The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States came as a massive relief to climate activists around the world, myself included. But it will take a lot more than an election to beat back this existential threat.
Biden has a promising climate action plan, but getting it through a nearly evenly divided Senate and past a conservative-dominated Supreme Court will be tremendously difficult. We're going to need all hands on deck.
Over the past several months, I have been working with young activists from around the country and world on climate issues. I am struck by the impressive organizing capacity of my fellow activists, some as young as 13 or 14 years old. It is infuriating to see young people be forced to grow up so quickly because past generations failed to address the climate crisis.
At 20, I know all too well what it's like to come of age in a world threatened by climate change. I have a lot of respect for the young people leading this fight. Our youngest generation possesses maturity beyond their years.
In some ways, however, I've found that climate work can easily slip into the virtue signaling and validation seeking of performative activism — projecting support for an issue to boost your own image. But climate activism cannot stop at the symbolic. We must bear in mind that organizing isn't for a resume, it's for human lives and for our futures.
With so many climate advocates out there, there is much untapped potential for political mobilization. Posting on social media and holding climate strikes alone will not stop the loss of one of the world's largest carbon sinks, nor will it prevent the thousands of deaths expected from lax air quality regulation. Climate action demands our undivided attention, not just a retweet on Twitter.
Working in the climate movement, I have been called "too radical" by moderate climate advocates, and "not radical enough" by progressive activists, especially with regard to my support for Biden.
But I realize the importance of addressing climate change with a strong, united front, rather than excluding people from the climate movement because of differences in opinion. It is easy to get caught up in idealism when it comes to climate activism, but we must attend to our political reality and adjust accordingly.
Biden will be the most progressive leader on climate to ever occupy the White House. But keeping up the pressure to act is more crucial than ever. We must convey that we are all in the same fight: for our climate and our planet, for human and animal lives and for the future of us all.
Even those too young to vote or run for office can influence policy, and there's power in our numbers. With limited time left to act on climate change, we cannot afford to maintain moral high grounds and idealistic fantasies as a means of exclusion.
Rather, we must establish united efforts, across generations and political spectrums, toward tangible change that addresses the crisis at hand.
There is no room for stagnation. We fought to elect officials that would support progress on climate, and we must prepare to keep fighting for our voices to be heard.
Hannah Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior at Princeton University studying anthropology. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.