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“I shouldn’t have to think about survival, I should be making 10 year plans.”

After attending the rally on Friday that preceded the now-viral exchange about the Green New Deal resolution between the local youth group Youth Vs. Apocalypse and CA Senator Diane Feinstein, I once again went to the Senator’s San Francisco office yesterday morning for a follow up press conference.

Since the debate about the substance of the exchange quickly became overshadowed by a fight over whether the video was edited (full version here) or the kids were being used as props (they weren’t), Y vs A along with another local youth group, Bay Area Earth Guardians, thought it constructive to use their sudden notoriety to steer the conversation back to where it needs to be: which plan best addresses the existential threat of a rapidly warming planet with all its environmental and social ramifications.

Youth vs Apocalypse
Bay Area Earth Guardians

16-year-young Isha Clarke, a junior at MetWest High School in Oakland, was just one of many passionate speakers, eloquently explaining why the Senator’s own climate change resolution (published after the encounter on Friday) does not adequately address the scale and time frame of the problem.

While too many of us adults have been busy bickering over whether the Senator was too condescending or the kids too disrespectful, Isha showed how to get a debate back on track.

Rather than being defensive about the accusation that they are nothing but little children used as props in someone else’s agenda, these young activists used a moral framework to explain why this issue is so important to them personally.

Senator Feinstein, I could care less about your tone, I care about your vote.

Isha Clarke

Isha Clarke sparking a joyful revolution.

The 10 year plan, of course, is the key point here. As Bill McKibben points out about Senator Feinstein’s “warmed-over versions of Obama-era environmental policy” in response to the fracas, “It’s not that these things are wrong. It’s that they are insufficient, impossibly so. Not insufficient—and here’s the important point—to meet the demands of hopelessly idealistic youth but because of the point that the kids were trying to make, which is that the passage of time is changing the calculations around climate change.”

There you have it: “…the passage of time is changing the calculations around climate change.”

I stand here to say that I am representing no agenda but my own, and that agenda is that I want to live. I shouldn’t have to think about survival, I should be making 10 year plans.

Isha Clarke

The IPCC reports we have 12 years left to limit climate catastrophe. Another study suggests we’re nearly at a tipping point. So really, at this very point, a measured, incremental plan such as Senator Feinstein’s is simply too little, too late. Ironically, the time for that was 30 years ago, the exact duration of her tenure she so eagerly impressed upon her non, or rather not yet, voting constituents.

Soon-to-be voting
Constituents

These kids are basically having a rational and natural human reaction, doing the 1st grade math of subtracting 12 years from the average person’s life expectancy and realizing that they will have a half century-plus of chaos and misery to contend with if we as a society don’t act quickly and boldly.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, co-sponsor of the Real Green New Deal resolution and fellow young person bound to meet that runaway climate train head on if we don’t get our heads out of the sand really soon, nails it:

Republicans won’t vote for either a watered-down or transformational Green New Deal, so we may as well go with the one that gives the next generations a fighting chance to have an inhabitable planet. Support for the Green New Deal is polling at over 80 percent support across party lines, so it would be self-defeating not to use that momentum to encourage as many 2020 candidates as possible to run on that platform, so the resolution can be turned into legislation, which — if we all work on it as if our lives depended on it — may be passed into life-sustaining law.

Senator Feinstein has shown us her plan and it’s incompatible with what science tells us. Rather than splinter Senate Democrats, she could carve her legacy as a climate champion by putting her weight behind a bold, healthy, and visionary transformation of American society, as FDR did with the original New Deal.

That’s all the kids are saying… give the Real Green New Deal a chance!

Photos and video by Sven Eberlein.