Let Teens Do a Town Hall on Climate Change Next

School students from Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington, rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Photo: AP
School students from Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington, rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Photo: AP

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, the survivors have become the face and voice of gun control sanity. On Tuesday, they used their voices in primetime on CNN to grill Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and NRA shill Dana Loesch. Florida Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Ted Deutsch were also there.


It was a tour de force watching young people who have been let down by adults and an entrenched political system begin to try tearing it down. There’s no reason to stop at gun control. Let’s see teens ask policymakers about climate change, the outlines of which closely mirror the gun control debate (h/t Just Security managing editor Kate Brannen).

Teens of today will face a more unstable future, one that could be outside the realm of anything humanity has ever experienced if carbon emissions keep rising. And yet our current crop of politicians has done basically nothing to address the root problem, almost exclusively driven by Republican’s slavish devotion to fossil fuel interests.

If this setup sounds familiar, it’s because it mirrors the discussion on gun control where there’s a clear solution and entrenched interests fighting against implementing it. Moreover, the media has by and large failed its test to convey the severity of climate change or call out Republican’s clearly bad faith actions. There wasn’t a single climate question during the presidential debates in 2016. In 2017, the four major networks covered climate change but largely through the lens of Trump’s deregulatory binge rather than, you know, as an intergenerational justice issue or the cause of some of last year’s extreme weather according to a Media Matters for America analysis.

So I say let the kids take on the axis of climate nihilism. They’ve got the most to lose, and are the least beholden to the entrenched politics of How Things Work. And it’s also clear they’re mad as hell.

I would watch the shit out of kids living on Alaska’s disappearing coast ask Lisa Murkowski how she can say we should address climate change while being the driving force to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. Or perhaps the students suing Trump could ask him why he intends to leave the Paris Agreement and has forsaken Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. While we’re at it, let’s get some teens from Oklahoma to ask Scott Pruitt and James Inhofe how they can deny climate change as their state faces the prospect of drought conditions unprecedented in at least 1,000 years.

Oh, and let the teens ask the Koch brothers and other wealthy Republican patrons how they can sleep at night funding climate denial. Ditto for the craven ghouls at the Heritage Foundation, who sponsored an event late last year that featured Scott Pruitt alongside a panel on the “moral case” for fossil fuels and push climate denial positions that Republicans readily adopt.


Let’s hear this generation of politicians and billionaires answer for their sins against today’s youth and future generations. Of course, rounding up all these folks for a town hall may prove more challenging, given that climate change is a slower burn with less political immediacy. But after a record year for U.S. weather disasters and increasingly dire warnings about our planetary health from scientists, it’s truly more urgent that ever.

Actually, you know what. I changed my mind. Forget the town hall. I have a better idea. Let’s just turn over the world to the teens. They already seem to have a better vision for its future.


Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.



the earth belongs to the living....

The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of[1] the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be so transmitted I think very capable of proof.—I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living’:[2] that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of it’s lands in severality, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to his creditor. But the child, the legatee, or creditor takes it, not by any[3] natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject. Then no man can, by natural right,[4]oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the paiment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might, during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come, and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which would be[5] the reverse of our principle.