What 16 Young People Think About the Green New Deal

What 16 Young People Think About the Green New Deal

What 16 Young People Think About the Green New Deal

“This legislation is not only about saving the planet. It is about reimagining the way that we live.”


More than 70 percent of Americans understand climate change is happening—and at a rapid pace. These new figures mark a 7 percent increase from 2015, with respondents saying that extreme weather events are related to climate change. For everyone, wildfires that eliminate entire communities, disastrous hurricane seasons that are only predicted to worsen, and rising sea levels are terrifying to see.

For young people, these disasters are foreboding visions of their future. As a result, they’re the ones leading the fight for government action; they’re the global leaders staging strikes and sit-ins to hold failing leadership to account.

In the United States, much of this push has oriented itself around the Green New Deal, a House resolution introduced by New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts’s Ed Markey. The resolution aims to mitigate the steadily worsening effects of climate change through a shared, and ambitious, vision of a sustainable and equitable future for everyone.

The policy proposals that will undergird the Green New Deal are still to come; for now, the GND represents a moral and political imagining that politicians have consistently failed to offer. It’s a vision to champion; a charge to lead; and a new, youth-led expectation for the people elected into power.

The Green New Deal can only exist with the force and imaginations of the young people whose world it will shape. So Student Nation asked young people across the country: As the generation poised to inherit a world directly threatened by the impacts of climate change, how could the Green New Deal affect your future, or the future of disaffected communities coast to coast?

The Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress on February 7 had a less-than-flattering term for places like where I’m from in Central Pennsylvania—
“depopulated rural communities.” Deep in Trump country, my hometown newspaper has already printed smears of the ambitious climate-justice platform. (“AOC’s Green New Deal is no cars, no planes, no cows.”) But some of the goals outlined in the resolution—job security in a time of wage stagnation, investment in clean air and water, and support for family farming—should resonate in small towns across the country.

This is because the Green New Deal, like the New Deal before it, has the potential to combat disinvestment in Middle America. In the 1930s, when for-profit utilities left nine out of every 10 rural homes without electricity, the Rural Electrification Act launched nationwide loans for cooperative power companies. The Green New Deal platform would replicate this intervention, redressing the economic devastation of rural deindustrialization in the pursuit of a just transition from fossil fuels.

But these policies can’t come from the “grasstops,” as the coalition of local advocacy organizations that make up the Climate Justice Alliance recently put it. The Green New Deal’s architects must commit to the lofty ideals laid out in the resolution —a “democratic and participatory process” to “plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level.” This means rural communities, like my own, need a seat at the table in the coming year, as the Green New Deal moves from resolution to reality. —Lucas Smolcic Larson is a senior at Brown University studying anthropology and Portuguese and Brazilian studies.

As a millennial college student entering the workforce in a time of economic uncertainty and environmental crisis, I am constantly inundated with the word “burnout.”
With a growing mental-health crisis across college campuses, the looming burden of astronomical student debt, and the daunting prospect of inheriting a planet on the brink of catastrophe, it is no surprise that we are frequently called the “burnout generation.” Among a seemingly endless succession of burgeoning crises, the Green New Deal offers a glimmer of hope.

In the broadest sense, the Green New Deal creates a concrete vision for the future—something the Democrats have continually failed to do over the past few election cycles, and something for which everyone around me seems to be desperately grasping. Furthermore, the resolution does not simply provide a utopian conception of a nation free of unemployment or pollution, but lays out a framework for a “just transition” to a new, green economy built on socialist ideals.

The proposal’s immense scale and urgent tone legitimize our generation’s prevailing sense of foreboding, cogently articulating the dire threat that humanity currently faces. The drastic structural overhaul presented in the resolution, however, goes beyond vowing to prevent further damage. It provides Americans—and particularly young Americans—with something positive to unite around: Climate change and environmental destruction are presented as an imminent catastrophe, yes, but also as a rallying point with the potential to spark the creation of a more equitable society. —Emma Fiona Jones is a senior at Vassar College studying art history and women’s studies.

