Zoomers Take Creative Climate Action Across Boundaries

April 23, 2021

The Future Is Zoomer!

The kids, it turns out, are all right.

Washington Examiner:

In 1969, Denis Hayes was 25 years old in grad school. After just one semester and a 15-minute meeting with Sen. Gaylord Nelson in Washington, D.C., Hayes traded in his academic books for a picket sign and became a central organizer of the nonprofit group Environmental Teach-In, Inc., which would found Earth Day in 1970.

After the first Earth Day, a momentous accomplishment in and of itself, Hayes and his colleagues continued their activism by campaigning against the “Dirty Dozen”of incumbent anti-environment congressmen. Ultimately defeating seven out of the 12 congressmen, the group’s advocacy was also integral to the passage of the Clean Air Act shortly after the 1970 midterm elections.

Today, youth activists are following in Hayes’s footsteps to be the driving force behind environmental activism in the United States and abroad. Fifty years after the first Earth Day, in a January 2020 poll, 80% of voters aged 18 to 29 said that global warming is a “major threat to human life on earth.” In February of last year, 77% of right-leaning 18- to 35-year-olds said climate change is important to them, highlighting the cross-partisan nature of the youth climate movement.

Despite this youth consensus, the congressional debate over climate solutions has too often stalled. There has been little legislation passed and almost no concrete progress against a warming climate in recent years. But if our national level politics can be defined by stagnation, our generation is demonstrating at the local level that change is possible. If Congress needs ideas, it should look to Generation Z.

In August of last year, nearly 100 ideologically diverse students came together for the 2020 Youth Environmental Summit, where they learned how to maximize their activism and connect with folks across the political aisle. In New York City, student activists have been calling for more comprehensive climate change lessons to be included in the state curriculum since 2014, and three years later, new guidelines were released for New York science teachers to follow. Other climate activists, both on the Right and Left, have taken meetings with legislators and school officials to hash out solutions to the climate challenges we face.

The importance of this local grassroots action, often led by younger generations, cannot be overstated. Young people have proven adept at building coalitions and making a real difference in communities. Not only is Gen Z the most diverse generation in U.S. history, but young people have innovative ideas and are more willing to work across differences than their elders. 

We can come together for our communities in meaningful ways and still stand firm in our respective ideologies. We have a choice: continue stubborn stagnation or extend olive branches through initiatives we can agree on. Earth Day 2021, a celebration of the planet we all share during a political crossroads similar to that of the first Earth Day in 1970, is the perfect time to work through our differences and set a new precedent for environmental activism.

Benji Backer is the president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition. Andrew Brennen was a 2020 education fellow at National Geographic, focusing on youth movements, and is the co-founder of Kentucky Student Voice Team.

Washington Post:

THE BOY NEXT DOOR PHENOMENON’: Young Americans are more optimistic about the future and far more approving of U.S. leadership under President Biden than during ex-president Donald Trump’s tenure, according to a new Harvard Youth Poll released on Friday. 

Biden has hit the highest favorability rating — 63 percent — among college students who are registered voters of any president in the youth poll’s 21-year history, according to the poll. 

Sitting at an overall 59 percent approval rating with those surveyed, Biden’s popularity among young voters also marks a dramatic U-turn for the 78-year-old president: at this time last year, only 34 percent of all young adults viewed Biden favorably, per the spring 2020 Harvard Youth Poll. Read the full results here.

  • “Joe Biden hasn’t really changed much but it’s like the ‘boy next door’ phenomenon: you take a second look and you see these qualities that you never appreciated before,” John Della Volpe, a former Biden campaign youth vote adviser and the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics polling  director told Power Up. “You knew he kind of had the same values but he shares much more of your values that you might have thought before — certainly in the way he thinks about government and America and people are responding to how quickly he’s been able to instill some of his values in the practice of government.
  • George W. Bush came in at 61 percent in 2003; Barack Obama at 57 percent in 2016. 
  • Fifty-nine percent of 18-to-29 year old Americans approve of Biden’s overall job performance; 65 approve of his handling of the coronavirus; and 57 percent of race relations, according to the poll.
  • Please join us today at 4pm EST to discuss the poll further. 

Another striking development: young Americans are more hopeful about the future of America than they were in the fall of 2017 – almost a year after former president Trump took office. Only 31 percent of young Americans were hopeful about the future of America at the time and 67 percent were fearful. 

Four years later, 56 percent of young Americans are more optimistic – especially young people of color. 

  • “While the hopefulness of young whites has increased 11 points, from 35 percent to 46 percent – the changes in attitudes among young people of color are striking,” according to a memo penned by Della Volpe. “Whereas only 18 percent of young Blacks had hope in 2017, today 72 percent are hopeful (+54). In 2017, 29 percent of Hispanics called themselves hopeful, today that number is 69% (+40).”
  • Notable: the polling was conducted before the verdict that found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

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