Climate  Justice

"We want to have a planet that is livable." - Jamie Margolin

BRENNAN LANE

@brenwalklane

he/him

Boat on a Lake

MKM Climate Justice team director Kaitlyn Leitherer interviewed 16-year-old Brennan Lane from Midlothian, VA. They discussed his immense involvement with climate justice-related issues in his community and what he is doing to raise awareness about them.

Kaitlyn: How old are you, what are your pronouns, and where are you from? Tell us a little bit about you.

Brennan:  I am 16 years old and a sophomore at Midlothian High School (MHS). I am the youngest of 5, with 2 sets of much older twin sisters, so I basically have 5 moms to keep me in line. In addition to a passion for the environment, I play Varsity Lacrosse as a long stick defender for MHS and play travel lacrosse with a fantastic team called the Richmond Hawks. I also am a Varsity Swimmer with MHS and a year-round swimmer with the USA team Swim RVA which provides incredible training. At my school, which is all virtual, I am involved in the Breaking Down Barriers group to encourage inclusion in a time where those who have been marginalized are hopefully gaining more respect. I am also a little bit of a Francophile. I’m in the National French Honor Society and in “normal” years an enthusiastic participant in the French Congres where I have served for years on the Executive Council and perform in French dramatic poetry competitions. More recently, with COVID, I added some new “virtual” opportunities like trying my hand at my school’s Quiz Bowl, entering a Future Business Leaders of America public speaking contest, and transcribing World War II questionnaires that were completed by soldiers a century ago. The transcription work appeals to me because I am looking for clues as to how people move forward, not only after the last national pandemic but also after the War to End All Wars. Last year, I was President of my Freshmen class and constantly interacted with my classmates. In the fall of 2019, I also canvassed door to door for my state senator who sponsored the bill that related to oyster recognition and spoke to strangers in person every day on the campaign trail without a mask in sight. Doesn’t that seem like an impossible dream? This year, I honestly am trying my best to stay active, healthy, serve more as a steward of the land, and get outside more than ever before. I really thank God that I am a person that loves the outdoors and all types of weather because it is very healing mentally, and I have yet to get back inside my church since this pandemic all began.  

Kaitlyn: What got you involved?

Brennan: In my family, service to the community is essential. My family’s motto, established with my sisters before I was even born, is to leave things better than you found them, so we have always engaged in cleanups and tried to improve our world through programs that interest us individually.

 

Fortunately, the pandemic did not curtail all of the community improvement work that could be done for the environment. While the pandemic brought more people than ever outdoors and limited some carbon emissions from motor vehicles, at least temporarily, I noticed so much trash deposited on the walkways and paths of Virginia parks, rivers, roads and byways. It was as if everyone looked to the skies, happy to breathe cleaner air as they took walks to cope with COVID… and then trailed trash as they traveled. Honestly, I have never before conducted cleanups in some corners of my neighborhood, but since the pandemic, I am routinely picking up trash on formerly pristine paths.  I am constantly involved in trash pickups in area parks and paths, either as a part of organized cleanups or with my giant family. I actually have had some T-shirts made up for these occasions that read “ Trash Talkers: Gutting Garbage and Championing the Chesapeake” in a neon yellow for better visibility. My family and I have fun as a group, and I even managed to get my family together for an early morning trash gathering on my birthday so that I started the year off right. 

 

I really became more aware of aquaculture when I was in 6th grade. In 2016, my English teacher posted an opportunity for a few points of extra credit for an essay contest sponsored by the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association (TOGA) that asked students to “Consider the Oyster,” which was the topic every year. Well, I had never really considered the oyster as anything but an entrée or appetizer, so I dove into research and I could not believe what I was reading. Oysters built the Commonwealth, literally and figuratively. I learned about the reliance on oysters of indigenous people and what the Virginia Company of London encountered in terms of oysters that teemed in the Bay. In fact, at the time of the 1607 settlement at Jamestown, the area was experiencing the worst drought in about 800 years, meaning the waters were more brackish than ever, perfect for oyster growth. And let’s not forget that many people associated with the Virginia Company of London were ill-suited for the foraging needed to survive, so oysters, known to these men from English varieties, were able to provide important protein for the English colonists. The reliance on oysters is even seen in excavations of wells and trash deposits in the Jamestown area that contain multitudes of oyster shells, which shells reveal quite a bit about the environment when the oyster grew, sort of like rings from a tree.

