We Youth Can't Vote: But That's Not Stopping Us From Taking Political Action To Save Our Futures

07/07/2017 03:20 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2017
Me testifying before the house environmental committee of my state.
Me testifying before the house environmental committee of my state.

We arrived in Olympia in the early morning.

It was a misty, chilly day.

I along with members of the organizations Plant for The Planet and Future Voters for 350ppm walked out of our cars after a two hour drive and sprinted to a building just outside the capitol campus where The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy was having an activism training.

I had taken the day off high school (and I knew I would come home to more make-up work than I could handle) to  support a bill that was going to have a hearing that day: House Bill 1646, but with one caveat. Plant for The Planet and Future Voters for 350ppm would only support it if it was amended.

HB 1646 was a carbon tax that was drafted by a large coalition of communities, including low-income communities and communities of color, who were currently most affected by environmental hazards and already carrying the biggest weight of the climate crisis.

The bill had a framework that would charge companies money for how much they pollute, and then have that money go to helping the communities hurt by that pollution n as well as re-forestation projects.

So we supported that part, but there was one issue with the bill:

The carbon-targets were far too weak. 

When the math was done, they aimed for 450 parts per million, which was actually higher than the 405ppm we were at then.

So the bill actually encouraged polluters to pollute MORE, at least up to a certain point.

And 450 ppm is disaster, the point of no return. Pretty much a death sentence for my generation.  

350 ppm is the absolute maximum level that we must lower carbon levels to if humanity wants to continue to you know... exist.

So we were proposing an amendment to the bill. Many people at The Alliance were not aware about 450 vs 350, or that their bill even went up to that level.

After the training, our group bolted out of the conference room and ran over to the capitol campus in the rain, chattering about how aggravating it was that the environmental community was so split on  the science.

I had woken up early that morning to write emails to representative’s legislative assistants seeing if anyone was available for a meeting. Luckily, climate champion, representative Beth Doglio was available, and told us to meet her at noon.

So we dashed through the drizzle, and made our way into representative Doglio’s office. Her legislative assistant smiled warmly and chatted with us until Beth arrived.

Meeting with Rep. Beth Doglio
Meeting with Rep. Beth Doglio

After our meeting, we said our goodbyes and ran down to The Hearing Room. It was so crowded that some of our group had to go town to the overflow room.

Climate activists piled in... and lobbyists. Representing petroleum and coal and the big industries. They were easy to recognize: most of them white, most of them men, all of them in fancy dark-colored suits, with looks on their faces that meant business.

As I was waiting for the event to begin, I noticed that a man in a very fancy blue suit with a lapel pin that read Third House. He was scribbling notes, and I peered at him suspiciously.

“Are you a lobbyist?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“On behalf of who?”

“Petroleum...oil, you know, like you put in your car.” He said as if I didn’t know what gas was. I may or may not have said something condescending like,

"Lovely."

The hearing progressed, and testimony after testimony took place, for around two hours. It was so hard to sit through the arguments of the lobbyists. They made points like: We’ll lose money if we pass a carbon tax, our state be less competitive.

I wanted to scream, Don’t you think when all ecosystems collapse, we’ll be broke and uncompetitive? How are we going to participate in business if we can’t even breath? 

After an hour and a half, Plant for The Planet and Future Voters members were finally called up to testify.

Here was my testimony: 

It’s painful being a kid fighting for your rights to breath and drink clean water.

Having to fight for your right to live, for the world to stay as you know and love, against fellow humans who need those exact same resources to live, is emotionally taxing. It really takes a toll on you.

I mean, if you step back and think about it, the whole thing is beyond wrong. So let’s step back for a second. 

There are creatures called humans. They need clean air and water to live and function.

And the main purpose of any living creature is to insure the species continues, and that the offspring have a secure if not better life than their parents. But in this generation, the adults in power are destroying and using up the resources needed to survive at a rate so rapid that there will be nothing left for their kids.

It will become impossible for the species to continue. 

Many of the youth realize this problem, and have begun to beg their elders for a shot at life, simply asking to live in a habitable world. And many of their most powerful elders just say: No way, we’ll lose money. 

The adults in power have the ability to end the destruction and create a bright future for their offspring, but they would rather have temporary monetary gain.

So they are willing to throw away the wellbeing of their children, the world as they know and love, and contradict the basic natural instinct to keep their species and society alive and thriving for money.

It’s just not natural.

On the drive home, sitting in the backseat of a fellow-activists car, we blasted the entire Hamilton soundtrack and shouted the lyrics at the top of our lungs. 

Singing, we were able to distra'ct ourselves from the climate crisis and the uphill battle ahead, and find a little joy in the scary, uncertain world we were living in. 

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