I Can’t Vote Yet, But There’s No Way I’m Letting Politicians Ruin The Planet

by Danielle Fossett
Danielle Fossett

In the fifth grade I managed to bring myself to an uncontrollable crying fit over bark beetles. Climate change, which shouldn't be a political issue, has been pushing the beetles to go rogue, where they have chomped down 46 million of the country’s 850 million acres of forest land. And with beetles hatching and taking flight earlier in the year, they are given more summer days to do more damage. I couldn’t believe that a beetle the size of a grain of rice could do so much harm to the planet, and I knew I wanted to do something about it. Years later, politicians fail to reassure me that things are getting any better for the environment. I will not stand by as a spectator — I want to run for office.

From a young age, I’ve always had an interest in environmental and social justice issues, as they’re frequent topics of discussion in my home. Though I’m not running for office just yet, I did start a Human Rights Club in my high school and plan to join the Legislative Action Committee to further my involvement at a local level in my school. But more than anything, I’ve learned that the best way for me to get involved in public discussion at my age is to write about it. And so I began.

My blog, Buried Bones, covers everything from environmental issues to race and gender. Now, I realize that I don’t have to rely on adult writers to showcase the voices of teens like me. When it come to the issues I’m passionate about, I can write for myself.

After attending the Women’s March, I was inspired to expand my engagement and make more of an impact by potentially running for office in the future. I took my dad to the Run to Win Training in D.C., a program that emphasized the undeniable importance of having more women in the political sphere. I found, for instance, that women in Congress vote for legislation supporting clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action, and public health much more often than their male counterparts. At the training, most importantly, I was able to connect with other women from Emily’s List and the Sierra Club who share a similar interest in effective solutions to both climate change and social injustices.

Danielle Fossett

And America needs those effective solutions more than ever, because time is of the essence. For instance, Hurricane Harvey most recently triggered unprecedented flooding in Texas. And on top of the fact that climate change is intensifying natural disasters, Louisiana is currently losing roughly 9 millimeters of coastline every year.

Yet, so many politicians are reluctant to acknowledge even the word “climate change,” let alone conduct research on why they believe climate change is not real. Senator Jim Inhofe, the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, for example, has called climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” And he isn’t the only lawmaker to adopt that attitude. “That debate is far from settled,” EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wrote in May 2016 for The National Review. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” But simple research conducted by NASA couldn’t prove him any wronger. One report says that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are likely the result of human activities.

I’m most bothered by the willingness among legislators and government officials to discount these numbers or pretend these issues aren’t so bad after all. This is a time for vision and for individuals who see the future, understand what is at stake, and are bold enough to make choices in the long term. That means more youth need to run for office to validate these problems and take accountability for fixing them. After all, it's the younger generation that will have to live with the consequences of climate change. America needs to face a longer term reality whether it’s in our short term interests or not.

And although I intend to run for office one day, whether state senator or town council, not everyone needs to commit to that. Making a concerted effort to be involved or participate in one way or another — big or small — is what matters.