 

The dependence on oysters continued long past the time of Jamestown considering that roads were formed out of crushed shells. Today, visitors to Richmond can still see oyster shells embedded in the old roadways. There is no question that the oysters of the Chesapeake were highly prized and were considered to be “white gold”- immensely valuable. There even were oyster pirates in the Chesapeake because, let’s face it, where there is gold, there are pirates. Unsurprisingly, the oysters were over-harvested and over time, harvests were beset by other issues like parasites and diseases that shrunk the natural oyster population precipitously. Fortunately, rather than give up on the entire oyster industry, a sort of modern miracle to keep oysters in the Bay took place as oysters began to be “grown” or gardened through a selective breeding process that involves sterile spat. However oysters are raised or allowed to grow, they are nature’s perfect filterers of sediment and impurities that harm waterways.

 

Meanwhile, I devoured books about oysters and watched every documentary that I could find. When I entered the TOGA competition and won 2nd place in the Commonwealth that first year, I no longer cared about the extra credit for English and instead welcomed a whole new perspective on my life. Isn’t that the epitome of education? More importantly, I met men and women, scientists and watermen involved in the oyster industry at the awards ceremony. I sat rapt in attention as a Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS)- sponsored student expounded on the state of oysters in the Bay, and I later walked the beaches at Gloucester Point, feeling the cold spray of water and the call to action. The next year, as a 7th-grade student, I entered the TOGA contest again and won 1st Place. I cannot tell you how wonderful the TOGA contingent made me feel. Many were part of families that made their living on the Bay for centuries. I truly felt called to try to bring attention to the oyster industry for which there had been named an “Oyster Trail” in Virginia to reflect the ever-present role of oyster aquaculture in the Commonwealth and beyond. I also felt like I had been missing an entire facet of education that was vital, certainly as it applied to those within the watershed areas who could appreciate the oyster history that I had discovered by chance.

 

Given this extraordinary education on these mighty mollusks, I wanted to bring recognition to oysters and thought Virginia might be ready to recognize oysters as the “First Food of Virginia,” which would give a nod to the First People who fully appreciated this protein supply as well as some of the members of John Smith’s contingent that lived off of the oyster beds during lean times. I hoped that a Commonwealth-wide recognition might lead to the education of students about aquaculture.

I ended up looking up the Virginia Code section about official designations (Code Section 1-510) and drafted my own rendition of a proposed bill for the General Assembly to consider. After contacting my then-state Senator, Glen Sturtevant about the idea, he and I met for an in-person session, and he agreed to sponsor the bill. I interfaced frequently with Senator Sturtevant’s aide and realized that even as a 13-year-old, my opinion and ideas mattered.  The bill ultimately sailed through the Senate and was sent to the House, but time ran out in the session before it was brought for a vote, unfortunately. Still, I saw the enthusiasm it generated with the Senate and even had the chance to speak before the committee vote before an audience of Senators, which was both nerve-wracking and immensely rewarding. 

Given today’s huge COVID issues, it is difficult to seek more general bills, but I nevertheless hope to advocate for oyster education as part of Virginia’s core standards. Virginia certainly learns about the so-called “green gold” of tobacco. Why not learn about oysters, which are not carcinogenic? In my mind, the future could see people tying Virginia and watershed states to oysters as much as Florida is connected with oranges. 

Kaitlyn: When did you realize you needed to take action to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its oysters? Can you identify a specific catalyst? 

