“Trick or treat?” I asked myself on Halloween night. I could trick out to the holiday festivities, or treat myself to a little civic participation four days before the election. Fully equipped with door hangers informing voters to choose a candidate that supports green jobs, climate justice, and clean energy, I embarked on a late night dorm storm. The goal was to simply remind on-campus residents to vote. Four or five buildings later, I realized that almost every student I encountered told me they had already cast their ballot. “This must be a holiday gag,” I thought, because students don’t vote. Or do they?
This election has certainly defied all notions of the expected. An elaborate electoral system is now easy to get involved with using two-way media and online networks. Perhaps the Facebook generation has put their technology to good use. Whichever way the election swings, civic engagement has ultimately proven the greatest lesson in this race.
So what’s next? Today, America will decide its new leader, and now is our chance to push issues forward that have remained dormant on the national level for far too long.
At Cal Poly, we learn our respective trades well enough to join the workforce out of college, but we are entering at an unprecedented economic downturn affecting many sectors. Concurrently, we have the international science community warning us of impending doom from climate change. Are these two competing issues at odds with one another? The best solutions can be found in mutually benefiting efforts: economic growth that helps the environment, head-of-household jobs that promote fair and just causes, and renewable energy that gives our nation clean, affordable and secure supplies.
These aren’t just pipe dreams. Hundreds of thousands of students across the nation have pledged to hold their elected officials accountable to make a clean and just future for America. We have the ears of politicians more than ever before. This election is an historic moment for young voters, where politicians realize that they must listen to the demands of the rising generation. And it is our job to continue this level of engagement to take knowledge into action.
We are the future workforce of the green economy. We are the future engineers of our renewable energy infrastructure. We are the future architects renovating our inefficient buildings. We are the future planners building our innovative public transit networks. We are the future farmers providing local organics to our urban food deserts. We are the future economists identifying true costs of our goods and services. We are the future social scientists finding what makes great places for us to live and work. We are the future stakeholders that will have to reckon with our changing world.
Whether we like it or not, America is going to change. We asked for it and we will get it. As graduating students entering the workforce, it is easy to accept the highest paying job offered to us. It takes courage to turn down a job that does not meet our expectations of clean, just and fair employment. In this economic crunch, we must select jobs that will promote the upsurge of green economy. So, the message is this: work for jobs that are fully engaged in sustainability – not a portion, subsector, department or percentage – but proactively making decisions that align with environmental constraints and social concerns.
Nancy Cole is a city and regional planning senior and the former vice-president of the Empower Poly Coalition.