Scientists say we have 25 years—roughly one generation—to reverse the course of climate
change before it has catastrophic effects. One of our most innate human instincts is to stop danger in its tracks when it is preventable. As a child, when you begin to fall, you learn to put your hands out to try and catch yourself to avoid further damage. If something comes at you, you duck, fight back, or move out of the way. Self-preservation is the most universal traits among all species. So why is it, when we see with clear evidence that climate change is coming at us with devastating and irreversible effects on us and our world, would we look the other way and not do everything in our power to protect ourselves? We must act immediately and aggressively to protect our planet. This is why we need a Green New Deal now.

I am the daughter of a solar engineer. My father taught me at a young age about the transformative power of renewable energy sources, and that with sustainability and innovation, there is little we can’t solve. As a young person, part of the future generations who will inherit the world that will be shaped by the choices and consequences we make today, we cannot wait to take bold action to address the climate crisis. We must trust our most essential human instincts and protect ourselves, our oceans, our wildlife, and our climate while we still have the chance. —Jazmin Kay is a senior at George Washington University studying political science.

Without any of President Trump’s sarcasm, the Green New Deal is indeed brilliant.
It’s America’s final drastic action to save the planet and lift the weight of our carbon footprint in climate change.

The Green New Deal offers us a chance to give America a new look by improving the health of citizens through economic and environmental decisions. The $1 trillion plan can be, and has been, criticized for its cost, but it could very well save the most priceless thing on the market: our lives.

As a Maryland native, I know of many East Coast cities muffled by pollution and marred by inadequate housing and debt—and crucially, these are two additional components of the New Green Deal. It also provides the opportunity to dismantle environmental racism in places like Uniontown, Alabama, where toxins from landfill are known hazards to its townspeople.

With healthier foods, organic options and other “green” efforts to cleanse the earth on our side, we’ll restore the landscapes and places as we once knew them. Trees will grow to help purify our air. Animals will return to their natural habitats. Green jobs will help sprout economic prosperity. We can strip away America as we’ve known it—the America that, for many Americans, spoon-feeds them their own suffering. —Amber D. Dodd is a senior at Mississippi State University.

Sunrise activists
Sunrise Movement activists during a demonstration on Capitol Hill, November 13, 2018.

Obviously, I am not the only person impacted by the possibility of climate change destroying the world as we know it.
But, selfishly, I tend to view it through thoughts like: “I will never be able to write a Broadway show, or run for Congress, if the planet becomes unlivable.”

The future scares me so much. It’s why I back the Green New Deal completely.

There was a poster in my elementary school that said, “Reach for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I think that quote applies here. If we can’t meet 100 percent of the power demand in the US through clean energy, but in aiming for that we hit 90 percent, that’s still making a positive change. We should be tackling environmental issues with ambition. A half-hearted “maybe someday we can possibly do this” approach isn’t going to get anything done. We used to think the idea of going to space was insane, but we worked at it with an ambitious “Yes, we can” attitude—and we got to the moon.

It’s disappointing to see so many people in Congress acting like the GND’s ambition is a negative thing. —Mollie Davis is a freshman at Hollins University studying communications.

I’m a man of few wants.
After graduating college, I want a job with good pay in a nice city, preferably somewhere near the coast, like many young people. I want to ditch my car, because driving is way worse than taking the bus. And I want to enjoy my good-paying job, my nice city, and its reliable public transportation for the rest of my natural life.

This dream—which, by most measures, is pretty moderate—is only possible if we support a Green New Deal that transitions the United States to 100 percent renewable energy and improves buses and trains as truly feasible alternatives to cars and planes. Beyond that, wages are lagging behind labor productivity, even in a nominally “strong economy,” so a union-focused job guarantee would provide economic security for young people across America.

Without a GND, we’re damning our coastal cities to the calamitous effects of climate change, like hurricanes and flooding. We’re sanctioning the automobile-centric status quo. But most importantly, we’re putting an expiration date on the lives of our younger generations, especially some of the most vulnerable.

