Prove your humanity

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. It invests $369 billion dollars into clean energy and climate efforts with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

“This bill is the biggest step forward on climate ever — ever — and it’s going to allow — it’s going to allow us to boldly take additional steps toward meeting all of my climate goals — the ones we set out when we ran,” Biden said at the signing.

But in this commentary, 17-year-old Ben Winslow, an intern with The Allegheny Front this summer, says don’t thank the politicians for it. Thank those who have put years of hard work into pushing for climate action.

LISTEN to the commentary


My generation – Gen Z – has grown up with a conversation about climate change always going on around us.  Massive storms, flooding, and wildfires have become major news events that we saw covered by the media. We saw scientists and other professionals on television and social media warning about the impending climate catastrophe. 

That’s why I feel our generation has taken up the fight to combat climate change so fervently. 

Yet, I have never considered myself a climate activist. I think I am a young person who is aware of the obvious situation surrounding myself, and who is committed to doing what I can to stop the catastrophe before it happens. But still, I find myself hesitant to consider myself an activist. Others in my generation, though, wore that title proudly and took up the visible mantle of being the face of “our” movement. 

Young stars such as Greta Thunberg became global heroes as she and many others had their speeches amplified to a level we had little seen before. In the wake of this new attention, it finally seemed like adults were listening, but after setbacks and delays, I ask myself, have those in power failed our generation?

Originally, steps forward seemed like common sense, but we were unaware, for the most part, of the slow grinding gears of politics. We were largely unaware of the simple truth that most of our elected representatives would place a check from a corporation over the lives of innocent youth. It seemed cruel. It seemed unjust. But as many Congressmen and women would put it, “It is simply politics.”

When Joe Biden was running for President, he promised climate action. In the first year and a half of his presidency, some of that promise faded as Congress stalled legislation. But now, there is a proverbial light on the horizon. In a surprising twist, Senators Manchin and Sinema joined with the rest of the Democrats to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes monumental steps forward on climate action.

But is this enough? After years of nothing, it feels easy to say yes. Some in Congress act as though we owe them a thank you after all these years. But still, it feels too little too late.

If climate legislation can only be passed with a larger goal of convincing voters to keep Democrats in power in Congress, it shows how little politicians truly care about the youth of this nation. I say we shouldn’t need to thank them for preserving our ability to live in the future. It should be a given. But, sadly, it only comes when the politics benefit our representatives more than the big money that has withered away the core of our American democracy. 

But many climate activists are willing to work within this system. They are willing to fight the big fight. They are willing to sacrifice time, money, and resources to break down this corrupt system and rebuild it into something that will truly resemble a government of the people, by the people.

That is why I still have hope. Not because of the recently passed legislation but because of the climate activists who pushed for the bill’s passage. This new law is ultimately not enough, but hopefully, with the tenacity of those who are truly fighting this fight, the next bill, or the one after that, will be enough to make the type of big change necessary to solve this crisis. 

Earlier I stated that I don’t consider myself a climate activist. That is because I’m not sure I have the courage or the energy to fight within the system we exist in. But those of us who do have that courage and strength they are the hope in all of this. They are the ones who we should be saying thank you to. They are the ones we will one day owe our lives to.

Ben Winslow is a rising senior at Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh.