I’ve recently been reading a book about climate change by Geoff Dembicki called, “Are We Screwed? How a New Generation is Fighting to Survive Climate Change,” because, truthfully, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed about the future of the earth. I was hoping that the book could offer me some sort of inspiration, and not even halfway through, it already has. The short answer to the question “are we screwed?” is no, we aren’t.
Dembicki frames the problem of climate change as being about more than just the environment; he writes that it is a symptom of a larger, broken economic and political system — a system that values short-term profits over the future of humanity. The fossil fuel industry is one of the worst examples of this. Fossil fuels are one of the greatest contributors to environmental degradation and pollution, and yet companies continue to enact unjust and unsustainable practices in order to reap quick, massive profits.
The system is even more broken because the fossil fuel industry is able to lobby its interests over those of the public solely due to its profits. One of many examples of this occurred in the summer of 2010, when environmental groups spent over $22 million trying to pass a bill to move the U.S. economy toward clean energy. The oil and gas sector spent a whopping $175 million to defeat it. The oil and gas sector won.
In his book, Dembicki points out that millennials (people aged around 20 to 40, which includes us students) are realizing that this way of politics and economics is morally wrong. Research from the Hart Research Associates found that 72 percent of millennials were concerned with the influence fossil fuel companies have over our government. The Harvard Institute of Politics also found that over half of young Americans are, as Dembicki writes, “deeply skeptical of free-market capitalism.”
Further, Dembicki points out that millennials’ values are changing from the values of older generations in regard to climate change. A survey by the University of Texas found that two-thirds of millennial respondents “supported efforts to cut carbon and increase the use of renewable energy,” while only half of people aged 65 or older supported these efforts. This survey also found that 56 percent of young people are willing to pay increased prices to reduce environmental harm, as compared to only 20 percent of older people. Older generations may not feel obligated to worry about the impacts of their actions because they probably won’t witness the impacts in their lifetimes. But climate change literally threatens the lives of millennials. So, we are fighting the very system that perpetuates it. This is why we, as millennials, have reason to hope.
If you don’t quite know how to translate your values into tangible change, as I didn’t before reading his book, Dembicki offers some ideas. We must continue to read and educate ourselves on climate change and other social problems. We must vote for politicians who truly care about the environment and our futures, and who are not swayed by the corruption of money. And we must protest fossil fuel companies and their projects, and demand clean energies in their place.
Environmentalist movements today are often met with such strong resistance that the fight can become exhausting and demoralizing. But I urge you, millennials, to keep in mind what exactly we are fighting for: our lives and the survival of humanity. Many millennials are already fighting, and I urge you to join the fight for our futures, too.
Georgia Kerkezis is a junior majoring in environmental studies.