Ananya Singh: The climate crisis is a very real threat to my generation. I am 16.

Sunrise Movement Activists from New Jersey in Washington to lobby Congress. December 9, 2018

Ananya Singh is a junior in high school, engaged in the movement to address climate change. The movement is optimistic, determined, and fueled by young activists. Ananya can’t vote for two years, but she’s lobbying, writing, organizing. She’s with Sunrise Movement, and NJ Student Sustainability Coalition, and working on the coming NJ Student Climate Strike. Do you know which New Jersey members of Congress back Green New Deal? Do you know why it matters? Promoted by Rosi.

The climate crisis is a very real threat to my generation. I am 16.

Rally at the U.S. Capitol. Ananya at far right.

We have lived our entire lives with environment destruction looming over us, and there has never been a plan to address the crisis on the federal level that has even come close to what the Green New Deal presents. The Green New Deal resolution presents a vision for the future that is ambitious, bold, and compelling. It is powerful in its simplicity – those three words represent a set of demands that lay out the basis for the world we want to see. It brings me much-needed hope. While it is only a proposed framework, it is changing the conversation entirely and building momentum for stronger climate action and setting up a platform for a real set of policies to be implemented, come 2021.

We can all agree that climate action is needed, on a massive level. We cannot effectively mobilize against climate change unless we are willing to make bold commitments and work together to develop and implement comprehensive solutions. Over the past week since the resolution was introduced by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey, it has been picked apart, applauded, and critiques from all sides. A lot of these critiques are well-intentioned and valuable contributions. At the same time, we also be need to be aware that the right and big fossil fuel industries are trying their hardest to fracture our movement, and the way the Green New Deal will be most effective is if we are able to use it to come together as the left.

The timeline we have to mobilize and take action is so limited. The UN climate report gave us 12 years, to protect the world as we know it. We are already experiencing some very real consequences of climate change: wildfires in California, flooding, the polar vortex, more intense hurricanes. We must act quickly, with great urgency, and recognize that our solutions must match the scale of the crisis we’re facing. Yes, it will take big investments, but if we don’t invest now and start transforming our economy towards clean energy, the costs of recovering from climate disasters will be even worse. This is not a problem that can be tackled with incremental action anymore, and we need a big shift that will disrupt the power of massive fossil fuel interests and transform our economy.

The way we decide to tackle this issue will impact so many people on an intensive level; It’s an opportunity to rebuild the world with less income inequality, a focus on addressing racial justice, and greater economic stability through job protections. It’s difficult to articulate the fear I have for a future without any kind of mass transformation from today. I want this moment of youth activism and buzz around the Green New Deal to be a catalyst for strong, climate action on all levels. This resolution sets out a vision, but ultimately we are the ones who will make the Green New Deal a reality.

Here in New Jersey, young people have been organizing and putting the pressure on our politicians for a Green New Deal. In December, during Sunrise Movement’s sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office, a group of young people from NJ visited offices of several members of Congress.

Last week, groups of activists visited in-district offices, dropping petitions in support of a Green New Deal. Only two of New Jersey’s representatives in Congress – Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman from NJ-12, and Senator Cory Booker – have co-sponsored the Green New Deal Joint Resolution. Our other representatives have made claims about supporting climate action, but we must hold them accountable to support actual resolutions and policies.

On the state level, New Jersey also has a lot of progress to make. While Governor Murphy has made a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and advancements in fields like offshore wind, he is also approving the construction of new power plants and pipelines, which would counteract progress towards a truly clean energy economy. New Jersey has a lot to lose from climate change, from our coastlines to our watersheds, to the vulnerable conditions in our cities. We’re also one the fastest warming states. We have the potential to be at the forefront of this transition to clean energy, however we need to push our politicians further and show that there is demand and broad support.

I believe our biggest threat to strong climate action is not upfront denial, it is the rhetoric of incrementalism, the fear of progressive policies, and the influence of fossil fuel money. We must not be afraid to put pressure on representatives we generally support, to stand up for a Green New Deal and side with young people, with intersectional, transformative change. This is only the beginning for youth climate activism in the US. There are big plans ahead – from a global school strike on March 15th, to protests this summer at the presidential debates, to statewide advocacy and pushing for local resolutions. Please, take the Green New Deal seriously, stand behind the demands of young people, and vocalize your support to our politicians and representatives!

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