Climate Change is not an Environmental Issue

By Jeff Mann - crossposted from the Consequence 09 Campaign Blog...

Of the many encouraging results and positive messages that came out of last week’s Youth Clean Energy Forum at the White House, one of the most important was EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s call to expand the definition of the climate movement.

As climate activists, our goal is to save the planet from the devastating effects of global warming, but our cause reaches beyond that. The fight for a clean energy future affects more than just the environment. Clean energy is an economic issue. Clean energy is a national security issue. Clean energy is a public health issue. Clean energy is a social justice issue. And yes, clean energy is an environmental issue.

Lisa Jackson told the story of students from West Philly High School, a school in a low-income, undeserved area, who are building a hybrid car which is winning major competitions against vehicles developed by engineering students at elite universities. Administrator Jackson described why these students are so vital to the clean energy movement:

They are an important example, not just because they are young, not just because they are not what you think of as entrepreneurs, but because they are not what you think of when you think of quote unquote environmentalists. They are part of another important change we are seeing in your generation. A change to the very heart of the environmental movement itself.

To keep momentum growing behind clean energy and climate action, we have to expand the conversation on environmentalism, open it up to new kinds of environmentalists.  Click "read more" to finish this post!

These are people who might not even when we start, or when we’re done, label themselves as environmentalists, but people whose lives are touched every day by environmental issues. They come from communities who haven’t always been part of the conversation, communities like West Philly, communities like my beloved 9th Ward in New Orleans, communities like Southeast DC.

These are neighborhoods, and neighborhoods extremely vulnerable to environmental and economic challenge. They stand to benefit the most from green jobs, the most from lower energy costs, the most from cleaner air. And they can be a powerful force for all of us in this debate.

As the young leaders of the environmental movement, I challenge you to continue to expand the conversation and welcome, find, seek out, and hear those voices. Make sure that every community can be part of the unprecedented changes you are working so hard on, that can brought about by this generation.

The defenders of fossil fuels like to claim that transitioning to renewable domestic energy sources is too expensive or will cost jobs. This claim is false. The transition to a clean energy economy is spurring innovation and creating jobs in many of the areas where they are needed most.

And as Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis described, investment in clean energy is not only creating jobs, it’s creating careers and generating entirely new industries:

Job training opportunities in the green, renewable energy industry is where are future is. Especially as the Department of Labor looks and has to report on what the high unemployment rates are: 10.2% overall, but for young people, people like yourselves its 27%. For minority communities, it goes upwards of 30% to 40%…

What we’re trying to do in the Department of Labor is to expose young people and people that want opportunities, not just to have a job that’s going to pay you $7 or the minimum wage, but to have a lifetime career.

In order for the climate fight to succeed, we must answer this call. These voices must be part of this movement. It is not a matter of convincing them or finding them, they are already here. It is a matter of coming together as a generation, diverse but unified, to amplify our voice.

This is the idea at the core of the Consequence Campaign and the Organize to be Heard Challenge. The greatest strength of youth in this movement is that we are diverse but share common purpose, and speaking with one voice we will secure our clean energy future.