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Getting Young People to the Table To Create a More Just Future

Robert Friedman

Posted February 24, 2014

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Ailing infrastructure, rising sea levels, a changing climate. Sounds pretty bleak, right? We spend so much time thinking of the future as being full of doom and gloom that it’s really easy to forget that climate change presents a unique opportunity to create positive change in the way our energy sector operates.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, unemployment for 16 to 24 year olds is approximately 15%, almost 8% higher than the national average. That could be greatly reduced by increased investment in a more just and sustainable future, through the advancement of renewables, efficiency and domestic infrastructure.

The renewables and efficiency sectors are growing rapidly (check out for a snapshot of your community), but there needs to be even further investment, especially in empowering young people to join the green economy.

That’s why we and Blue Green Alliance recently hosted the Youth Climate Caucus at the annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference, which brought together young leaders of the labor, environmental and social justice movements to begin to create a unified vision for a more just and sustainable future.

There is widespread recognition across the progressive movement that we need to make a more concerted effort to get young people to the table on a variety of issues related to climate policy and economic resilience. Despite the fact that our generation is the one for which climate change will have the greatest impact, we are rarely engaged in discussions concerning these very important issues. That is for a variety of reasons, including a perception that we lack the necessary knowledge or experience.  It is essential that we build space and create opportunities for young people to gather and learn from each other as we build a more just and sustainable energy sector.*


Participants from the Alliance for Climate Education, NRDC, DC Divest, SustainUs and the Communications Workers of America participate in a roleplaying exercise. 

With the help of our brothers and sisters from organized labor, environmental and social justice groups as well as those in positions of influence, we must make a concerted effort to reduce widespread youth unemployment, and do so in a way that helps, not hurts the environment and our communities. The Youth Climate Caucus was an important first step in advancing this most important and timely cause.

*In fact, out of recognition for this to happen even internally at NRDC, we have created the Youth Task Force, composed of young staff (and some older peers) working across our various programs to drive inclusivity and engagement with our generation.

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