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Friday, 23 February 2018 07:08

Young People Are Leading the Charge on Guns, Climate Change

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ParklandKids 0223wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull / Flickr)The student survivors speaking out in the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting represent a significant element of igniting social change -- the mobilization of young people fed up with a rotten political-economic system that puts profits above all else. The courageous Marjory Stoneman Douglas students know that the NRA has effectively bought US elected officials. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed this during a televised CNN town hall on Wednesday night. When asked by Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky if he would stop taking donations from the NRA, Rubio said that people buy into his agenda. Over the course of his career, Rubio has received more than $3 million from the leading gun manufacturers' lobby.

These students refuse to accept pay-to-play politics and business as usual. Their words and actions are incredibly inspiring. We need to hear from these youngsters. As I wrote in a 2015 op-ed in Truthout, "we especially need the energy and the voices of young people. As Millennials, we need to rise to our historic moment and lead the call for justice and the transformation to a more sustainable society. We have to treat this as the fight of our lives…"

Although I was writing then about climate justice, these words are just as relevant today in the context of gun violence. Young people are seizing this moment and leading the call for change. They are literally fighting for their lives.

This is also the case on climate change. Today's youth will face the severe consequences of a destabilized climate, from widespread droughts and food and water shortages, to monster storms and flooded coastlines. The climate crisis is fundamentally an intergenerational injustice. The human rights -- and lives -- of our youth and future generations are most at risk. That is why a group of youths from the ages of 10 to 21 are suing the federal government in the landmark case Juliana v. US. As youth plaintiff Kiran Oommen puts it, "Our government refuses to protect our basic rights to life. If those we have put in power aren't protecting our necessities, what purpose are they serving?"

The Parkland students are raising the same question. What purpose are our elected leaders serving?

The answer seems to be power and profit. Money has corrupted the system and eroded basic human decency.

Young people understand this. They have direct experience of the consequences of inaction, and they are standing up because they don't have a choice. Their lives are on the line. Isn't it about time we listened to them?


Dana Drugmand is a 2012 graduate of Mt. Holyoke College and a former intern at YES! Magazine and the Worldwatch Institute. She recently graduated with a master's degree in environmental law and policy through Vermont Law School.