Climate activists who have tried to stop ConocoPhillips, a proposed multibillion-dollar drilling project in Alaska, have struggled for years to attract attention to their cause.
But as the Biden administration prepares to make a final decision on the controversial bill, “Willow” has trended on TikTok. Early Tuesday, the hashtags #StopWillow and #StopTheWillowProject reached 148 million and 150 million views, respectively, on the app.
“I’ve never seen so many videos, comments and reports about a climate issue on social media,” said Alaina Wood, a 26-year-old climate scientist and activist with more than 353,500 followers on TikTok.
The Willow project is ConocoPhillips’ $6 billion proposal to drill for oil and gas in Alaska, located within the National Petroleum Reserve, an area of 23 million acres (93 million hectares).
the commotion In connection around Willow is likely, in part, because of the approaching deadline for the Biden administration’s decision. The decision could come as early as this week.
profit and loss
The argument of those proposing this project is that it would create thousands of jobs and be a source of income for Alaska Natives. However, critics believe that approving the Willow project runs counter to President Biden’s pledge to end new oil drilling on federal lands and that approving new drilling will lead to significant climate impacts.
A recently environmental analysis, conducted by the Biden administration, estimated that the project would produce about 9.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide carbon per year, equivalent to driving nearly 2 million gasoline cars.
Activists and experts say the wave of Tiktok posts about Willow sends a clear message to politicians: young people, a significant part of the electorate, care deeply about climate issues and are willing to make their position clear.
Since the #StopWillow movement gained traction on social media, activists say more than a million letters have been sent to the White House and that a request In connection gathered 2.9 million signatures and another in progress has more than 850 thousand.
The White House did not respond to a Washington Post request for comment on Monday.
“These are not environmental groups,” said Elise Joshi, a 20-year-old student at the University of California, Berkeley, and the nonprofit’s executive director. Gen-Z for Change. Joshi, who has more than 122,500 followers on TikTok and who posted one of the first videos on the platform to draw attention to the Willow project, in early February. Since then, the video has been viewed approximately 327,000 times.
“This is the youth as a whole, as a constituency, taking action” for a sustainable future, Joshi continued. “This is one of the biggest moves going forward on TikTok. It has shown that we are willing to fight.”
Is willow a symptom of weather stress?
campaigns In connection dedicated to climate change and environmental issues are nothing new, according to Dana R. Fisher, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who studies activist movements. But while Willow’s TikTok videos may seem like content similar to other climate issues, “it’s very different in terms of engagement,” said Dana Fisher, who has been following the movement.
There may be several factors contributing to interest in the Willow project on social media, particularly among young people. the activity In connection it could be “a manifestation of your climate anxiety,” says Wood.
“This event is a very specific example of that, ‘climate change is absolutely terrifying, and I have to do something,’ something along those lines,” he said.
misinformation In connection about the extent to which the Willow project would affect efforts to combat climate change has only fueled people’s concern, Wood says, adding that he shares content on TikTok in an effort to reassure viewers who believe climate change will be “irreversible if this is approved, which is not true”.
Young people may also be motivated to act because they believe they are capable of influencing a president who wants to be seen as “the champion of climatesays Joshi.
People need to believe that “there is a chance to stop this if we raise our voices and act as a collective,” he added. “There really is an opportunity here.”
The power of posting a video
But the question remains whether the largely organic social media movement sweeping TikTok right now can have long-term effects, Fisher said.
“It’s not a matter of not having the political skill,” Fischer said. “It’s just a matter of realizing to what extent this type of mobilization has the power and ability to sustain itself over a long period of time.” “True political engagement,” he noted, “involves more than clicking on something and posting a video.”
Other people who have posted In connection for Willow, how Alina Wood, worry that their efforts may not be enough to stop the project.
“I’m still concerned that the decision has already been made and that it doesn’t really matter anymore,” Wood said. “But hopefully if we keep up the crowd pressure all week there’s still a chance. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
But, Dana Fisher says, the White House is likely paying attention to the media debate surrounding the project. “The Biden administration has been very attentive to young people and their views, and they seem to be cultivating influencers in a way I’ve never seen before,” he says.