The political priorities of the Millennial Generation aren’t adequately represented in mainstream media, and nowhere is this more clear than when examining coverage of global warming (not that soft, euphemistic “climate change.”) Today, liberal think tank Media Matters released a damning report highlighting the abysmal global warming coverage by network TV news programs (as compared to coverage of the Royal Family.) It was almost exactly the same as the findings they made in 2011, when Media Matters found more instances of coverage of Donald Trump than ever-increasing global temperatures set to reshape our economy, our politics, our health and our geography for the rest of our natural lives–and well beyond.
These are challenges that we face as a nation, but the consequences of political inaction fall disproportionately on the young–a fact that should make this the perfect cause célèbre for debt-obsessed conservatives who constantly fret about the plight of future generations.
Ezra Klein and Chris Hayes notwithstanding, Millennials lack a serious footprint in the Beltway Press and on K Street, despite enormous political power in the voting booths, particularly compared to that other massive generational swell, the Boomers, whose interests are protected by the AARP, the pharmaceutical industry, and the American Medical Association, an incredibly wealthy, powerful set of aligned interests that employ a vast army of lobbyists to protect their sacred cows.
Mobilize.org, the largest Millennial lobbying group, boasts 22,000 members; the AARP has 40 million. Mobilize boasts that their largest fundraiser, Democracy 2.0, has raised $125,000 across 26 awards projects. The AARP’s Wikipedia page blandly states that they gave $23 million dollars to lobbying efforts in 2006 alone (from $1 billion in revenue.)
Who can Millennials rely on to effectively advocate our interests? Universities are as likely to lobby for us as Visa or MasterCard are likely to lobby for the victims of the housing collapse. But this lack of advocacy is one of the main reasons so little attention is paid to global warming in the mainstream press, and this lack of attention has consequences. Recent polling shows a general dampening of interest in global warming since the Great Recession, as people were (presumably) focused on more pressing concerns like paying overdue bills and finding crummy part-time work. Polling has consistently indicated that opinions on the environment change slowly, and it’s therefore disconcerting that a recent Pew study showed almost no larger belief in Climate Change among Millennials than those polled between the ages 30-49 or 50-64. While the data showed a large drop-off among those most likely to not actually witness global warming (age 65+) a dedicated, widespread lobbyist group for Millennials would almost certainly put environmental issues front and center on its national agenda, much to the benefit of the whole fucking world.
Let’s be very clear: whether we like it or not, global warming isn’t just an abstractions if you’re relatively young. And it should absolutely be affecting your life today if you’re planning a career, thinking about buying a house, or putting down roots in a particular community or geographic area. We ignore the predictable consequences of our inaction at our own peril.
Put yourself in my shoes: 28-years-old, I live in Las Vegas with my girlfriend of six years. I’m doing pretty well for myself waiting tables on the Strip, and real estate out here is really, really cheap, and significantly cheaper than rent. But before I go and take out a 30-year Mortgage, do I need to consult a climatologist or geologist about the probability of the continued existence of the Colorado River through 2043, when I’ll finally own my property? Should people my age in Boston, New York, New Orleans, Miami (and many other coastal cities) try to buy insurance that will cover them in the event of the inevitable flooding caused by rising sea levels? And how, exactly, does that effect your actuarial rate?
These definitely aren’t the type of questions my parents were asking when they bought their home in the 80’s, and yet, for anyone of my generation hoping to put down real roots–a career, a family, that quaint and often-unfathomable “American Dream,” these aren’t idle musings, but real questions we must be asking ourselves.
While no discussion of the “out of control debt” is complete without overwrought concern for “future generations,” it’s almost impossible to find a discussion about Millennials’ relationship with global warming that mentions our disproportionate share of the consequences relative to older demographic groups. In fact, media coverage of Millennials and climate change almost exclusively focuses on how little we supposedly care about helping the environment compared to previous generations, or what percentage believes that the effects of climate change are man-made relative to other age groups. None of this “analysis” even bothers to note that the consequences of global warming fall disproportionately on those much-cherished “future generations,” regardless of anyone’s beliefs about the relative merits of peer-reviewed climate science.
Millennials should be at the front of this ideological battle, and the consequences of inaction should be framed in real terms that clearly demonstrate how Climate Change will affect our lives. Is this proof of our legendary narcissism? If this were a fair fight, if Millennials had anywhere near the political clout Boomers enjoy, than perhaps. But the unfortunate reality is that the Democratic Party treats my generation much like many of the top companies in the world, who see us as an enormous pool of free labor, to be worked to exhaustion, paid a laughable stipend, all in the high hopes of some tepid endorsement that might lead to a real, paying job elsewhere (if you’re especially lucky or attractive).
Yet our political power shouldn’t be so casually dismissed. Social media, massive underemployment coupled with crippling student loan debt, and the disproportionate burden of the Great Recession falling on Millennials has only emboldened us politically, as 2012 exit polls showed.
Complacent Democrats, beware: mine is a generation that holds little love for either political party, given the right options. One needs to look no farther than Ron Paul to see how quickly Millennials will abandon their preferred party for someone they perceive to be more principled. Ron Paul has an incredible talent for understanding Millennials: just as one example, “No Tax on Tips” was always a campaign plank he held, a simple, beautiful appeal to millions of underemployed service industry workers like myself. It was a promise that earned him our affection, and didn’t cost a thing. With the enormous dysfunction and inefficacy of the Republican Party throughout the Northeast, it’s not hard to imagine a time when a socially liberal, economically populist, web-savvy “Republican” rebrands his party to appeal to our massive, disaffected generation that’s largely been taken for granted and ignored by the Democrats.
I’m not saying it’s likely to happen any time soon. But if Democrats don’t start taking Millennial issues more seriously–and that includes global warming–they may find we’re more than willing to forgive Republicans of the past in hopes of protecting the future.