Jessy Tolkan, Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition; Political Director at Green For All
By Jessy Tolkan
In a packed Copenhagen meeting last month, presided over by former Vice President Al Gore, I found myself tucked into a corner seat at the table trying to raise my voice above the many world leaders tasked with negotiating the logistics of my generation’s future. I may be 4’10,” but I learned a long time ago that speaking passionately on behalf of my peers can double my presence in even the most daunting of scenarios.
Reminded of this maxim, I all but shouted what I wished all our leaders – local, national and global – could truly hear: that lives can be built and national problems solved if we invest in a green economy now.
My insistence resulted in an introspective hush in the debate, and as I left the meeting, Vice President Gore approached me with a warning I’ll never forget, “Jessy, protect your heart this week.”
He was right, of course. The negotiations were a colossal disappointment, and my heart was broken. Young people, including myself, who voted for President Obama in 2008 thought the change we wanted would become reality, and a year into his presidency we’re still being offered solutions that fall short of scientific benchmarks and being told to wait for the now-tenuous passage of lackluster legislation that is merely a small step in the right direction.
On the one year anniversary of the historical 2008 presidential election, the “It’s Game Time, Obama!” initiative was launched in which thousands of young Americans banded together to ask the President to meet with youth leaders, give an address to the nation outlining his strategy, and attend Copenhagen in person. This work culminated in the White House’s first-ever Youth Clean Energy Forum, when we met with senior officials to discuss our vision for the new decade. Our decade.
Moving forward, my heart will likely be broken again before we achieve our objective of securing a clean and just energy future. I am confident, though, that my generation has the numbers on the ground and in voting booths that it will take to keep our leadership in check. I believe that as we usher in a new decade we will make the lifestyle adjustments and establish the businesses that will create green jobs and spark our struggling economy.