FXB Climate Advocate: Reflection on December 6, 2019 Youth Climate Strike

By: Benjamin Portnoy

As I arrived on the scene, I was greeted by a crowd of angry teenagers, yelling at the top of their lungs, megaphones and signs and cameras in hand. There were media crews everywhere, you would expect a celebrity to be in our midst. However, there wasn’t, or at least not in the traditional sense. We’re not pop stars or famous actors, but we have our own claim to fame. We are the young people that are going to change this country’s environmental policy for good, and we won’t stop until it happens.

I looked around me, and I saw many faces. Some were familiar, most were unfamiliar. We all shared one common trait: we were all different. Climate change isn’t a partisan issue, nor one that doesn’t affect a certain race or gender. It affects us all, some of us more than others, on a truly global level. It was awesome to see a group of people that reflected the diversity of the city around me. No one speaker even looked remotely similar, but they were bound together by this shared goal. A girl that was only ten years old came up to the podium, and was greeted by a roar of applause by her encouraging counterparts. Youth all across the age spectrum were represented, with students of an elementary school age marching just as loud and just as proud as teenagers twice their age. On that chilly December afternoon, Foley Square truly felt like a place where anyone could belong.

As New York State Senator Chuck Schumer was up there talking about the impact that climate change will have on this state and how he’ll address these issues, a loud yell emanated from the crowd. The crowd was silent, so I was startled and I craned my neck to see. The boy, no older than 17, had just said, with a powerful boom: “Endorse the Green New Deal! Endorse the
Green New Deal!”. The senator heard, and seemed to be taken aback by the direct challenge, but continued speaking. Within a couple of seconds, the boy said it again, and the people around him caught on. In the blink of an eye, half the crowd was chanting to get his attention. Schumer stopped speaking, and the crowd quieted in anticipation. To our collective dismay, he declined to address the issue that was presented to him. No matter what our representatives say to us, we can’t take their words for granted.

They are supposed to represent OUR voices, and the only way they can do that is through direct legislation, like the Green New Deal. I learned an important lesson last Friday, that we need to hold our representatives accountable through direct challenge like this one, to make sure they are aware of the perspectives we hold, and most importantly, to make sure they do something about it.

Thus far, only twelve senators have co-sponsored Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal . Their names are Kamala Harris (CA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Chris Murphy (CT), Mazie Hirono (HI), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Ed Markey (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), Jeff Merkley (OR), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Bernie Sanders (VT). If your representative isn’t on here, or even if they are, make sure you follow their voting patterns and know how to contact them. When you want to voice your opinion, give them a call, tell them you’re a constituent, and state your case. It’s as simple as that, and can make a world of difference.

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