Opponents of the GND—mostly Republicans and fossil-fuel executives—have erroneously cited an enormous price tag, telling voters that we “can’t afford” radical climate reforms. In actuality, we can’t afford the alternative. —Jake Gold is a junior at the University of Virginia studying economics.

I think often about my future
. I wonder where I’ll work and live. I wonder if I’ll get married and have kids. I even wonder about what I’ll do once, or if, I retire someday.

But lately, I also find myself wondering what’s going to happen to our planet. And I wonder if I’ll get to hit all of these milestones in my life.

I consider myself a green person. I recycle. I turn off the lights when I leave the room. I use a reusable tote when I go grocery shopping.

While these actions do make a small difference, I know it’s not nearly enough. Around 97 percent of scientists agree that humans are the sole cause behind climate change. Climate change is an issue that politicians are consistently putting on the back burner. But now we know that we have 12 years to figure it out.

To me, the Green New Deal is our last hope. Implementing it would show that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be resolved immediately. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, the Green New Deal would finally treat climate change “like the serious, existential threat it is.” —Emily Sabens is a senior at Ball State University studying journalism and graphic design.

While the IPCC’s release of its October 2018 report alarmed individuals of all generations across the globe, I believe it had a particular impact on students and youth in the United States.
Here, developments in climate policy have continued to lag, despite repeated warnings from the scientific community.

I think that many students have been frustrated by some policy-makers’ refusal to acknowledge climate change as an immediate threat, dismissing the issue as trivially distant and comprehensive climate action as unnecessary. Many of the concerns I’ve heard from my peers have emphasized the damage climate change is currently inflicting on low-income areas, as well as communities of color.

So, it isn’t surprising that the students I’ve spoken to overwhelmingly support the Green New Deal, which addresses climate change as a scientific, social-justice, and economic issue. The primary critique of the GND students have expressed is the logistics of funding GND initiatives. Some of my peers have stated they support the GND in principle but need to know exactly how policy-makers will obtain GND funding (and how it will impact low- and middle-income individuals), before they back it as policy. Others have minimized funding, stressing that money cannot buy a new planet.

Overall, however, it seems like students, at least those I’ve encountered, are enthusiastic about the GND and optimistic about its implications for Earth’s future. —Lauren Padilla is a senior at Johns Hopkins University majoring in writing seminars.

Alexander Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey hold a news conference for their proposed Green New Deal at the Capitol in February 2019.

We are, on this planet, hurtling toward a breaking point.
The world’s foremost climate scientists say that we have 12 years to stave off a global climate catastrophe that will commence in full by 2040. If we do not stop emitting carbon, we will soon be faced with human and environmental ruin on a scale that has no precedent.

Those are the stakes. But the stakes are, as usual, just that much higher for low-income communities.

The American government has stated unequivocally that, as the effects of climate change worsen, vulnerable people—who are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and who often lack access to health care, energy, information, and the resources required to move—will suffer most.

Climate issues and equity issues are inextricably linked, and the Green New Deal is designed to address both head-on. Its aim is to decarbonize the economy, but, in the process, with its jobs, health insurance, and housing guarantees, it is also to protect marginalized communities and ensure that they play a central role in building this country a sustainable future.

This legislation is not only about saving the planet. It is about reimagining the way that we live. Considering the magnitude of the crisis awaiting us, and considering the populations that crisis will devastate first and foremost, it is the necessary approach. —Abe Asher is a junior at Macalester College studying political science and religious studies.

Twelve years.
That is how long climate-change activists say we have to limit the climate-change catastrophe. Twelve years from now, I will not even be 40 years old. My generation is the generation that will undoubtedly inherit this crisis if we do not act now.

But there is hope.

As a young, black woman who lives on the intersection of multiple identities, it is important for policies to be intersectional and take into account that many people also live on the intersection of multiple identities and are impacted by issues like climate change in distinct ways.

The Green New Deal does just that. It does not just offer solutions like the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution, but it goes deeper and calls for “high-quality healthcare for all, affordable safe and adequate housing, economic security, and access to clean water, clean air, healthy, and affordable food, and nature.”

