Berch: Young activists inspire where previous generations failed them


Caitlin Yamada/Iowa State Daily

A climate protest from 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 20, 2019, at Ames City Hall. Different signs and speeches encouraged attendees to change habits to help the environment.

Emily Berch

A letter to the editor on Oct. 3 argued that youth activism is irresponsible and only happens because parents and educational institutions “indoctrinate” students, specifically in regard to climate change.

But if we just look realistically at what’s happening around us, it’s impossible to ignore why young people all over the world feel such urgency to speak out about climate policy.

We have 11 years to stop “irreversible damage from climate change,” according to the United Nations, so when Greta Thunberg says “you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she means it literally. 

Irresponsible parenting isn’t forcing students out of school to protest. Years of inaction on climate change is.

Corporations and governments all over the world have proven they don’t care about these activists’ futures. When they disregard years of evidence pointing to climate disaster, they tell young folks like Thunberg, Kulsum Rifa, Makaśa Looking Horse and many others their future is not as important as profit.

While some try to demean young activists as “easily indoctrinated,” the United Nations is commending these young people for their advocacy in its own demand for climate action, describing them as inspirational. 

If you think students need to “stay in school” instead of protesting, then you should be out there doing something about the climate. Do not expect them to sit in silence as their futures crumble. 

To be clear, last week’s letter to the editor wasn’t actually against “indoctrination.” The writer went on to advocate students be taught to “praise our founders, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and God.”

The letter wasn’t meant to advocate for intellectual independence. Rather, it advocated intentional ignorance of environmental realities. 

Do not expect them to ignore science.

Science tells us human activity is leading to an increase in global temperature. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events are increasing in both frequency and severity. 

Do not insult young people by telling them to be quiet and sit down when they are right to be fighting for their lives. 

It is our fault they have to.