Environmental policy leaders discuss barriers and future directions in climate policy panel discussion

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At Thursday’s environmental policy panel hosted by The Hill, young leaders from both sides of the aisle discussed topics ranging from the effects of climate change on health to how to interact with politicians.

The online event “Building Consensus on Environmental Policy” was the first in a partnership between The Hill and the American Conservation Union. In the five discussions that make up the event, moderator Julia Manchester, a national affairs correspondent for The Hill, speaks with a variety of activists and experts to discuss how we can work together to find solutions to environmental problems. Did.

Chris Barnard, president of the American Conservation Union, said that despite their beliefs, many young Republicans believe in climate change and that their views are not reflected in the party’s environmental policies.

He said a significant problem in the environmental movement is the language barrier, with older Republicans being put off by terminology often used by more progressive activists.

“As you said, if you say ‘climate crisis,’ a lot of older Republicans will say, ‘Man, I don’t understand that word,’” Bernard said. “But if you say, ‘Actually, it’s about protecting our backyard and providing our children with access to live in a healthy environment with clean air and clean water.’” It’s something everyone can achieve. ”

Kristy Drutman, founder of Brown Girl Green and co-founder of the Green Jobs Committee, said environmental issues can and should be discussed in a way that resonates with people across party lines. .

“There’s a new opportunity to talk about environmental issues and reach people across political lines,” Drutman said. “And we know that much of that is due to things like air and water pollution that protect the neighborhoods and communities we care about most.”

Brown Girl Green, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and World Policy at the University of Southern California also sponsored the event, which featured a roundtable discussion with participants including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R); Participated.

Isabel Brown, a conservative social media influencer, said she thought the roundtable and additional discussion were particularly productive as the world becomes increasingly polarized around environmental issues and words like “climate.” Ta.

“Sadly, in America, everything has become politically charged, from the toothbrush you used this morning to the underwear you’re wearing right now as you watch this video,” Brown said. . “And I think we often get so defensive about defending that definition of the word that it becomes very difficult to let our guard down and have a productive conversation.”

Brown said he sees Gen Z breaking down some of the party distinctions of the past and believes younger generations will be leaders on climate protection.

Isaias Hernandez, an environmental educator and founder of the independent media platform QueerBrownVegan, agreed, saying young activists are putting pressure on politicians, both Democratic and Republican, who don’t take environmental issues seriously. He said he would continue to call.

“It’s in our best interest to recognize that if we don’t recognize these things as issues, we’re going to find other very qualified candidates who can address environmental issues,” Hernandez said. said.

“So let’s actually come together,” Hernandez said. “And realistically, we think we can save this democracy. It just needs to be done right and communicated effectively.”

Sierra Cutikit, a professional skier and climate activist, said climate change affects everyone’s physical and mental health and she wants everyone to play a part in improving the future.

“This is a defining decade and the most important time to act,” Quitikit said. “If we want to build a better future for ourselves, our economy and our children, we all need to be in this game.”

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