Dirty Talk in SOTU: Why My Generation's Jobs Must Be Clean

03/30/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

At the voting booths in 2008, America's next generation dreamed of a day when our President would declare that developing a clean energy economy and passing a climate bill were the nation's top priorities. Last night in the State of the Union, Barack Obama made it the centerpiece of his vision for moving forward, dedicating significant time to discussing it first before important issues like education, fiscal management, and even health care. After outlasting the Bush Administration's team of deniers over the last decade, it's a victory that Team Obama has identified the need to solve the climate and energy crisis as the path to securing our nation's future.

However, the victory celebration is short-lived. If the building blocks of this future lie, as stated, in nuclear power plants, offshore drilling for oil and gas, bio-fuels and so-called "clean" coal, then we're setting ourselves up for costly, unacceptable solutions that will still yield the harmful, negative effects of dirty energy that impact our communities.

A Nuclear Renaissance will perpetuate the devastating mining of uranium on indigenous lands and threaten communities near the plants. "Clean" coal will continue to destroy mountains and communities in Appalachia and escalate the asthma and respiratory problems in cities with coal plants. Off-shore drilling will encroach upon wild life reserves and encourage our fossil fuel-intensive society to consume more. We need to be focused on wind and solar, which are renewable energy sources that will help create jobs and reduce our carbon emissions.

Clearly, the youth climate movement and our peers are in better position than ever before, with a President who acknowledges the problems at hand and is eager to provide solutions. Still we need to lead with solutions that science and our collective conscience require on these issues. Now that we know where Team Obama stands, it will be up to us to close the gap.

The way we handle the clean energy economy and the fight to stop climate change will define our generation. At the start of a new decade - our decade - we are done reacting to the partisan politics and policies that have held our nation back on these issues. It's time for those of us who will bear the brunt of continued procrastination and politicking on this critical front to claim the future now.

From the first 'hanging chads' that were counted in 2000, to the devastating collapse of the Twin Towers, through two wars, an economic crisis, and a historic election that rallied unprecedented youth engagement, we in the Millennial generation have responded to the tests of the new century. These challenging experiences may have defined our maturation to this point, but as the 2008 election proved: We have arrived as a permanent force in the political process and we are ready to lead.

We will halt the catastrophic consequences of climate change, secure clean, healthy and sustainable environments for our diverse communities, and build the green economy that will be the cornerstone of our nation's fiscal and diplomatic strategies going forward. We will enlist and entrench our peers in the quest to establish these principles as lifestyle and socio-political norms throughout our lives.

We're through waiting for others to produce results. We're here to define our decade.