Brennan: Every TOGA meeting and many of the meetings of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) point out the positives about promoting oysters, including wild oysters. The restoration of reefs is ongoing, and honestly, the biggest challenge is getting the word out about the protections needed. This goes back to the education of students from day 1. My plan this year is to develop an essay contest for elementary students to get the ball rolling.

Kaitlyn: What are the three biggest takeaways from your experience advocating for oysters on the Senate and House floor?

Brennan: This is an excellent question and one that I have not been asked previously. First, I would say that the entire process at the General Assembly is completely fascinating but should be seen in person (in non-COVID times). Anyone hoping to seek change through the legislature should be prepared to be persistent. When I was waiting for hours to speak, I watched many proponents of bills have those bills voted down. The reactions of the legislators proposing the bills made me realize that these same bills had been introduced previously and also rejected. There was very little rancor, however, and often I would hear a legislator say, “See you next year with this bill.” I followed up with some of those initiatives, and with members of the General Assembly changing, some of the very bills that I watched get rejected in the Senate were ultimately passed. Rejection of a bill, therefore is not the end of an issue by a long shot.

Secondly, be prepared to take the temperature of the room, figuratively. At the beginning of the day in the Senate, for example, attention was better. If a bill is scheduled to have testimony at the end of a day, prepare to be incredibly concise. I was so fortunate to have a mentor Senator who kept meeting with me during the day in break times to point out what people did wrong and what they did right in testifying. By all means practice enough to be conversational but knowledgeable. Be prepared for every question remotely possible. Additionally, don’t be glued to a script. I cut what I was planning on saying as each hour passed on the advice of Senator Sturtevant. As it turned out, I really did have a rapt audience, which gets me to my next point.

 

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, be brave. An effective advocate is a calm and honest, responsive, respectful, but forthright person. It probably helped that at the time I was very much shorter than my 6’ 1” self now. The Senators that I testified before gave me room to speak and were respectful in turn. If I had been too nervous, I do not think they would have spent time asking questions of me. I’m not going to say imagine that the audience is in underwear because that would be appalling when speaking of the General Assembly. Still, I would say that a person appearing before any committee should realize that all of the members of the General Assembly are serving their constituents. They are parents, teachers, attorneys, and people from all walks of life. Additionally, it is easier to be brave in providing testimony or argument if you do watch a lot of people testifying because some are unprepared, combative, and ineffective. If you know your stuff and dress appropriately, you have nothing to fear.

Kaitlyn: What was the response surrounding your effects from your community and your peers? 

Brennan: It was really amazing how many people had heard of the bill when it was in the Senate. I never before realized how many people love oysters. I also was surprised that almost no one knew anything about the decimation of the oysters, the filtration power of the oysters, or even that oysters were keystone species. They merely wanted to keep eating them without seeing that it took a lot to get that bivalve to the table. I also spoke so much about oysters that my Orchestra teacher started calling me “Oyster Boy” and the nickname stuck.

 

Many of my friends began brainstorming about laws that they would like to see passed themselves. My experience made them realize that they could be part of the political process themselves. As for me, I took that further with canvassing. Between the experiences with the General Assembly and having to knock on doors or cold-call complete strangers, I discovered that I enjoy meeting new people and that I can be pretty persuasive because I am sincere. Students are secret weapons in any political initiative because they do not have monetary motivation. I also have had the opportunity as a high school student to be a speaker with a seminar sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters to encourage student advocacy and emphasize that making a difference ecologically can start at any age. It goes without saying that because of my experience in testifying at the General Assembly, I have absolutely no qualms about writing letters or editorials and submitting them to legislators or newspapers. Student expression is valued. In this 2021 legislative session, for example, I have written to several legislators in the Virginia General Assembly about the pending bill to ban single-use polystyrene food containers and have received responses to my letters. That is exactly how lawmaking is supposed to work: legislators respond to the people, their constituents. A well-written letter will not be ignored or patronized even if the writer is a student. After all, I will be a voter in a few short years, and teens like me are well versed in social media and the methods to express opinions that can be amplified on social media platforms.

