Comment of the Week: In defense of youth activists

“Asking kids… to chill out and make an incremental change that may be realized 30 to 40 years from now is ignoring the reality that they face.”
— SD

Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition.

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For some reason, BikePortland’s articles on high school activists tend to attract a fair number of negative comments. Some are just plain cranky, others are well thought out.

I get it. My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to high school protests goes something like this: I’ve been protesting climate change since before you were born! What year was the Al Gore global flash mob event in Pioneer Square where we all synched alarm clocks to emphasize that time was running out? 2002?

So against the backdrop of general internet negativity and a feeling of impotence regarding climate change specifically, this week’s Comment of the Week stood out for its spirited defense of the Portland Youth Climate Strike organizers. It takes work to be positive on the internet. SD’s comment reminds us all to be a little less cynical and a little more generous, and appreciative.

Read a slightly edited (for brevity) version of SD’s comment below:

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All social movements, and activism-based movements are complex and present different perspectives. Policing a compelling message of highly motivated activists is counterproductive and is a thinly veiled endorsement of the status quo. Asking kids in who haven’t had a summer during high school that wasn’t marred by a heat dome or an AQI of over 500 to chill out, get an advanced degree and make an incremental change that may be realized 30 to 40 years from now is ignoring the reality that they face.

This is the right move by the Portland Youth Climate Strike organizers and I can assure you that many of these kids will also be pursuing degrees in environmental science and searching for technologies to try and reverse the harm done by previous generations. I can also assure you that the adults who have been engaged in climate science and climate activism are happy to see this be the focus of these protests.

The “villains” on their list are very deserving of their recognition and their greenwashing should not go unopposed. There should be pressure on electeds to not sit on their hands and allow these people to continue unobstructed.

Despite these bad actors being known for their destructive practices among engaged groups, the broader public and other high school students are not aware. The youth climate strike is the perfect venue to amplify this awareness.

Honestly, it is disgusting that high school kids are putting their hearts into taking a stand and making a difference, and older people who failed to protect the future of their children are trying to tone-police the Portland Youth Climate Strike message.

Read the comment and the article here.

Thank you SD. We appreciate you being part of our conversations here.

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joan
1 month ago

Lisa, you make a great point in your intro. What is about kids’ activism that irritates? My guess is that we feel defensive because our activism didn’t work. We didn’t get it done, and things are pretty terrible now, and their activism reminds us that we are now part of a generation of adults that did not solve these problems and maybe exacerbated them, even if we didn’t start it and even if we know we didn’t cause them individually. We certainly contributed.

Children learn the values we teach them, and then they point out the hypocrisy between those values and the way we live our lives. That can be painful! It’s definitely an opportunity to step back and look at our goals and their goals and see how we can support them, even when it is tempting to snark and do the opposite.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

We can’t mention enough that a y living teenager will live fifty to eighty more years–it makes me glad to think that I will see less of our planet’s future than they will. It’s time to realize that moderation in action towards climate change is no virtue at all. Time to as they say, move fast and break things.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

Should we mention more that if these kids have their way the last thing they are going to need to be worried about is living to 80+ years old? But yeah, lets just break things in the name of “progress” because the 17 year old’s told us to.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Should we mention more that if these kids have their way the last thing they are going to need to be worried about is living to 80+ years old?

Probably not, no. Not without some sound arguments with assumptions explicitly spelled out, lest it be seen as a silly statement. Perhaps in the “old man yells at cloud” variety.

9watts
1 month ago

SD always has excellent comments here. One of my long time favorite posters.