As we embark on a new year of organizing and activism, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the highlights from 2022. Here are just a few examples:
Young people showed up to the polls. Youth turnout in the 2022 midterm elections is predicted to be the second-highest midterm turnout in 30 years. The data shows that when we consistently invest in youth turnout and in building long-term civic engagement infrastructure on a college campus, students respond by voting. This fall, the nonpartisan Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project worked on more than 100 campuses and made more than 200,000 peer-to-peer get out the vote contacts.
Bipartisanship can lead to good policy. After a bipartisan majority passed the biggest investment into our nation’s infrastructure in a generation, students around the country are ready to roll up their sleeves and ensure that local projects benefit communities and the planet. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help our nation’s investments in infrastructure and promote forward-thinking policies including electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, cleaning up our toxic legacy of pollution, and more.
Climate action is possible. During one of the most polarizing times in our country’s history, we still helped win climate action at the federal and state levels. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden in August, includes a $369 billion investment to reduce global warming pollution by 40% by 2030. In the lead-up to its passage, our team made sure Congress heard the voices of young people and their desire for a clean energy and zero emission transportation future.
We can address basic needs. For decades, the Student PIRGs National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness, alongside the National Coalition for the Homeless, have co-sponsored Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Students and community members from across the country organized educational, service, fundraising, and advocacy events to combat the problems of poverty. Over 40,000 people took action at events around the country and raised tens of thousands of dollars and collected thousands of pounds of items for the needy—from food to clothing to basic necessities. They also raised awareness and helped break the stigma around hunger and homelessness
We can break free from plastic. PIRG students in California helped build support for several state and local actions to curb plastic waste. In 2022, California passed a new law that requires single-use items to be recyclable or compostable by 2032 and holds plastic packaging producers financially responsible for their waste. Students also won their campaign to ban polystyrene foam (including foam cups and takeout containers) and strengthen existing plastic bag bans in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Berkeley.
Conserving our special places. At the UN Biodiversity Conference this winter, world leaders agreed to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030. Right now, only 10% of marine areas and 17% of global land is protected. Around the country, PIRG students have been building support for conservation and setting state and federal 30×30 goals by educating their peers about conservation issues and bringing that support directly to decision-makers to expand existing protections in states like California, Massachusetts, and Florida.
Every day, I’m proud to work alongside and help train young people around the country to win tangible results that make the world a better place. I can’t wait to see what these students do in 2023!
Happy New Year,