Strikes provide a step forward, not a solution

To create policy change, students must get more politically involved

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Artwork by Risa Cohen

As the Midway sees it…

Climate change is an extinction-level event — there are no two-ways about it. In fact, some of the more radical estimates believe that it is already going to be a monumental task to reverse climate change before we pass the point of no return.

In the face of that, it’s important for students to follow up on the progress of the Climate Strike to bring about real political change.

On Sept. 20, approximately four million people around the world marched together in support of taking decisive action against climate change. A significant amount of those strikers were students — including a few dozen from Lab — who had left school to help show a massive coalition of support for significant policy changes.

Teenagers are seldom considered a politically influential or active demographic. Unable to vote, and often without the time or desire to educate themselves about politics without a representation, teenagers are often left out of political discussions. And in fact, very few people under age 30 are interested in voting. A Gallup poll taken a few weeks before the 2018 midterm elections showed 82% of people age 65 and up have an interest in voting, while only 26% of those under 30 do.

Again, a strike is a great first step. Aggregate action often inspires additional work. Research shows that one of the biggest factors in a willingness to act is perception of social norms.

For teenagers, while we can’t vote, we can still affect the outcomes of elections.By helping to volunteer on campaigns with cnadidates you believe in, you can provide valuable assistance to those candidates.”

However, a historical look shows that strikes alone are far from effective. Large scale successful movements have often used strikes as a supplement to a variety of actions. The Civil Rights Movement alone used divestments, boycotts, Freedom Rides, marches, sit-ins and a large range of other non-violent protest to spur the Civil Rights Act. The Vietnam protest movement, while not quite as successful, followed in the footsteps of the Civil Rights Movement, just with far less organization.

In order to truly be effective at changing policy, you have to be… well… political. For teenagers, while we can’t vote, we can still affect the outcomes of elections. By helping to volunteer on campaigns with candidates you believe in, you can provide valuable assistance to those candidates. Even — especially — if it’s a small candidate, one with little chance of winning, the more momentum that candidate gains the more likely that their policies will be adopted by the party’s nominee in the general election.

Change also starts in Congress. Make sure to call, email and/or send letters to your district representative or senator. Better yet, organize a phone drive to get a large number of students and their families to call in elected officials. In sufficient numbers, these direct calls truly effect change.

Global climate change is the most complex issue we have faced as a society. Strikes are a great first step, but to really affect the government’s policies, it’s important to get active.