Our Hot Mess: Can the kids save the day?

Our Hot Mess, a column
by Elke Arnesen
As I mentioned in previous articles, I am a member of the Lancaster chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a lobby group advocating for the Carbon Fee and Dividend. At the national conference in Washington, DC this past June, I had the great pleasure of meeting Peter Jarka-Sellers, one of the seven teenagers of the congregation of more than 800. We talked, related, became Facebook friends, and - like most brief connections - didn’t talk for months. I heard whispers through the grapevine of what he was doing with CCL, but it wasn’t until recently that he became a topic of discussion at one of our meetings since the regional conference is being held in Philly, his chapter. Having been reminded of this untapped connection, I reached out to him the other night, and I believe what he had to say -- outside of his passionate political oration regarding the presidential election -- is more than worth discussing.

Peter decided to defer for a year after graduating high school and before studying at Macalester College, an endeavor that is still pushing him daily. At the beginning of his gap year in the fall of 2015, this 19-year-old spent a little over two months in communication with the Philadelphia city council, endorsing the fee and dividend. Eventually, the city council actually passed his written resolution, a feat accomplished on his own. Pretty spectacular, right? He persuaded the city council to pass this resolution that “[c]alls on the United States Congress to address climate change and explore a Carbon Fee and Dividend as a sound, effective policy.”

So you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this story of a 19-year-old. It is more important now than perhaps any other time in human history to listen to the younger voices. And no, I’m not just saying that because I fall in the category. The future of generations - as I "predict" in a recent article - is so dependent on the pivotal next decade. This past Saturday, our Lancaster chapter met for the national conference call that had a member of UNICEF as the guest speaker. Recently, UNICEF has spoken out to highlight the importance of climate action in an extensive report, the seventh page poignantly stating, "There may be no greater, growing threat facing the world’s children – and their children – than climate change." Now more than ever, we need the voices of the Millennials and the Post-Millennials to speak up for what is inherently morally correct.

We need action.

At the upcoming regional conference, Peter will be leading two of the breakout sessions, one specifically aimed at the youth, giving advice for how to act in the adult-driven realm of political action.

Here are some highlights:
  • you will be ignored and discounted sometimes--expect that and accept it
  • have confidence that what you have to say is of value and is worth being heard or it won't be, and you can forget it
  • don't contribute when you have nothing to contribute; especially for you, this can backfire
  • keep in mind that this can daunting for anyone (I know adults that found this harder than I have)
  • adults are making the same mistakes you are, maybe even more of them
  • get as much knowledge as you can beforehand--and being willing to learn and listen
  • sometimes you have to establish that you know more than people assume
  • you are just as capable as anyone else, they have just been here longer
  • develop a sense of history -- that's the only thing that you don't have
  • don't think you’re the best and be immodest, but never lose a strong sense of confidence
  • this can be hard and there is stuff you won't know and that you or anyone else would have had no way of knowing
  • work hard, not everyone who works hard achieves, but everyone who achieves works hard

Using these points, we youth can utilize our secret weapons of being influential, of showing the adults what needs to be done despite any and all pushback. Use your passion to make other people care. 

This Saturday, I will be doing just that at Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster city, talking about the relationship between diet and climate change (as I have written about in a couple articles). The information is below. I would be honored if you’d consider coming out to see my presentation. And if you want to but can’t make it, don’t worry! There will be a YouTube video uploaded shortly after the event.

Food for Thought


Saturday, February 20th
6:30-8:30 PM
(I’ll be speaking at 7)

Big news! This will be my very first public discussion about diet and climate change. We will be in The Gathering Place in the basement of the church, accessible from Concord Street. We will have great snacks and tea and even better company. Sticking with the environmental friendliness, however, you will need to bring your own mug/plate/fork should you choose to partake in the food and beverage portion. I truly hope you consider making it out to this exciting evening! And for all of you swing dancers, this is right on the way to Living Hope Community Church, *wink wink*. You could always duck out a bit early if you need to! Hope to see you there :)” -- from the event Facebook page

And remember, don't be trashy!

--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist

Edited: BP

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