Their Vote and Their Jobs: Millennials’ New Tools for Climate Advocacy

By Scott Wood
May 3, 2019 1:35 PM ET
Campaign: EDF Climate Corps

A new poll by CNN shows that climate change now ranks as the very top issue among Democratic voters – beating out historically popular issues like healthcare.

Engaging in climate advocacy is growing globally. And what I find to be especially interesting is the innovative approaches that people are taking to make their voices heard.

Climate change’s time could be now, and people are seizing the opportunity. People like Summer Sandoval.

Watching a powerless New York City go dark during Hurricane Sandy gave Summer Sandoval a whole new appreciation for the word ‘resiliency’.

A current graduate student at Pratt Institute, Summer is devoting her time inside and outside the classroom to act on and raise awareness around climate change. Last June, Summer worked with the City of Austin to create a blueprint for converting municipal buildings into storm shelters that are capable of operating off grid during extreme weather events.

A few months later, Summer led a campus Plastic Pledge campaign with LEAP , a student organization at Pratt Institute, as part of the school’s annual Green Week. As an effort to promote environmental awareness, Samuel Pressman (Blue Wave Artist), Isil Akgul, Cristina Pastore, and Summer built an enormous 9-foot tall wave sculpture made out of 10,000 pieces of plastic collected on campus grounds in just a 24 hour period. The sculpture is now on tour to high schools in the New York City area as an educational tool.

Summer cares about the future of our planet. And she’s not alone.

Scott Wood, Director, EDF Climate Corps

Two things that many of us have in common is that we vote and we work. Today, voting and employment are doubling as platforms for individuals to speak out about the issues that they see as important.

Let’s start with voting. The rise in public interest to address climate change has resulted in a spike in the number of presidential candidates that are promising aggressive action on climate change. It’s even made it to the top of some of their agendas, making climate policy an unavoidable issue of focus for the entire field. So now we’re seeing a conversation that was created by people on the ground – like Summer – being echoed right up to the top.

A similar snowball effect is underway within the workplace. Millennials now represent the largest generation in the US workforce. They are also 3 times more likely to work at or apply to a company because of its stance on environmental or social impact. But wanting to work where they can make a difference isn’t always specific to this generation alone. Employees in general are becoming more organized in voicing their beliefs, like we saw in the recent call from Amazon’s employees for more action and leadership on climate change.

This generation is turning their passion for the climate into action. And they’re taking an innovative approach, by using the outlets they have and tapping into the networks they are a part of. And they’re doing it now.

Politicians that exclude climate change as part of their agendas risk losing their vote.

Businesses that turn a blind eye to their activism – employees or not – risk the bottom line.

Summer is part of this growing group of young, passionate activists. They are driving change. And they are our future.

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