Governmental inaction forces youth to carry the burden of social change


In today’s political climate, youth activism has become the new norm. From Greta Thunberg to the “March for Our Lives” organizers, young people are fighting for systemic change with an urgency governmental leaders lack.

While youth activism is a positive trend, the frequency at which we see it suggests governments are failing to act in a way that properly represents young people’s needs.

This is clear through the impact of Greta Thunberg’s activism. Not only has she organized Fridays for Future—which inspired students internationally to attend similar climate strikes—but she’s also spoken at the United Nations and the US Senate.

Similarly, survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, organized “March for Our Lives” in 2018, in which millions took to the streets to protest the US government’s failure to enact stricter gun laws. 

Here at Queen’s, hundreds skipped lectures to march in the Sept. 27 climate strike and urged the University to divest from fossil fuels.

It’s becoming increasingly common for students to prioritize activism over education. While we should certainly applaud their efforts, youth shouldn’t have to fight for their voices to be heard. Rather, their government leaders should already be making policies that accurately represent young people’s concerns.

But even after speaking out against their governments, youth fail to see tangible action. This points to a dangerous cycle of political demonstrations followed by inaction from those in positions of power.

Despite the popularity of “March for Our Lives,” US gun laws haven’t changed following the protest. There have been 350 school shootings since the march. Similarly, Principal Patrick Deane commended students who attended the Queen’s climate strike, yet the University has failed to enact any policy changes or divest from fossil fuels.

Even US President Donald Trump has responded to youth activism, but mostly to mock that Greta Thunberg looked like a “very happy young girl” following her UN speech. 

Students constantly see political leaders dismissing their fears while simultaneously failing to enact meaningful legislation for the issues that directly impact young people. 

Young people are frustrated with governmental inaction. That’s why the burden of social change has settled on youth’s shoulders. 

In ignoring young people’s calls to action, governments send the dangerous message that their voices don’t matter. Political leaders need to do more than simply respond to youth activism—they need to actually act. 

Until political leaders enact meaningful legislation that can ensure young people have a future to look forward to, the youth are saddled with the burden to do what politicians have failed to: enact social change. 

Chloe is one of The Journal’s Copy Editors. She’s a third-year English student.


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