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A situationship: President Joe Biden and young people
As he took action on gun safety and approved the controversial Willow Project, President Joe Biden's relationship with young people became a bit more complicated this week.
As I’ve said before, since before President Joe Biden took office, young people have been some of his biggest allies, as well as his harshest critics. This week, as the president took action on gun safety and approved the controversial Willow Project, that dynamic became even more stark.
On Tuesday, Biden issued an executive order meant in part to increase background checks before gun sales. The executive order also calls for improving awareness around “red-flag” laws and asks the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a report to see how firearms are marketed to minors.
For its part, March For Our Lives — the youth-led gun violence prevention organization founded in the wake of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — praised Biden for the executive order, noting that organizers with their group have been advocating for these measures for years.
“Youth activists at March For Our Lives have called for the President to take these steps and met repeatedly with White House advisors to bring them to life, and we’re glad to see him heed our calls today. More is to be done, and the President is not off the hook for actions he could still take today to address this crisis, but this is the exact kind of action we have long wanted to see from him, and it's the kind of high-impact actions he can still take, and needs to take, with a gridlocked congress. We hope it's the first of many more actions, and look forward to continuing to work closely with the White House on further actions,” March For Our Lives said in a statement.
Likewise, Everytown for Gun Safety’s Students Demand Action and Moms Demand Action networks expressed their support for what the group called “life saving executive actions.”
Yet at the same time, Biden received the wrath of young people this week, after blessing the Willow Project, an oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope. Young activists and climate advocates had stressed their concern that the project would cause more harm than good, citing environmental and health worries, and said the project contradicts the president’s promises to combat climate change.
Ahead of the president’s decision, activists flooded TikTok with #stopwillow content. The hashtag has over 299 million views on the app. Advocates also signed onto a Change.org petition with over 4.1 million signatures.
“President Biden’s decision to move forward with the Willow Project abandons the millions of young people who overwhelmingly came together to demand he stop the project and protect our futures,” Sunrise Movement’s executive director Varshini Prakash said in a statement following the president’s approval of the project. “When President Biden ran in 2020, he committed to end new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. Today's announcement flies in the face of that promise. Instead of sticking to his own goals and listening to the millions of young people who carried the party for the last three cycles, President Biden is letting the fossil fuel industry have their way,” she said.
In an Instagram post, Gen Z for Change, one of the groups behind the #stopwillow push, wrote: “President Biden has broken a promise he made during his campaign to halt new oil drilling on public lands, a vow that garnered him the support of younger people.”
The Biden administration maintains that the president is committed to his climate agenda, but still, young Americans are clearly disappointed by this decision.
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A glimpse at the sustainable fashion movement 🌿🌎👠
Yesterday, magazine Marie Claire and French luxury goods group Kering (home to high-fashion brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent to name a couple) held a sustainable fashion event as part of its “Fashion Our Future” initiative. The event included panels with speakers featuring designers Aurora James, Angel Chang, and actress and producer Kerry Washington. Speaking on a panel about mentorship with Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Saad Amer, founder of Justice Environment, a social impact consultancy, emphasized the role that young climate activists have played in the sustainable fashion movement. Amer noted that while it may not be obvious that the electoral process and sustainable fashion go hand in hand, there is a relationship between the two.
“We’ve seen recently through major global changes in democracy that our elections can fundamentally shift our policy priorities,” Amer said, citing the Inflation Reduction Act as one piece of recent legislation that will allocate dollars toward climate change and environmental justice solutions. “It’s essential to know that as we show up to the polls, it’s not just us. We’re representing our communities. And we can’t just go and do it alone,” he said.
In the news 🗞
NBC News’ Savannah Sellers anchored a special report, ‘Teens Under Pressure: Mental Health & Social Media,’ that aired on NBC News NOW last night. Highlighting recent CDC data showing just how many young people, especially teen girls, are struggling with mental health, the special featured a conversation with high schoolers in Fairfax County, Virginia, an interview with US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, as well as input from experts and journalists covering this space, including Teen Vogue feature writer Fortesa Latifi. Sellers shared her own experience with anxiety in an op-ed for Teen Vogue before the launch of the report.
Check it out: