The limits of youth power

By Pearl Benjamin | Sep 19, 2019

Greta Thunberg is here in our country, and I am totally fangirling. The movement that inspired national strikes all over the world and amplified the need for swift and substantial action to address climate change crossed the ocean to meet us. After completing her two week boat voyage across the Atlantic, Greta Thunberg held her 56th “School Strike for Climate” last Friday right outside the White House. Tomorrow, she and other youth organizers from around the world will lead a massive international climate strike to mark the start of the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York. Finally, the full force of the climate justice wave has reached our shores and we must all join in the effort – all of us.

Friday’s climate strike is not an exclusive one – that is, it’s not just a “youth” protest. This one is open to all ages, to stress the point that adults have a responsibility here, too. Our message isn’t only geared towards politicians who refuse to take the necessary steps towards carbon reduction. It’s also aimed at the bystanders of the world – the adults who are saying: “Wow, look at you kids makin’ change!”

Sadly, there comes a point at which we kids can’t make that much change. Teenagers like Greta Thunberg can’t vote for leaders who will replace their coal and petroleum industries. We can’t switch our home heating system to solar or install a charging station for an electric car. We can’t change our corporate models to prioritize sustainability. We can’t run for office and spearhead those direct actions ourselves. But we can urge adults to make the changes we can’t.

Adults, we are looking to you to join our strikes. Request a day off and join us in demanding immediate action on climate change. But beyond that, we are trusting you to contact your representatives, just like we are. We’re also trusting you to vote on our behalf and make the changes to your lifestyle that we can’t. Listen to your kids when they tell you to look into solar installations and switch out your old gas guzzler for a hybrid or electric car. Don’t cook steak for dinner unless you know where it came from. Switch out those lightbulbs and insulate the basement. Bring a gosh-dang reusable shopping bag to the store, for goodness sake. And of course, stay educated, and stay involved in your town government. Use your voice to advocate for the specific, direct actions your local government can make to preserve a healthy future for the generations that follow yours. And of course, take that voice to events like tomorrow’s Climate Strike.

What more should you do? If you live in Camden, learn about and vocally support efforts being made on the local level to reduce our carbon footprint. Camden’s Energy Committee has a number of projects that are in need of support, such as switching our street lights to LED; adding an energy efficiency office to the town and installing solar at Sagamore Farms, behind our local high school, and on the roof of the new middle school. These initiatives are moving through municipal government too slowly and that’s partially due to a lack of public pressure on the Select Board. The more locals who know about and support actions like these, the faster they’ll get approved. Be sure to contact Select Board members and start a conversation about carbon reduction initiatives when you see them around town. We need to keep the conversation going on this issue.

We still want your enthusiasm for us “kids makin’ change.” But make sure that your enthusiasm is backed up with action. Commit to making change with us and for us, rather than just cheering from the sidelines. We are depending on you to be loud and active, especially when it comes to actions we simply can’t take because of our age. We look forward to learning how you are combating climate change on Friday, at events in Portland, Farmington, Bar Harbor, Machias and Bangor, along with our own Climate Strike at Camden Hills Regional High School. Remember, your children and grandchildren are depending on you to keep their future world safe from climate catastrophes. Greta Thunberg said: “We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with.” The youth of the world didn’t make this mess, but we’re willing to help you clean it up. Grab your mop and join us.


Pearl Benjamin is a student at the Watershed School.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 19, 2019 16:48

Kudos Pearl and God bless your effort!

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 19, 2019 09:48

I have grabbed my mop!! How about YOU? Yes, YOU.

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