Kaitlyn: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to protecting the Bay? 

Brennan: Due to the experience in generating a proposed bill, I had the opportunity to examine other environmentally and ecologically relevant bills, which of course put me in the path of the fantastic advocates from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).  I met up with men and women of the CBF in their Richmond office in 2019 and learned that the organization featured a Student Leader program that brought high school students from the watershed states together virtually at least once a month to encourage stewardship of the Bay and also to mentor individual creativity and foster environmental projects and advocacy. I have learned so much with CBF about the protections needed for the Bay. 

Obviously, we need to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which are designed to meet ten specific objectives ranging from the improvement of water quality, to creating sustainable fisheries, restoring, enhancing, and protecting vital habitats, conserving land, expanding public access and encouraging environmental literacy. I actually have had the opportunity to make some videos about these Watershed Agreement initiatives so that people can see in real life examples what it might mean to fulfill goals like encouraging sustainable fisheries.

 

What our society and lawmakers need to do better is to understand that although we are a polarized American society, taking care of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can be a unifying goal and experience. I truly do not believe that people are against environmental initiatives per se. First, people incorrectly believe that current regulations cover issues ranging from poor water quality to protecting air quality. It is only instances like Flint, Michigan that sound the alarm. People also worry that environmental initiatives are too costly when in reality environmental damage is more costly in terms of cleanup costs, costs for medical treatment, costs presented due to impaired learning outcomes, and costs associated with environmental inequality to entire communities. In terms of the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, I love to explain to people that it is estimated that the benefits of achieving the goals of the Agreement would reach some 22 billion annually in terms of things like property valuation, tourist dollars, aquaculture and agriculture production and protection against natural disasters. Bipartisan bills are the route to responsible legislation.

Kaitlyn: When it comes to creating change, why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people (through CBF’s Student Leadership program, for example), and even with young people who previously were not activists?

Brennan: Students have the most at stake in changing the trajectory of negative environmental practices. When we are 18, suddenly we are adults and expected to be handed an imperfect, unsustainable world. In my current Economics class, I learned the value of beginning to save now to allow time to build wealth in the future. It’s the same thing for the environment. The later you start, the more you miss. By connecting with students today, there is the likelihood of influencing family members and lawmakers. Environmental health can also become a habit for the future. It’s not impossible. Think about smoking. It once was so prevalent and even ubiquitous in movies. Not today. Or, even in my childhood at age 16, I never expected an electric car company, Tesla, to have the highest market capitalization. Today’s youth has seen rapid change, and we realize that we have the power to make a change. Everyone has seen Greta Thunberg. If a teenage environmental advocate could be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, then age is no barrier to pursuing environmental goals. 

HILARY DAVIS

@hilary.daviss

she/her

Hilary Davis.png

MKM Climate Justice team member Ehma Beveridge interviewed 14-year-old Hilary Davis from West Hartford, CT. They discussed her beginnings with activism, attending her first protest, and how important community is to progression in society. 

Ehma: How old are you, what are your pronouns, and where are you from? Could you tell me about yourself?

Hilary:  I’m 14 years old, my pronouns are she/her and I’m from West Hartford, Ct. I love writing and psychology, and I plan to work in behavioral analysis.

Ehma: How did you initially get involved in activism, and the climate movement specifically? How did you first find out about it?

Hilary: I’ve always been politically and socially motivated, always inclined to voice my ideas and opinions, but my involvement kickstarted when I realized what it meant for me to be a woman. What it meant for me to be gay. What it meant for my friends to be gay, or of color. What it meant for my mom and my dad to live together and what that meant for my siblings. My perspective started to clarify when I realize what the world was- against us. Against those I loved, and so I figured out that I should start speaking out against it. Even if people don’t like me for what I say or believe, which they don’t. And then came a flood of climate change articles and data and books and blogs and I looked around and nobody cared. there would be talking about it, but people generally made fun of people who cared, like Greta Thunberg. It was also pretty upsetting that not even the president could admit that we were in trouble. The number of people who openly denied science was astonishing. people need to stand up and fix what we drove into the dirt. 

