The adults have had their chance, but once again, it’s the kids who seem to be making real change.
After two years of hard work, teenage activists in Utah scored a major victory after convincing the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and governor to sign a resolution acknowledging the impact of climate change on the state’s citizens.
“Our little high school environmental club got wind of this, and we were really inspired to be more involved politically,” said Logan High School senior Piper Christian.
The students first came under attention in 2017 when their request to address a state senate committee was rejected.
They formed their own unofficial committee and invited lawmakers to attend and listen to them.
“We completely packed one of the biggest conference rooms in the (state) Capitol. It was standing room only,” Christian said. “Students from all over the state were able to testify about why climate change is important.”
“This resolution shows us that climate change is a nonpartisan issue that can no longer be ignored,” said Rep. Rebecca Edwards.
It’s a resolution, not a law. But it still matters.
There’s nothing legally binding in the resolution, but it does set the tone for future regulations and legislation.
On one hand, it sounds like a business-friendly turn of phrase with sections like: “encourages the responsible stewardship of natural resources and reduction of emissions through incentives and support of the growth in technologies and services that will enlarge the economy.”
But on the other hand, it takes a direct approach with the phrase, “recognizes the impacts of a changing climate on Utah citizens” — language students like Christian helped craft themselves.
It may sound fairly benign to veteran environmentalists or those from more progressive-leaning states. But to get such a resolution not only signed, but honored in a public ceremony by the state’s Republican governor, is a huge accomplishment.
“The climate change resolution is groundbreaking for our state, but to successfully tackle the effects that a changing climate has on our economy and health, we need to continue to collaborate across party lines,” Edwards said.
These students are proving that the “Parkland effect” isn’t isolated to one issue.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February in Parkland, Florida, we’ve been continually inspired to see the country’s youth take the lead on a divisive issue that adults have been unwilling and unable to make progress on for decades.
But it’s not just about gun control.
Climate change has also divided the country — even when it comes to common sense and middle-ground compromises. It’s hard to avoid falling into “sides” on issues that affect our futures and our very lives.
These student activists in Utah are showing us how it can be done. Through hard work, communication, and cooperation, they’ve managed to make inroads in a political climate that seemed near impossible. Adults, take note. This is how you make progress happen.