suddenly began to climb until we hit our goal, fully two weeks before the Nov. 4 election. By Election Day we had more than 125,000 pledges.

And while young voters – all voters, in fact – didn’t turn out for this year’s mid-term elections like they do for presidential elections, those who care deeply about climate change remain passionately committed to making a difference.

I’m excited about the prospect of this rising generation taking over. Because I think they’ve seen it’s possible to improve the world around them.

Over the last few decades, things have gotten dramatically better. Crime is way down, global poverty has been reducedthe stakes in our geopolitical struggles are much lower, and the air and water are cleaner.  Not to mention that stuff has gotten much cooler.

I think it’s taught this rising generation that tough challenges are solvable, even if change takes time.

All of this is a wind up to say that I believe this rising generation will be the one to seriously address the threat of climate change. As we saw with the strong response to our Defend Our Future campaign this year, these newly minted adults understand this threat more than any generation before them.

They will be the ones who begin to fix it.

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