Climate Change is Here

Andrew Brennan
Chairperson, Seek Common Ground
& Fellow, National Geographic

By Chloé Johnston

Climate change is here. From the wildfires in California to the Hurricanes in the Gulf, hundreds of communities in America are already being displaced by the effects of our changing climate.” As a member of the Generation Roundtable Steering Committee, Chairperson of Seek Common Ground and Fellow at National Geographic, Andrew Brennan hopes to use this opportunity to “shine a light on the youth researchers, storytellers, and organizers who are on the front lines addressing our community’s most pressing problems.”

“I hope to demonstrate that young people are not just the future but that we are stepping up to lead in our communities right now.”

The unprecedented challenges our world is facing, a climate emergency, a refugee crisis, and a global pandemic, to name a few, may take on different forms, but all of them require the same solution. Brennan cites the “passion, creativity, and urgency that young people bring to the table” as pivotal to the solution-making process.

In 1966, during a speech to students in Cape Town, South Africa, Bobby Kennedy described a phenomenon that he argued could “sweep down the mightiest walls of resistance and oppression.” Kennedy argued that young people, full of hope, working together to “improve the lot of others,” are a powerful force for change. “I agree.”

Globally, young people make up about 50% of the world’s population, “but about 80% of the world’s best ideas,” according to Brennan. “Our generation has the ingenuity, creativity, and diversity to finally come together and end the cycle of inaction.” This is our last chance.

The three issues the Steering Committee focuses on–Environment, Democracy, and Economy–are at the core of some of the most contentious political debates in the United States.

Having fought for education justice in his home state of Kentucky for the better part of a decade, Brennan has experienced first hand the value of working across the political aisle to achieve lasting change. Brennan believes that the example of “young people across ideologies coming together to conduct research and propose solutions to these three issues demonstrates what’s possible to our fellow citizens everywhere.”

For more information about the Generation Roundtable, and it’s Steering Committee members, read our previous blog about “A Vision for Better Politics.”

About the Author

Chloé Johnston is the Counterweight Editor and Graphic Designer for the BridgeUSA National Team. She more recently graduated from Oregon State University with her Honors Bachelor of Science in Psychology. In her free time, she freelances and writes for her blog, The Extroverted Introvert.

By Amanda Shafer

The American political system is not living up to its highest ideals. Our government is gridlocked, and our citizenry is divided across party and cultural lines. Countless issues have arisen in the past decades that threaten the prosperity of Generation Z and Millennials. Yet polarization prevents politicians and private actors from acting, and the vast majority of Americans have been turned off by how toxic politics has grown. Politics is failing our young people.

It’s easy to write off the system as damaged and ineffective, to give into disillusionment, and grow politically apathetic or extreme. Especially in an election year where the stakes are so high, and compromise is a nasty word. Succumbing to these polarizing pressures though, is a wholly ineffective solution for addressing the issues that we currently face.

Instead of falling further into the bitter partisanship entrenched in politics, Gen Z and Millennial leaders are taking a step back to examine and acknowledge the problems facing today’s young people by working through the polarization to find common ground.

In a show of generational unity, BridgeUSA has convened the Generation Roundtable, a bipartisan coalition of youth leaders who agree that Climate Change, diminishing Economic Mobility, and a weakening Democracy prevents young people from reaching their highest prosperity. The Generation Roundtable demands that our political system take action to find solutions in a bipartisan fashion.

The Generation Roundtable’s core committee includes Benji Backer, President, and Founder of the American Conservation Coalition; Andrew Brennan, Chairperson of Seek Common Ground and Fellow at National Geographic; Daniel Di Martino, Economist and Activist; Jesse Barba, Senior Director of External Affairs at Young Invincibles; Alexandra Hudson, Writer on Civility; and Maria Yuan, Founder of IssueVoter. These voices join together, for the future of this country, to make a statement that issues, such as climate change, economic mobility, and a weakening democracy, must be addressed. 

Through the Generation Roundtable, we can begin to envision a future that works for every American and leaves no one behind, no matter their race, their gender, their economic status, or their geographic location. In realizing bipartisan action on these three issues, we can mend our social fabric and build a culture that is tolerant, empathetic, and grounded in the highest ideals of our constitution.

As young people, we have hope for a future where climate change is mitigated, where everyone has the opportunity to prosper economically, and where our democracy lives up to its fullest potential. We the Young People demand change to reach a better future because the American ideals have always aspired towards progress, liberty, and opportunity.

About the Author

Amanda Shafer is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, working as the Executive Director of the Bridge Institute at BridgeUSA. She is passionate about fixing politics and making our government more productive. She has worked at several non-profits, written opinion pieces for national outlets, and worked in the U.S. House of Representatives.