As I am writing this, I am 19 years of age and have only seen deepening political turmoil in my lifetime.
To some older readers who believe I am exaggerating or want to say, “It’s not that bad”, consider my generation’s perspective.
In my lifetime, 40% of the presidential elections have elected the loser of the popular vote.
None of my peers remember 9/11, yet I currently have friends serving in the military, who are training to fight in a war that started because of it.
Worst of all, political parties refuse to cooperate on nearly every single issue – including one of the largest problems of this century, climate change.
Since I was young, I have been taught the physical and biological sciences of climate change and have even had the privilege of learning more in college.
With that said, the science is indisputable – it is happening.
Nearly every other developed country on Earth agrees, and the question is no longer “is it happening?”, it’s now: “how do we fix this?”.
However, because of massive monetary influences, the United States has repeatedly disparaged climate science and pushed a narrative that climate change is not real.
As a result, the US has accomplished little domestic policy and withdrawn itself from important global commitments to address the issue, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
For my generation, the science is there.
It clearly shows a path that may not significantly impact older generations before they are gone but will yield devastating effects by the time we are in our 40s and 50s.
However, a lot of this information gets lost in translation or becomes “political” when communicated.
I belong to the generation that grew up with supercomputers in our pockets and the constant flooding of information unlike anything else in the world’s history.
For better or worse, much of this news is politically biased and secular in scope – it often does not focus on real, pressing issues but instead on what is trendy and will receive the greatest number of likes.
Today, there is such a disconnect in the information different political parties receive, it is hard for us to agree on common ground and grow.
As a result, I have grown up with some of the most radical voices being heard and more polarization than any other time in modern history.
Just this year, in my home state of Oregon, Republicans walked out for a second time to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade bill that would curb carbon emissions for larger polluters.
In fact, I was testifying at the Capital on the day of the walkout, regarding a different policy issue. Because of it, all state’s operations came to a screeching halt.
This is just one example of how the inability to come together only ripples and can harm everything else.
Due to the nature of the internet and what is most popular for the news to report, often, the most extreme voices get the most amplified.
In my policy and advocacy work, I’ve personally been called a “fascist” by people on the far left and a “communist” by people on the far right for just having beliefs that are somewhere left of center.
The reality is I just want to solve the problems that I grew up watching using experts, data, and proven models of success. I am not alone in this.
Most Americans, including young people, just want common solutions and progress to be made.
I have learned that most people want the same answers, but moderate voices get drowned out in the chaos of politics.
Both Republicans and Democrats want people to be safe, express themselves, and make ends meet – they just disagree on how to get there.
The status quo of misquoting your opponent and tweeting the most polarizing and radical thing is not helping anyone.
Like it or not, the impacts of climate change and many other very real issues are knocking on the door, and their devastating effects, if unchecked and not resolved, will be a reckoning for my generation.
I have been raised in this most polarized time in modern history, and, especially for a young person, it can feel like you must walk a party line.
That can also mean getting shamed for trying to work with the other side.
However, what I hope to continue doing, and what In This Together is doing, is the exact kind of work that needs to be done.
It is not easy work, and there are long, complicated, and emotional conversations that come with it. Still, to move forward, it is the only course of action.