Teens activists went toe-to-toe with politicians today, starting on the Capitol Building’s Senate “Swamp Site” with a press conference, progressing to various senators’ offices and into a meeting with the Senate Climate Change Task Force.
At the latter, youth activists from various organizations — including Greta Thunberg the founder of Fridays for the Future, Nathan Baring and Avery McRae the plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, and Madelaine Tew and Anaiah Thomas from Zero Hour — brought their climate concerns to the table. The Senate Task Force, helmed by Senator Ed Markey, weighed in.
Attention quickly swung to Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who is in the United States for a week of youth climate events.
“Please save your praise,” she stated. “We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are because we don’t want it. It doesn’t lead to anything. Invite scientists. Ask them for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want science to be heard. Meetings don’t lead to anything. We don’t want to become politicians or run for office.”
Then, directly to Markey. “I know you’re trying, but it’s just not hard enough.”
Thunberg has been highly lauded for her work for the environment, and holding politicians accountable. Her response shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the senators.
Markey responded that youth climate activists have put the spotlight on a new X-factor level of politics. “You’re giving an extra level of energy to a process that is going to change politics in the US.”
Continuing, Markey said, “We hear what you’re saying,” promising to double down on efforts to achieve climate change. Who else he said would hear? Representatives in the Environmental Protection Agency with interests in coal, and in the Department of the Interior with interests in oil.
“Exxon and coal companies are afraid of you,” he said to the youth activists.
To further emphasize that Democrats get youth activists’ messages, Markey spoke of efforts being made to hold discourse on climate change. Hearing rooms aren’t made available to Dems who believe in the climate crisis have to set up hearing rooms of their own, he emphasized. “We have to flip the Senate to Democrats and hold on to those in the House,” he said of steps necessary for halted actions to gain momentum. Voting President Trump out of office also figured into that formula.
In closing, Markey said, “You inspire us to work harder. You’re the political force that’s transformed our debate.”