I am a voter — a white, male, college-educated twentysomething voter, born in the conservative South, living in the liberal North. I was raised in a middle-class family but now occupy an economic class more concerned with finding jobs than itemizing tax deductions. I understand the complex foreign policy issues our country faces and yet I do not understand the self-cannibalizing direction of our domestic politics.
My vote is up for grabs. Heading into 2016, it will be coveted, along with those of my fellow twentysomethings. For any candidate looking to “inspire the youth vote,” here is the key to mine.
Today’s news leaves no American wanting for reasons to fear: Islamic State, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, not to mention our own border security, national debt and political gridlock. Yet one issue receiving less attention is the most pressing: Our planet is dying. It is hemorrhaging, suffocating and it is going to flatline. Soon.
Evidence of this inexorable march toward planetary collapse is overwhelming and yet the United States, the nation that considers itself “leader of the free world,” can’t even agree that it is happening? This is the issue. The only issue. We must do something to slow this trend — because we’ve already squandered any hope of reversing it.
Examine this hypothetical: Your spouse is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The outlook is grim. However, through great effort, you could prolong his or her life, maybe even long enough to find a cure. Wouldn’t you exhaust every available resource to do that? Or would you instead say, “I’m not a doctor and I don’t believe in cancer. There is no consensus on the data yet and to pretend there is does a disservice to the American people.” And then buy your spouse more cigarettes?
Climate change is not a political issue — nor strictly an American issue. We are talking about the one and only home our species has. I can no longer take seriously a politician who allows for doubt on this issue. Any candidate who starts a comment on the climate with, “Well, I’m not a scientist…” can stop right there. That’s correct. You are not a scientist. So why don’t you talk to one? Maybe a climatologist, glaciologist, or atmospheric chemist? Men and women who have dedicated their lives to studying the natural world; who are providing data and documenting the overall warming of our planet because of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
This is not the issue of tomorrow. It is the issue of yesterday; we are just late to react. While it may seem that Islamic State presents the more immediate danger to our way of life, we won’t have a way of life to protect if we don’t do something about our climate. Immediately.
The youth of this country want desperately to be proactive. We aren’t entitled. We want to innovate and improve things. This is not a crisis we asked for, but it will define our lifetime.
We see renewable energy as the game changer. It reduces fossil fuel consumption, thereby reducing our dependence on oil, foreign and domestic. It creates public and private sector jobs, updating our infrastructure. It inspires kids to take an interest in math and science in order to invent the more efficient engine or the more cost-effective solar panel. It improves our global standing by demonstrating our leadership on an issue that literally affects every single living thing on Earth. Show me another campaign issue that touches foreign and domestic policy, infrastructure, the economy, education and nationalism more than this.
There isn’t one, and every candidate should know it. Enough partisan bickering. Save that for Benghazi or immigration. Leave the brinksmanship for debt-ceiling debates. Better yet, don’t. But this is bigger than everything else, combined. Anyone who wants my vote won’t spend one minute or one dollar of their campaign even intimating this issue has two sides. Any candidate willfully ignorant, or worse, deliberately deceptive, will be immediately eliminated from consideration.
Climate change threatens the future of the planet. If that rhetoric sounds alarmist, that is only because we have been asleep on this issue for far too long. As for politicians who refuse to wake up, I take that inaction or opposition as a direct threat to my future and the future of my family. No politician who threatens me, my home and my family would ever receive my vote.
John Cubelic is an entrepreneur, writer and independent filmmaker living in New York City.