The Green New Deal recognizes that these are also environmental-justice issues and that it is a tragedy that people in Flint, Michigan, and other places still do not have clean water and poor people across the country—many who do not even have access to health care—have developed illnesses because they live on polluted land.

The Green New Deal is necessary and must be enacted. —Rebekah Barber is a 2016 graduate of North Carolina Central University, currently a researcher at the Institute for Southern Studies.

Developing concrete solutions to climate change and economic disparity is an immense undertaking.
The US has the ability to break ground and hold our society accountable for humans’ environmental impact. In general, we need more social programs and legislation that amplifies the science behind climate change. And if the Green New Deal is put in place, communities that suffer from the deteriorating environment stand to benefit from a stimulated economy through alternatives to fossil fuels. Reduced smog levels and particulate matter in the air will improve public health, as both hit disaffected and disenfranchised communities the hardest. The Green New Deal is a very hopeful aspiration, and it sets a deadline that should have established long ago.

Seeing where we are, turning completely to clean and renewable energy by 2035 also seems like wishful thinking. Still, with almost 100 percent of the scientific community agreeing on the existence of this looming problem, the Green New Deal is the gateway to declaring climate change as a severe national emergency. As a generation, we should not disparage hope. —Kirk Stevenson is a senior at San Francisco State University studying journalism and political science.

While the thought of extensive green measures like those mentioned in the Green New Deal sound great, I believe that we need to take small steps before we do it all at once.
That being said, the implementation of the Green New Deal would be beneficial to everyone. Something needs to be done about the impending dangers of climate change, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey clearly helped put together a well thought-out plan.

Initially, if this whole plan goes through as-is, there will be pushback, especially since this deal comes from left-wing Democrats. Disaffected communities will definitely have something to say, and this could wind up affecting who comes into office in the upcoming elections. Although, if the deal winds up doing exactly what it has proposed, such as bringing more jobs into the United States in conjunction with stopping the transfer of jobs overseas, and providing quality health care and a living wage, this could be a plan that appeals to all parties and affiliations.

This deal, without a doubt, would help shape my future. Ideally, it would be in beneficial ways such as cleaner air, cleaner water, renewable energy, and fewer dying polar bears. But this deal could also change the way I travel, the amount of taxes I pay and more. Of course, these changes could be considered minor if this deal helps save our earth. The proposal wants to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by creating millions of green jobs and investing in a new, clean-energy infrastructure.

This will be a tough journey, but it is something that people need to support, because without this proposal upcoming generations might not have a future. —Mallory Wilson is a sophomore at Hofstra University studying journalism, political science, and Spanish.

The Green New Deal has received criticism for being extreme and expensive.
Opponents argue that it poses an attack on industries critical to the United States economy and our society as a whole. But critics of the resolution fail to understand the context in which the Green New Deal is being proposed.

Let’s talk science.

The planet is currently warming at a rate of 0.2° C per decade and is on track to reach an increased temperature of 3.2° C by the end of the 21st century. A 2017 study classified warming into three categories: greater than 1.5° C as being dangerous, greater than 3° C as being catastrophic, and greater than 5° C as being unknown, suggesting beyond catastrophic effects and posing “existential threats to the majority of the population.”

The Green New Deal is extreme and expensive. If implemented, it will likely affect nearly every industry in the nation and will certainly have an immediate impact on the US economy. But extreme circumstances necessitate extreme responses—and the state of our planet far exceeds this qualification.

Right now, we can combat climate change. Soon, even the Green New Deal may not be enough. Soon, there will be no turning back.

We do not have the luxury of rolling our eyes at this resolution, and doing so will yield catastrophic consequences for the entire planet—consequences that my generation and the next will be forced to bear for years to come. —Kara Miecznikowski is a junior at the University of Notre Dame studying biological sciences and journalism.

Global climate change is a pervasive yet intangible demon that gradually erodes the place we call home.