Ehma: I’d like to talk more about the first protest you organized in your hometown. What inspired you to it and what was it like organizing? 

Hilary: The first protest I and some other close friends organized was this summer for Black Lives Matter. I saw online that there was a 4th of July nationwide protest against it, and while I was going down the list I realized that my town wasn’t on the list, so I decided to add it. We only had a week, we contacted to town, and I think it was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done, so my gratefulness and appreciation go out to everyone who helped me.

Ehma: How did your community react to your activism? Were you able to find and reach out to other activists and similarly minded people?

Hilary: Because I live in a progressive town, I was not met with a level of disagreement that others might have. I was easily able to find other like-minded people and reach out to others from close schools and anyone else who might have wanted to help or attend.

Ehma: As an experienced activist, what do you think the activist community could be doing better to achieve our goals? 

Hilary: I am not experienced, I am all but an amateur who cares. I know for a fact that the activist community is doing everything they can with their resources and knowledge. everyone who is passionate about something and decides to speak up is doing a good job. what I do know is that we can all work on being more accepting and not looking down on people who we believe are below us. provide help. provide resources and knowledge and all you can to people who actually want to help instead of excluding them because they are new to the fight.

Ehma: Do you believe community plays an important role in activism and do you consider connecting with other young people important to your activism? 

Hilary: Yes, the community is key to activism, to come together and fight like friends, neighbors, family for something that is collectively agreed on is very important. For neighborhoods to fight against gentrification, against racism, against a statue. especially including younger people who may have been kicked to the curb. Society pushes away kids with ideas and says that they don't know what they're talking about, but when this generation is older and needs to reap the consequences of earlier generations, it will all be on us, so that is why it is important for it to start now and not later. 

Ehma: Do you have any current activist initiatives you’re working on or ideas for the future?

Hilary: Right now I’m not exclusively working in anything but I am thinking about going to the town with some people and convince them to resign the contract with their plastic straw company and start replacing them with paper straws. it isn't much, but baby steps are crucial.

Ehma: In your experience, what do you believe is one of the most important pieces of advice you can give to an aspiring activist?

Hilary: Any advice that I would give to an aspiring activist would be to question everything you hear, whether it sounds like something you should believe in or not. cross-reference everything. there are few people who are telling you the truth. and also, it’s okay to unlearn and retire your moral compass. it’s okay to change your stances according to what you know. it’s okay to change. Just keep moving forward-there will always be something that needs to change.  

IRIS ZHAN

@iris4action

she/they

Boat on a Lake

MKM Climate Justice team member Ehma Beveridge interviewed 17-year-old Iris Zhan from Columbia, MD. They discussed her association with Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, Fridays For Future Digital, Mock COP26, and how others can get involved with the climate justice movement. 

Ehma: You’ve been deeply involved in the climate movement for a while, being apart of the Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, Fridays For Future Digital and many other organizations and movements. What was your journey to becoming such an influential activist and what inspired you to start?

Iris: I first got started in the climate movement by attending events in my local community and found out about Zero Hour and went to the youth climate march, which really pushed me to be more involved. Through Zero Hour I found out about Sunrise Movement and attended some events and was very inspired to bring the Green New Deal vision to my community. I got involved in Fridays For Future through local connections from Sunrise and connected with young people online to start FFF Digital.

Ehma: As co-founder of Fridays For Future Digital, what role does social media play in your activism and what led to the creation of Fridays For Future Digital?

