The younger generation played a significant role in securing Biden’s win. However, they may not continue their support this year.
As a first-year college student, Lise Joshi strongly supported Joe Biden, driven by her concern for climate change. She actively participated in the TikTok for Biden movement leading up to the 2020 election, hoping to encourage other young individuals to vote.
The efforts made by Joshi and her colleagues were successful for Democrats – there was a significant increase in youth voter turnout in 2020, which has been largely attributed to helping Biden win the election.
However, the ongoing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have resulted in the deaths of over 22,000 Palestinians. This has caused Joshi, who used to support the president she voted for, to feel disappointed. She is not the only one. Joshi believes that the current approach of the White House towards Palestine is causing a disconnect with young people, who are a crucial demographic for Biden’s potential re-election in 2024.
My age group is disgusted. Many individuals are unwilling to support this government due to their actions in Gaza,” she stated.
According to her, if Democrats believe that their past actions on climate change will be sufficient to earn them redemption, they are underestimating how young people perceive the current administration’s actions on the issue.
Biden has been referred to as the “climate president” due to his signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is the biggest investment in clean energy in U.S. history. However, some young individuals in Joshi’s age group are worried about the oil and gas components of the IRA and Biden’s reluctance to declare a climate emergency. Joshi also notes that her peers are often disappointed with the Willow Project, an oil drilling project approved by the Biden administration in early 2021, which is projected to release more climate pollution annually than 99.7% of all other sources in the country.
Joshi is among the many leaders of the youth climate movement who are attempting to bring attention to the potential repercussions of the current administration’s stance on Gaza. In her role as executive director of Gen-Z for Change (formerly known as TikTok for Biden), she co-signed an open letter with other leaders from organizations such as the Sunrise Movement and March for Our Lives in the autumn.
“The vast majority of young people in this country are rightfully horrified by the atrocities committed with our tax dollars, with your support,” the letter read. “The position of your administration is badly out of step with young people and the positions of Democratic voters, whom have been shown to support a ceasefire by supermajorities in multiple polls.”
Several surveys have consistently revealed that Biden is not as popular as Trump among young voters, which is a big change from their strong support for Biden in the previous election. According to recent polling conducted by the New York Times, young people’s backing of Biden has weakened due to his position on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The Times’ analysis stated that the younger voters who supported Biden in 2020 but have anti-Israel opinions are the most likely to switch their support to Mr. Trump.
This possibility would greatly alarm young voters who are aware of the threat that Trump poses to the environment.
The concept of war as a form of environmental injustice.
Although numerous major environmental organizations and news outlets in the United States have been hesitant to acknowledge the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the worldwide youth climate movement has demonstrated overwhelming support for Palestinians and vehemently rejected the notion that condemning the actions of the Israeli government equates to antisemitism. Examples such as Greta Thunberg sharing a photo of herself holding a “Stand with Gaza” sign and youth activists at COP28 organizing pro-Palestine demonstrations have made it evident that these young individuals view the conflict as a matter of environmental justice.
Climate activists, who are accustomed to sounding the alarm about the effects of climate change such as displacement, forced migration, and environmental destruction, can easily draw a comparison to the impacts of Israel’s bombing on Gaza and its people. This also includes the emissions produced by military actions. Additionally, some environmentalists, often referred to as “tree huggers”, may feel a symbolic connection to Palestinians who have been seen embracing olive trees after their orchards were destroyed by Israeli settlers.
Isaias Hernandez, who shares environmental content as @queerbrownvegan, expressed that while at the UN climate conference in Dubai, he met many individuals from global south countries who strongly supported Palestine. Along with over 120 other content creators who have a collective audience of millions, Hernandez signed an open letter advocating for a “free Palestine”.
Young climate activists frequently form strong bonds with their counterparts in different nations through online platforms, arranging meetups and collaborating to organize protests at international summits on a regular basis. This shared sense of global unity is strengthening the beliefs of American youth regarding Gaza.
Michele Weindling, the political director of the Sunrise Movement, stated that their organization is a peaceful movement advocating for the protection and welfare of all individuals within their communities. She emphasized the connection between their cause and the situation in Gaza, stressing the belief that no group should be deprived of essential resources such as water.
Even for youthful individuals who may be reluctant to express their views on a geopolitical dispute with a lengthy, intricate, and distressing past, the basic calculations of US expenditure are sufficient to evoke anger.
According to Weindling, our president has repeatedly informed us that we lack the funds and means to implement climate solutions and forgive student debt on the necessary scale. However, we seem to have the resources available to increase our military’s supply of bombs to Israel. This has caused great distress among young individuals.
The journey to November is lengthy.
Both Weindling and Joshi emphasize that they are not urging their movement to abstain from voting in the primary election. Instead, they encourage young individuals to exercise their right to vote.
Joshi expressed concern that young individuals may grow indifferent towards voting and choose not to participate in elections, despite the significance of the presidency. He stated, “I am greatly concerned about this.”
However, both organizers aim to caution the present government about the direction of the youth vote. Additionally, they contend that the government’s hesitance to demand a ceasefire in Gaza will make it more difficult for grassroots organizations to rally disillusioned youth voters who oppose Biden’s “pro-war” position.
According to Weindling, this leadership approach is not only morally questionable, but also politically risky. It is difficult to justify Biden’s stance to our generation, which could have major consequences. It could impact youth voter turnout in 2024 and their willingness to encourage others to vote.
However, Joshi finds the alternative, which could mean four more years of Trump, to be “terrifying”. During his first term as president, Trump not only contributed to pollution and climate change by loosening environmental regulations and withdrawing from global agreements, but he has also stated his intentions to continue expanding oil drilling if he is re-elected.
Due to the damage caused by Trump in areas such as immigration, voting rights, and the democratic process, Hernandez intends to cast his vote. He understands those who choose not to participate, but his goal is to decrease harm and violence on a global scale.
According to young activists, Biden has the opportunity to attract more young voters to the polls before November if he takes decisive action soon.
Joshi stated that the initial action to stop a Trump presidency is to urge for an immediate ceasefire. He believes that both climate-conscious voters and those who support Palestinians are united in their stance.