Insulting Students by Calling Them Pawns

All adults should welcome their interest and active engagement

Tammi Fisher’s column in the Sept. 25 Beacon, complaining about students getting a free pass to protest the inaction on climate change, is both misinformed and insulting to students and their parents. She recalls the concerns in the 1980s about acid rain and ozone depletion, claiming that acid rain “didn’t appear” and the ozone is “apparently healing.” While acknowledging her limited discernment skills as a kid, she implies the concerns expressed then by the media about these two issues were inflated scare tactics.

But what she omits is that both acid rain and ozone depletion were just as real then as climate change is today. They both presented serious environmental and public health risks, and were prevented from getting even worse because of government regulations mandated in the Clean Air Act, requiring reductions in emissions of the pollutants causing these two problems. Public protests played a major role in forcing passage of this act. Ms. Fisher should be thankful those protests helped cause this to happen, and she should hope such protests about climate change inaction will be just as effective.

In her criticism of students leaving school to participate in climate protests, she wrongly implies that mitigating climate change would necessitate eliminating all historical forms of energy and transportation. She asserts that wind and solar energy are “inherently unreliable,” but ignores the fact that energy production from those two sources can be so immense that fluctuations in output become irrelevant. Her statement that producing wind and solar energy systems and electric cars takes energy provided by natural gas and coal overlooks the whole point about renewable energy. There would be no need for fossil energy to produce electricity if renewable energy technologies were implemented on a large scale. This has been well demonstrated in other countries, but not in the U.S. because we have no national energy plan, a know-nothing, do-nothing climate policy, and no leadership on this issue from the top down. That’s why students are anxious about government inaction, and thus chose to protest.

Ms. Fisher’s charge that organizers of the climate change protest used students as pawns simply to increase turnout is an insult to their values, their interests, and their motivation. Based on her critical thinking skills, she questions their motivation, implying that students lack the knowledge and foresight to make informed decisions about the climate change problem. Unlike Ms. Fisher, I see no reason to doubt their motivation and find it encouraging that millions of students throughout the world are anxious enough about its risks to forego school for a day to actively participate in protesting the inaction on climate change by their government. All adults should welcome their interest and active engagement.

Jerry W. Elwood