Iris: Social media plays a very crucial role in my activism. It is how I've been able to connect with so many people around the world and raise my voice. FFF Digital was created in April 2019 when a friend, George Zhang, and I struggled to be involved in the Fridays For Future movement because we couldn't strike every Friday from school for many reasons. We saw social media as an alternate way to take action and add our voice to the movement instead of school striking every Friday. It started out as a solidarity movement, getting friends to post signs with "I stand with Fridays For Future" on their Instagram, but has since expanded and evolved way past digital striking to an international and intersectional focus. The global pandemic created the necessity for Fridays For Future activists to take action digitally, which unlocked different ways of taking action digitally not only to support the movement but make a real impact. 

Ehma: Have you noticed a change in the amount of support the climate movement has been receiving over the past 10 months and has it been harder to get people to show up with online actions?

Iris: Over the last 10 months the climate movement has generally received more support than in the past where it was still barely mainstream, but it has been very hard because of the pandemic. Not only are people very focused on the pandemic but the pandemic has caused many barriers to reaching people in traditional ways. It is harder and easier with online actions. Online actions make it easier for people to directly take action without much sacrifice but also sometimes with the way the internet works, it can be hard to reach outside of your current online bubble. That is why both in-person (when covid is over) and online actions combined will make change together. 

Ehma: You were one of 216 volunteers for Mock COP26. Can you explain in depth what it is?

Iris: When it was announced that COP 26 would be postponed because of the pandemic we knew that the pandemic cannot be an excuse for delaying climate action and that in this crucial year it is so vital that we make the big strides needed for the climate. So we organized a virtual climate conference called Mock COP in place of COP 26 to make sure that climate action is not delayed and that we set an example for next year's conference. From November 19th to December 1st we held a virtual youth-led conference filled with panels, speeches, and presentations from delegates across the world, experts, and general speakers, all live-streamed on the Mock COP youtube channel. This conference covered the five themes of climate education, climate justice, climate-resilient livelihoods, health and wellbeing, and nationally determined contributions. Through having delegates from across the world, we had 142 countries represented with the goal of centring Global South countries, people, and stories. Our goal was to create a statement and vision of what we expect world leaders to agree to at COP 26 as well as what youth have to do to meet the absence of sufficient action, which has all been collected into the Mock COP 26 treaty that outlines it in detail.  

Ehma: How did you get involved in Mock COP26?

Iris: I got involved in Mock COP through mutual friends in FFF Digital. 

Ehma: COP has been widely criticized in the past for failing to uplift youth and minority voices. How did Mock COP26 address these issues?

Iris: Mock COP addressed these issues by having delegates from all around the world and prioritizing certain issues. This effort was 100% youth-led and it showed what climate action is possible when youth are in charge. We had delegates from 142 countries and had more delegates from Global South countries than Global North countries and centered themes like decolonization and climate resilience which are really important themes that need to be addressed to center minority voices. 

Ehma: Do you believe that having strong communities is important to activism, and what role do they play in the climate movement?

Iris: Strong communities are super crucial for the climate movement to thrive in so many ways. In order for a movement to grow and maintain resilient strong communities are needed for connections, support, training, and so much more. When the climate movement is fragmented, it is very hard to create impact. 

Ehma: Are there any activist projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to talk about or plans for the future? 

Iris: Currently continuing work  with FFF Digital. Next year I'm going to reevaluate my commitments which will include new projects. As part of Heirs to our Oceans I will be joining the UN Youth Advisory Council on the UN Ocean Decade and I will be doing a Civics Unplugged fellowship. 

Ehma: What advice would you give to aspiring youth activists?

Iris: I have a lot of advice so much advice be intersectional, don't stop learning, take advantage of what privilege you have to make the world a better place, don't reinvent the wheel, do not give up even when your climate anxiety is bad the world needs you, always prioritize your mental health.

ISABELLA GUINIGUNDO

@

she/her

Isabella Guinigundo.jpg

MKM Climate Justice team member Ehma Beveridge interviewed 18-year-old Isabella Guinigundo from Cincinnati, OH. They discussed her involvement with Ohio Youth for Climate Justice and working with Ohio Progressive Asian Women's Leadership. 

