by Jacquie Ayala, Florida Organizer, Southern Energy Network
This blog post has been cross-posted from the Southern Energy Network blog.
Last week at Florida International University, Radio Caracol, Miami’s largest Spanish-language radio station, hosted a forum on the upcoming 2012 Presidential Election. In front of a live audience of about 50 young people from FIU, the panelists – which included two notable Spanish-language journalists, a Florida Democratic Party representative, and Florida State Representative Jose Felix Diaz – discussed a variety of issues being debated in the race for the Presidential seat from immigration to healthcare.
Most importantly to the youth climate activists in the audience, though, they discussed climate change and the hold that dirty energy has on our politics when Students for Environmental Action leader Albert Gonzalez asked a hard-hitting question about the issue.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and our elected leaders are taking the side of Big Polluters that ignore the scientific facts about climate change. This year, we are turning out thousands of young voters to the polls with climate change as a top priority. What measures are you taking to ensure that these politicians address climate change?”
The panelists responses were nothing new – almost immediately they seemed to write off the urgency of climate change, but our question did spark a hearty discussion around how we get our energy. “There is a world-wide crisis where there is an over-reliance on fossil fuels, and there’s not enough production of renewable energies to meet the demand, and the demand keeps growing,” said Republican Representative Diaz.
That’s right – the demand is growing, and young people are behind it. We will continue to push and challenge our elected officials to make clean energy a priority, and let go of their Big Polluter funders. Later in the conversation, the panelists express their concern that they don’t think people will be motivated enough to make the big changes we need to curb the effects of climate change. We made sure to respond - young people want to see change happen, even if it means sacrificing a few conveniences so we can have safe, healthy communities, and we’re going to take action to make these changes happen.
One thing’s for sure – no matter what the candidates are saying, we know that young people of all backgrounds are geared up and ready for a fight for the climate and for our futures. In Florida, not only are we registering thousands of young people to vote, we’re also going to be engaging directly with elected officials on climate change to make sure our voices are heard. We want to see bold action on climate change from all of our elected leaders, and we want it now.