Students Across the Country Participate in Online Debate Actions

Last night, students from across the country (and some from outside too) gathered around their TV’s and keyboards to participate in the PowerVote live chat centered around the first presidential debate. Among these students were several representatives from Michigan—some at Michigan State University even hosted a debate watch party. This was a great way to use our new media skills, and hang out with a ton of people who are passionate about climate issues! We were able to discuss what was going on in the debate with our peers, and participate in various Twitter actions to break the #ClimateSilence.

Unfortunately, the majority of this chat was focused on the candidates deafening silence on one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change. After tonight’s chat, I can confidently say that this nation’s youth will not be satisfied with any candidate or president who refuses to address this issue.

To us, the overwhelming evidence that human’s are affecting the climate in a negative way seems pretty hard to ignore. Has anyone been hearing about the Arctic lately? According to researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, at least 70% or Arctic ice loss is due to climate change. How about Kiribati? This island nation in the Pacific, and also one of the greenest countries in the world, is having to move its population to higher ground because of sea level rise. Meet some of our world’s first climate change refugees.

Although Obama and Romney managed to ignore all of these problems, they did talk plenty about job creation and stimulating the economy. Ironically, climate solutions could  be a great way to accomplish both of these goals! In Michigan, we are hoping to create more jobs and investment by increasing our state’s renewable energy standard to 25% by the year 2025, which citizens will have a chance to vote on in November (Prop 3). With this one state policy, we could create 74,000 jobs that can’t be outsourced, and spur $10.3 billion in investment. Michigan hasn’t been doing great in the whole ‘economy’ area lately, but using a little green economy innovation we could begin to rebuild and someday become the nation’s leader in clean energy manufacturing.

Finally, I have read a couple articles lately that point out exactly how strategic it could be for either of the candidates to talk about climate change solutions, given that 80% of undecided voters believe climate change is real, and over half of them say that the climate is an important issue for them. Is the stigma about climate change in this country so large that these candidates will not take this opportunity to win over these undecided voters?! It seems like they are doing literally everything else possible to sway them, so why not break the climate silence?

All in all this debate was pretty mind boggling for me, and not just because I once failed micro economics in college. The biggest conclusion that I can draw from this debate (don’t worry, it’s nothing original) is that we need bi-partisan cooperation and a cultural shift around the climate issues in America. It seems pretty crazy that we can turn something as fundamental as protecting our planet (AKA the source of all our life) in to something so highly politicized that our PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES, and the other leaders of this country, cannot even mention it.

So what can we do? Well I’ll just go with the great feeling I got taking part in the youth online actions last night. The more we can work together, learn from each other, and create grassroots momentum, the better shot we have at getting our candidates to be accountable to the people and break the climate silence. So, for the next debate, lets do it again! Be sure to check out for any updates and upcoming actions.

If you live in Michigan, be sure to check out Prop 3 before you go to the voting booth this year and see what you can do to support more clean energy and the green economy here.

This transition to clean energy, and stopping the impending climate doom (or tipping point), is not going to be easy or convenient, but I’m not sure anyone ever said that changing the world was supposed to be. Remember that old fashioned American value of hard work that we still cling to with nostalgia? Well maybe its time to pick it back up, and put in the hard work that is needed to ensure that our world is beautiful and livable for generations to come, and maybe create a job or two while we’re at it. Everyone can start by taking the time to research the issues and candidates that will be on the ballot this year, and take the pledge to vote for clean energy.