Image courtesy Climatestate
By Jaime Kaiser
Yesterday President Obama gave a national speech at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. outlining clear, bold goals on carbon emissions reduction, notably instituting regulations on existing power plants for the first time. Among other things, his plan called for an end to public financing of coal plants overseas, setting new efficiency targets for appliances and buildings to cut carbon pollution by three billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030, and a pledge that the government will consume 20% of it’s electricity from renewable resources by 2020.
What would our TRUST youth think of this new plan? Over the last two years WITNESS has partnered with the Our Children’s Trust, the iMatter Campaign and students from Montana State University Film School to produce a series of videos highlighting youth across the country dedicated to combating climate change.
Many of them would certainly see promise in Obama’s words Tuesday afternoon. The President repeatedly urged anyone interested in affecting change to come talk to him, stating that, “Climate change is not a bipartisan issue.” In fact, Jaime Lynn Butler, an 11-year old Navajo girl from Arizona, already initiated a conversation. She wrote Obama six letters about climate change:
Obama also briefly discussed the Keystone XL pipeline saying it “will only be approved if it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” But how exactly will government officials define “significantly exacerbate”? TRUST youth, Glori Dei Filippone, has been disappointed by government that does not always understand the urgency or necessity of action. Her proposal and appeal to Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources to lower carbon emissions by 6% per year were both rejected:
Similarly, a college student named Eshe Sherley from Massachusetts spoke in her TRUST video about overcoming government bureaucracy, though she echoed Obama’s sentiment that a major obstacle to passing new legislation is the fear of what life might be like with regulations and new energy sources.
Although the Keystone pipeline was addressed, Obama failed to reference another controversial practice, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, a method of extracting natural gas from the ground that critics claim is harmful to the environment. Backlash to a performance by Colorado youth Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, recorded in his TRUST video about fracking, recently resulted in the pressured resignation of a middle school teacher because community members were unhappy with the message.
The strong objection to Xiuhtezcatl’s performance suggests that perhaps Obama should have brought up fracking in his speech yesterday, (and related issues like water contamination) if not for instituting change, at least to incite awareness and stimulate debate.
What do you think?
Did Obama win your favor with his much-anticipated speech? (If you missed it here is a full transcript.) Where did his speech address your climate change concerns, and where do you still see shortcomings and the makings of problematic legislation?
Watch the full playlist, “Protest our TRUST. Restore Our Atmosphere.” featuring more youth from across the United States discussing the future of their environment.
Jaime is an intern with WITNESS’ Social Media team