- The climate crisis affects young people most, but older generations are deciding the planet’s future.
- Not all see the generational divide on climate as an impediment to progress.
- “I’m not young. I’m not old. I worked my fucking butt off,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, 68.
- Read more from Insider’s “Red, White, and Gray” series.
When a group of young climate activists confronted Dianne Feinstein at her San Francisco office in 2019, the six-term Democratic senator cited her deep experience in Washington in refusing their demand that she endorse the Green New Deal.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing,” Feinstein, then 85, told the students. “You come in here and you say, ‘It has to be my way or the highway.’ I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality, and I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit.”
Feinstein added that the Green New Deal, a package of aggressive environmental reforms championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, would die at the hands of Senate Republicans.
“You can take that back to whoever sent you here,” the senator told Isha Clarke, a 16-year-old student from Oakland.
One student protested that Feinstein should instead listen to her constituents.
“You didn’t vote for me,” Feinstein chided.
“It doesn’t matter,” a 10-year-old named Magdalena shot back. “We’re the ones who are going to be impacted.”
A video of the exchange — recorded the same year Time magazine named the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg its “person of the year” — went viral.
Clarke, now a sophomore at Howard University and cofounder of Youth vs. Apocalypse, told Insider the protest got a “huge reaction” from the public.
“We are literally facing the end of humanity and politicians are like, ‘Sorry, no can do’ in the face of people who it’s going to impact,” Clarke said.
The nonbinding Green New Deal resolution, meanwhile, went nowhere — just as Feinstein predicted.
The episode illustrates the tension between the nation’s youngest Americans, who are demanding political action on a huge scale to fight the planet’s climate crisis, and aging government leaders who don’t share their sense of urgency.
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