What is it with Thomas Friedman and his insults? First, he wrote that Millennials were too quiet, too wrapped up in the internet to care about the country’s direction. He then came back last December and tried to argue again that because we’re not chaining ourselves to bulldozers, we’re not doing anything and thus don’t care about the trajectory of the country.

Yesterday, Friedman again assailed millennials, equating Facebook and other social network sites with laziness and apathy. The offending passage is in the last paragraph:

And then there is We the People. Attention all young Americans: your climate future is being decided right now in the cloakrooms of the Capitol, where the coal lobby holds huge sway. You want to make a difference? Then get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face. Get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon. That will get the Senate’s attention. Play hardball or don’t play at all.

Emphasis added.

The Energy Action Coalition pieced together a response it blasted to its e-mail list. I’ve provided it below:

As a young person, you care about global warming. You know that a clean energy economy will create millions of jobs and pathways out of poverty, reduce pollution, and save the planet. And you are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Right?

Well, Thomas L. Friedman, the popular New York Times columnist, isn’t convinced. In fact, Friedman concludes his latest column* by calling us out! He writes:

“Attention all young Americans: your climate future is being decided right now in the cloakrooms of the Capitol, where the coal lobby holds huge sway…. Play hardball or don’t play at all.”

Does Friedman have a point? Do we need to be bigger and louder?

I think the answer is yes.

Don’t get me wrong — I know that thousands of young people across this country are working tirelessly to usher in a clean and just energy future for us all. But if we want to truly achieve our goals, we need our elected officials to know that we are watching closely as they debate the climate policy that will shape the rest of our lives.

Take the first step. Let President Obama and your Senators know that you demand bold, just, and science-based climate solutions, and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Let’s send a strong message to our President and Senators that we’re here, we’re watching, and we’re ready for action. And let’s ask our friends and families to do the same. It’s going to take big numbers to fight back against the thousands of letters and calls generated by the dirty energy industry (not to mention their well-paid lobbyists).

Send a message to the President and your Senators, and forward this email to everyone you know.

But we know that sending email isn’t enough. In order to drown out the voice of the dirty energy industry, we’re going to need to mobilize in unprecedented numbers. Tom Friedman isn’t kidding when he suggests we should have a million people marching in the streets.

Ready to take a bigger step? Sign up to be a leader in your community, and to help get millions of feet in the streets for climate solutions.

We’ve gone big before, but now we need to go bigger. And the only way we will get there is if people like you do more. Ready to take a bigger step? Sign up today to get active in your community, to get in the faces of our elected officials, and to recruit the huge movement it will take to win.

In it to win it,

Whit Jones
Acting Field Director
Energy Action Coalition

While the e-mail was inspirational enough, the problem with Friedman’s column is that he once again lacks the understanding that change can be accomplished through a variety of means. Friedman (and there are many more who think just like him) discounts activism through institutions as nothing. In doing so, he insults those youth already busting their ass for this legislation and movement. For instance did Friedman say anything when Powershift ’09 brought 11,000 youth activists to DC urging the government to act? Who was quiet then?

Granted, Whit’s right — we all can be a little louder on the issue, but it doesn’t have to be limited to getting in the streets. We can continue our own brand of activism by using our technological proficiency and collaborative skills to push for the bill’s passage. Yes, the bill’s important (even if it has been watered down); but the 1960s are over. Youth have a plethora of tools at their disposal to create the change they wish to see. Unfortunately, Friedman either doesn’t understand that, or doesn’t want to.

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