Sea levels are rising at abnormal rates, exacerbating flood risks for low-lying and coastal communities. More-severe and -destructive hurricanes are running rampant through portions of the North Atlantic. Our natural weather pattern is riddled with far too many intense heat waves, accompanied by prolonged droughts and the melting of the arctic.

Nearly every natural resource the human race is dependent upon, including water, agriculture, and ecosystems at large, are in jeopardy. Compromising these systems will yield a host of implications, particularly for public health.

The gravity of this issue is perhaps obvious to younger generations poised to inherit an endangered earth if environmental-policy inaction persists.

But the problem with our current political system is that it doesn’t typically deal with intangibles. It doesn’t tend to address problems that we perceive as universal, or out of our control, and it seems to have significant trouble in grappling with cross-generational epidemics.

A fractionalized Democratic Party inflamed by generational divides in regard to addressing climate change certainly can’t catalyze collective action.

The Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution that, even if passed, will not result in policy enactment, was created with the sole purpose of uniting the party in a common vision.

It is merely a thought process, and to support the deal would be to acknowledge the urgency of climate change.

More pragmatic and passable legislation will only be made possible if the party as a whole unites in this vision. —Alyssa Hurlbut is a senior at Marist College studying journalism and political science.

I have spent the majority of my senior year of high school participating in the college process with a Mason jar full of coffee in my backpack at all times.
As I applied to 14 schools, I pushed myself further than I had ever gone before, and I’m still exhausted. While my time at high school seems far from over, the world’s 12-year deadline to reduce carbon emissions feels right around the corner. My fall was spent preparing for my future, but why fight for something that could cease to exist in my lifetime?

At times, taking action against climate injustice seems hopeless. I’ve often thought about whether my reusable Mason jars are helping reduce waste at all, and if I’m only using them to make myself feel better. But Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, only 12 years older than myself, has proposed the “Green New Deal,” an attempt to enact concrete climate reform as opposed to minor amendments made by Congress in the past. She proposes investing in renewable-energy infrastructure and jobs that help both the earth and communities in need. Through renewable technology, the government could further develop rural areas across the country by providing ecological capital. Her efforts have been both commended and scrutinized by media, and people are scrambling to make their opinions known on social media, the preferred medium of youth activists. Many in Congress agree that her resolution is ambitious and requires work from all sides of the political spectrum, but its presence alone represents a serious call to action. Her persistence in Congress makes me feel as though we need to rise to the occasion.

To protest the lack of action taken by the US and countries around the world, my school and I are participated the March 15 Climate Strike, meant encourage other politicians to support the resolution. And just as there is power in policy, there is power within the people; they are not mutually exclusive.

The Green New Deal marks a new era: one that prioritizes the safety of our planet and provides opportunities to communities in need. It’s the environmental justice we deserve and are willing to fight for.

I don’t want my adulthood to be up for debate. That’s why I will continue to march, strike, and help the environment like the future depends on it—because it does. —Sophia Steinberg is a senior at Beacon School, a public college/prep high school in New York City.

The Green New Deal has the capacity to change the downward spiral of our environment, while engaging the disaffected with jobs and opportunity.
At this point, we’re killing the environment a little more each day. Being that many of those in office, specifically the current administration, will never live to see the negative impacts of their inaction, they don’t see the need for drastic change.

Radical change is what we need. The Green New Deal offers some of the most bold environmental ideas ever proposed. If implemented, in the next 10 years it could mitigate the harms we have wreaked on the environment while growing our economy.

Just enacting a few of the proposed steps could make a huge difference. Renewable, zero-emission energy sources, for example, are commonsense solutions to my generation. Yet, we don’t fully tap these because politicians protect the power companies that can’t see—or won’t look past—their current profits.

The truth of the matter is, if we don’t get serious about change, my generation won’t see our children walk across the stage at high-school graduation. Serious change won’t be easy, and the upfront monetary cost is massive. But nothing worthwhile ever is easy, and the cost of not changing our ways is the very future of mankind.

So to this I say, take your pick: money or lives. —Zoe Zbar is a junior at the University of South Florida studying marketing.

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