Millennials to Washington State Leaders: Take action to back up climate rhetoric - The Years Project

Millennials to Washington State Leaders: Take action to back up climate rhetoric

By Rheanna Johnston & Kyle Murphy

For millennial climate activists, conversations about the future often evoke our deepest hopes and fears. At family reunions or casual dinner parties we make small talk as the conversations invariably turn to our future plans. What will you do for a career? Where do you want to live? Will you have kids one day?

We give the normal responses, a mixture of uncertainty and optimism. But, behind that, our hearts sink when what we are really thinking is, “will there be a stable planet for us to even have kids on? “Will climate change imperil even our basic security, shelter, income, and access to food?” 

This feeling sunk into full blown despair, when the Trump Administration’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement coincided conveniently with the near full bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, the ongoing news of drought and climate related famine in Eastern Africa, and the collapse of the Antarctic Ice sheet.

We were heartened by the response around the nation to the Paris withdrawal: hundreds of cities, states, businesses, politicians, and individuals pledging to continue the fight against climate change. But by no means can we afford to give our leaders a passing grade just for creating new alliances and issuing press releases.

“We need to walk the walk.”

We can’t just talk the talk. We need to walk the walk.

The Paris Agreement alone was never enough to protect us from climate chaos. But, without it we have an unprecedented challenge before us. Millennials and climate activists have two key tasks in this challenge: first, to demand that our local political and community leaders enact sustainable policies – a price on carbon is a key tool, but we will also need complementary policies like investments in renewable energy sources, public transportation, bikeable and walkable neighborhoods, and long term sustainable resource management. Secondly, we need to become those political and community leaders, and make the future we want to see a reality. It has become clear that we cannot rely on others to solve this problem for us, we need to do it ourselves.

Yes, we need big, glamorous, global cooperation to stem the tide of climate change – the type of change for which the Paris Agreement has laid a foundation. But for international agreements to work, we also need change at the local level. And that’s something we can do now. In Washington State, we can be among those leaders, and our state legislature has an opportunity to act – they can do what their constituents elected them to do, and finally start charging polluters for damage to the climate.

There are four bills before the Washington State legislature that would price carbon, invest in mitigation of climate impacts like forest fires and drought, and help stabilize our state budget for other priorities such as education and mental health. Washington State is under court order to rewrite the state budget and increase funding levels for K-12 education, presenting a unique opportunity for real tax reform. This is our chance to rise to the occasion, match the rhetoric with action, and pass one of these historic carbon pricing bills.

If you live in Washington State, write your legislators, volunteer, donate, and get engaged. Sign up to join our statewide virtual lobby day on Thursday, June 15. But no matter where you are, you can act. Whether in local politics to advocate for denser, energy efficient housing, in your workplace to introduce a recycling and a food waste bin, or by joining a climate campaign in your state, you can make real change. If we want to see change happen, then we need to be that change, and become the leaders our world needs.