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  • How Millennials Can Tip the Scale on Climate Change Politics climate-activist-101 Full view

    How Millennials Can Tip the Scale on Climate Change Politics

    Mixing Climate Justice and Politics: Why it’s necessary even though it hurts

    Getting “involved” in politics seemed like a hard pill to swallow as a fiery young activist who had always criticized the governmental system— why would I feed into a process that doesn’t work?

    Eventually, I came to the painful realization that while the Green Revolution gathers its momentum (I do sustain faith and hope that this is happening), I’d have to play the game in front of me.

    How I changed my mind about politics

    There was a combination of realizations and experiences that lead me to bite the bullet and poke my head into the broken system:

    1. Recognizing how broken politics are and that many peoples’ interests are not being represented at all by the people who are supposed to represent them.
    2. Shareholder activism. I learned about a brilliant way to change the system from within by exercising your rights as a member of an organization.
    3. Attending a conference where I learned hands-on how to lobby as a citizen, an experience that left me feeling empowered and, dare I say, hopeful in the face of American politics.

    Those three reasons are how I got involved. And by “getting involved”, I don’t intend to run for public office, I’m activating my power as a constituent. This year, more than ever people are coming out to vote, which is such an important piece of social change. But it is also the right of every citizen to meet with the people who represent their voices, and have a real conversation about our needs and how politicians can support us.

    Working with PA Politicians

    For the past several months, I have specifically been lobbying for climate action here in Pennsylvania. I want Senator Toomey to make a statement that climate change is real and that he will support bipartisan congressional action to address the effects it is having on people in U.S. communities.

    I’ve been impressed with the interactions I’ve had with Mr. Toomey’s staff, but I’ve heard enough times now that the Senator knows the environment is important, and yet his reputation remains at some level of climate-denier. If he wants that image of him to change, I’m ready to help— I will share his statement with everyone once he makes it.

    I understand the complications of such a position of power. There are 12 million people in Pennsylvania with various personal and political values. There are connections between politicians and businesses that should be community-based but in reality, may result in social pressure. And because it’s an election year, it may seem risky to take a stance on climate change that calls for immediate action to mitigate its disruption.

    It is hard for me to take those challenges as excuses in the face of one of the most important issues according to millennials, especially when Senator Toomey’s peer, Senator Casey, supports the Clean Power Plan and has made several public statements calling for climate action.

    The tension is building among young adults because we want to change, and the way the system is set up now, it won’t happen overnight. It’s important to make lifestyle choices that reflect our values, to participate in powerful grassroots actions, and educate ourselves on the social intersections of climate justice.

    We can balance these actions with participation in the system that hasn’t worked for us in the past, but maybe that’s because we haven’t been a part of it yet.

    Joey Hartmann-Dow

    About Joey Hartmann-Dow

    Joey Hartmann-Dow is an artist and climate activist living in West Philadelphia. Learn more about her work to organize citizen lobbying for climate action at Earth 4 President

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