Effecting real change in this world is difficult, even when you are an adult with all the experience that goes along with it. When you are young, the road to change can be even more difficult. If you don’t have access to a car, can’t vote, or don’t have the security and freedom that can be afforded to you when you’re older, starting social movements can be logistically challenging.
Yet historically, young people have made some of the biggest impacts on the world. Malala Yousafzai is one such person. She blogged for the BBC about the Taliban and life under their rule, at great risk to herself. When she was just 15, she was shot in the head for it. She miraculously survived the injury, and in 2014 at the age of 17, she became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She now travels the world and speaks to groups of people on the importance of educating women, especially in countries where the majority of those who are illiterate are female.
Malala Yousafzai isn't the only youth to change the world for the better. It was a youth movement that started the protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline, and a 15 year old boy who discovered a cheap way to test for pancreatic cancer. Even the massively attended and covered Women's March from 2017/8 felt like an older generation of protestors passing down the baton to a younger generation. In 2014, the youth were the ones represented as a majority in the Ferguson, MO protests that were in reaction to the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. All over the world, the youth make a difference, and major youth movements are eliciting massive change as we speak.
One of these movements is #MarchForOurLives, a campaign started by the students who were survivors of the Parkland shooting in February 2018, and currently being enacted by them all over the country. Young people who are fed up with mass shootings becoming an all too familiar reality, and the ease in which guns are available, are marching in major cities all across the US and demanding better gun control. Among the proposed actions are to reinstate funding to the CDC looking at gun violence as a health issue, ending the restrictions on the ATF, universal background checks, and a ban on high-capacity magazines. There are many more reasonable actions they want taken, and their efforts may well make a difference where adults have failed.
The students involved will be driving from city to city in a campaign called #RoadToChange, and protesting gun violence in each one. They are also actively educating and registering people to vote at each stop. It is a powerful way to draw attention to the children who were shot and killed, afraid to go to school, and the much larger problem of guns in America. Protests so far have been held in 9 different states, and have made real progress. In Utah, organizers met with the Utah Gun Exchange, and reported on Twitter that they had a productive conversation with them.
The amount of people that Road to Change will be able to not only reach, but to be able to talk to and share ideas with face to face, is impossible to ignore. By listening to opposing viewpoints and making connections with the people most likely to protest change, #MarchForOurLives is well positioned to make a lasting impact on gun control.
Taking up another critical issue, #ThisIsZeroHour is a movement started by a 16 year old named Jamie Margolin. Jamie started Zero Hour due to her irritation with politicians who were standing by and pretending climate change did not exist. Already involved in a lawsuit against her home state, Washington, and their lack of effort to stop climate change, Jamie is no stranger to confrontation. She gathered her friends together to help her arrange a movement too big to be ignored.
Zero Hour is the fruit of their efforts. Their goal is to stage a massive protest, localized in Washington DC, but with sister marches nationwide. On July 21st, thousands of youth will march on the National Mall in protest to the insufficient attitude politicians have had toward climate change. The day before, they will be making art around the city in an effort to draw attention to their cause. These simple acts may be small by themselves, but as more and more youth gather, it makes a momentum that is very hard to ignore.
“I decided it was unfair that I can’t vote, I don’t get to choose who is in power, I’m too young to be in power, but I get to pay the price for the decisions that politicians make today. It’s not fair that I’m being left with this world that is falling apart.” -Jamie Margolin
Jamie isn't stopping at the march either, on July 19th, she will be bringing the demands of her movement to politicians. Though the march is directed at people best able to make the changes they want to see, politicians, they will not be going by the White House. Jamie wants to make it clear that this isn't solely about President Trump, but at the alarming problems her generation will be left with if nothing is done.
With record breaking storms and horrific wildfires sweeping the country, her point is well made by the environment as well as the protest. While we have not yet seen a category 6 hurricane, the growing possibility of one occurring due to climate change has been brought up frequently by scientists. Last year, hundreds of people lost their lives to the violent storms and fires created by a changing climate. If this continues, Jamie and her friends are concerned there won't be a planet left for her.
ZeroHour is yet another example of youth making a difference where perhaps no one else can. The Florida government has actually banned the use of the terms “Climate Change” and “Global Warming” in official government documents. This attitude is one shared by many government officials through out the United States, but it may not be there for long. The march against climate change is expected to be a catalyst to change that.
All around the world, young people are making a difference. Despite not having the ability to vote, curfews, and the general contempt towards the thoughts of the younger generation, real progress has been had at the hands of children. We have yet to see whether real change can be made this time, but if history is any indication, they have a fighting chance at making their voices heard.