What the World Needs Now

By: Peter Segall


With the Our Kids series, we here at MPC have highlighted the efforts of local communities as they’ve taken it upon themselves to try and address America’s growing opportunity gap. These efforts are mostly small, grassroots programs on a local level and focus mostly on schools and education. Not without good reason, schools and education are incredibly important for a child’s development and youth typically revolves around one’s school, but parents and community leaders aren’t the only ones taking action. Students themselves have started to take matters into their own hands.

Students around the globe are mobilizing as never before. The student movements of today differ from past activism in two crucial ways. First, social media and electronic communication allows for the fast flow of information not just around the country, but around the globe, giving these movements unprecedented international exposure and solidarity. Secondly, many of the student movements today are younger than in the past. They’re high-school students, not the older, typically university students generally associated with student activism.

So why is that? One answer is because, unlike past student movements, today’s young activists are focused on the future. Past movements the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War protests of the 50s and 60s were in many ways about the present. Desegregation now. End the war, now. Certainly those issues were very much about the future but they produced immediate results. Schools were (in theory) integrated and the draft and eventually the Vietnam war ended. Today’s student movements are focused on a bigger picture: the environment.

On March 15th, students around the world will stage protests decrying the lack of action taken against climate change. Older generations have failed us, they argue, and that has to stop. “You have failed us in the past,” one group wrote in a letter published in the Guardian newspaper. “If you continue failing us in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves.” The authors of that letter refer to themselves as “the global coordination group of the youth-led climate strike.”

Indeed there are a number of student movements around the globe that have already begun to take action on this issue. A 15-year-old Swedish student camped out in front of that country’s parliament for two weeks with a sign that read “On Strike for Climate.” Here in America, the Sunrise Movement made headlines in February when they confronted California Senator Dianne Feinstein about her lack of support for the “Green New Deal” advocated by some in congress.

They’re trying to change the conditions of today but with the aim of preventing the theorized conditions of the future. Despite ample evidence from myriad universities, international organizations, and even some US government organizations that climate change is indeed real, a majority of the current congress doesn’t believe in it. Though they’ve spent millions of dollars to fund climate change denial, ExxonMobil studied and knew about climate change as far back as 1977. Students understand that they are the ones who will have to live under the conditions of climate change while its architects will die long before its consequences really begin.

So understandably, students are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. Several lawsuits are pending in the United States and abroad as students seek to redress the damage caused by lack of action by world leaders. “We are the voiceless future of humanity,” the letter in the Guardian states. “We will no longer accept this injustice.”

What do you think of student activism on climate change? Are these students right to take to the streets or are they being overly alarmist about a complicated and nuanced issue? Let us know what you think at mpc@mediapolicycenter.org



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