Thursday, June 16, 2022

Forecasting and Youth: Another Avenue for a Citizen Advisory Committee?

The front page story in today's paper is about youth and mental health. 

Mostly it's good to see, but the focus on mental health risked shifting the stress to subjective and individual problems of anxiety and despair away from the objective problem of increasing emissions. The fundamental solution is not better coping mechanisms, but is reduced emissions. Adaptation, and the concomitant fatalism, should be a secondary matter, not primary. It's not just in our heads. It's a corporate and communal problem, not just a personal one.

Front page today


Inside were three bulleted recommendations. The lead one was this:

Share power with youth in decision-making about climate and mental health policy and solutions to increase youths’ sense of hope, belonging and agency.
This week at the MPO they were talking about 2050 employment and population forecasts. This is one of the few areas of governance in which we are formally serious about forecasting. We don't directly model and forecast garbage collection, crime and police, and most other municipal services. But we have a strong tradition, even with its false precision, of traffic modeling and forecasting 20 and 30 years out.

At the MPO this week

But the forecasts are numbers only.

In 2050 the teen in the article "It's happening now" will be about 45.  

If the MPO is serious about forecasting (and this would also hold for the City of Salem and our Climate Action Plan), they could consider making it less abstract by adding faces to the numbers, real people for whom the forecasts are made: A Citizen Advisory Committee solely composed of youth, the ones whose futures will be most impacted after today's "adults in the room" are all dead. 

Again, such a committee could just be ornamental, but there's a chance that having to explain things to teens, and having also to answer their questions, polite and impolite, might be a salutary exercise.

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