Our country seems to be heading down some very troubling paths. A great many of us have thought so for a while now, but it certainly wasn’t reflected in the November election. So we march on. But now what? I think maybe it’s time for the young adults among us to go to war. I don’t mean military-style war of course. I mean serious, persistent, energetic, unyielding activism. It would be nice if I could say this in a kinder, gentler way. But democracy as we’ve known it, and civilized society, and the very existence of an inhabitable planet, are all very clearly eroding away.

When it comes to the future, those of us who are the youngest, with the longest remaining lifespans, have the most “skin in the game.” But less than half of all eligible millennials (18-35) regularly show up to vote, even in presidential elections. According to the Pew Research Center, millennial turnout peaked in 2008 at 50 percent. That’s horrible. The next-lowest turnout rate was 61 percent for Gen Xers. Time to wake up. Time to reprioritize and go to war. The future isn’t what it used to be.

Consider this. It used to be that the big money folks were not allowed to spend unlimited amounts, anonymously, to totally dominate the airwaves in support of their own political agendas. The claim that all interests are being fairly represented has never rung more hollow. In years past our elected officials were able to do at least a passable job of hammering out useful compromises. There were efforts to seek out common ground on big issues like climate change. Little things like truth and facts mattered. So did civil discourse. And so on. It’s pretty easy to see that all of that has changed.

Some may say that our politicians will eventually come to their senses. Will do the right thing. Will start cooperating with each other. I’m not convinced. There is certainly no evidence of that happening at the moment. By and large, people who have carved themselves a niche and become comfortable in their lives tend not to want to move off the dime. Perhaps a bit of well-placed discomfort would do the trick. Like the threat of a massive youth turnout the next time voting comes around. How about we work toward that?

Let’s just take climate change as an example. Setting aside the question of human causation, what could happen during the lifetimes of young people if the current pace of climate change keeps up? How about during the lifetimes of their children? Flooded coasts? Prolonged droughts? Worsening storms? I bet many of our bright, energetic millennials could summon up a pretty vivid overall image given just a bit of thought. It’s really not that hard to extrapolate from today’s alarming trends. Now share that image with friends.

Here’s what our country’s leadership doesn’t seem to get. You don’t need to be totally convinced that climate change is caused by human activity. Or that it will continue to accelerate. There only has to be a small possibility of truth in it to justify spending significant time and money on measures that could slow it down. It’s the same idea as house insurance. There’s a very, very small chance that your house will burn down, but if it did the financial consequences for most people would be devastating. So we pay monthly premiums to insure ourselves against the improbable catastrophe. Because it’s worth it. Climate change falls into a similar category.

Given just the evidence we can see today, let there be no doubt that unchecked climate change will inevitably lead to catastrophe. The steps we can take as individuals have been well documented. But in addition, Congress should be working hard to help provide some of that “insurance” against a disastrous tomorrow by investing some significant resources today.

Any day now millennials will pass boomers as the largest potential voting bloc. But most of that power is, in effect, being poured down the drain. If we want to live in a civilized democratic society on a healthy, stable planet, we’re all going to have to expend a lot of energy in maintaining it. There’s no way around it. And who among us is blessed with the most abundant energy in addition to their “skin in the game” motivation? And has the most to lose? Young adults.

Oh yeah, it’s definitely time to go to war.

Russ Rauhauser lives in Boulder.

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