Ehma: Would you share your age, pronouns and where you’re from? Tell me a little about yourself.

Isabella: My name is Isabella Guinigundo. My pronouns are she/her. I'm an 18-year-old organizer from Cincinnati, OH and currently a first-year student at The Ohio State University studying Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I currently work with Ohio Youth for Climate Justice as their Co-Communications Director and am just finishing work with Ohio Progressive Asian Women's Leadership as their Voter Outreach Organizer.

Ehma: I’d like to start by talking with you about your involvement in the climate justice movement. How did you get involved? Was there any specific moment that made you decide you wanted to make a change? 

Isabella: I've been involved in climate organizing for a little over a year and a half. I first got involved in the summer of 2019. At the time, I'd been invested in local politics and community organizing for a few years and was interested in exploring more specific, issue-based work. And so, I joined Ohio's Climate Strike chapter as their Communications Director and Cincinnati City Lead. Since then, I've learned so much about climate justice and grown to understand my place within the movement and why we must continue organizing for a better planet and future for us all.

Ehma: Describe your experience being apart of the climate justice movement. What is it like organizing and participating in actions? What has it been like working with other young people towards a similar goal? 

Isabella: My time in the climate movement has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Throughout the past year and a half, I've had the chance to work nationally on US Youth Climate Strike's Logistics Team and to radically transform Ohio Climate Strike into Ohio Youth for Climate Justice so as to adhere to a more justice-oriented framework. I've had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and thoughtful young people who have completely changed my outlook on organizing. They have really distilled in me the importance of radical love and empathy in our organizing spaces. 

Ehma: As the communications lead for Ohio Youth For Climate Justice, what are your thoughts on the value of public image in relation to the climate justice movement, especially with its scrutiny by many politicians, including the president? 

Isabella: Public image is incredibly important to me as an organizer and communications director. There's a lot to unpack when it comes to the public image of the environmental movement. From the idea that we only care about critters and trees, not humans (we don't) to the notion that we are asking for too radical a change too quickly (we aren't). But for me, it's not as important that we appeal to politicians. Rather, it is important that the movement appeals to those whom those politicians represent. For too long, environmentalists have been portrayed as anti-union, particularly those unions that represent folks working in the fossil fuel industry. Thus, we're losing an important group of allies who know better than any of us why we so desperately need a just transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. For me, it's important that we appeal to those folks who are living in Appalachia and cancer alley. Those are the people who are told we are against them the most, but who have the most power when it comes to bringing forth the climate justice that each of us deserves.

Ehma: Do you have renewed hope that your state politicians may be more likely to listen to the science on the climate crisis based on their response to COVID-19?

Isabella: Honestly, in the past few months, we've seen many politicians give into desires to value profit over people's lives as many states and cities reopened too quickly and remained open too long. If anything, the pandemic has really taught me that we must rely on the strength of our communities over the will of politicians. We must stop looking up for leadership; rather, all the power we need to change the world is right beside us. We will keep one another safe. 

Ehma: Do you feel it’s important to have a community of activists, and how do you engage youth with little to no previous experience in activism?

Isabella: Yes! I feel that that is of the utmost importance. Without communities, there is no organizing. Therefore, I personally believe that community building is the most impactful action one can take. Within OHYCJ, we really try to materialize this belief. Creating moments of love and joy are the most revolutionary steps we can take towards the world we're striving to build. Because loving one another in a world that tells us to do anything but, is a true act of resistance. The strategic planning and well-thought-out campaigns come second to that, first, we must love and then we organize.

As for getting new organizers involved in the movement, I think that there is a real opportunity with folks who may not be as experienced. They have such a new and insightful perspective to bring and I'm always so interested to hear the creativity of newer and younger organizers. I think that there is much to teach them about strategy and safety, but also so much we can learn from them as well! 

Ehma: How has being a public figure and activist affected your social life? Has your community been supportive of your activism and the change you’ve made in your community? Were you able to connect with similarly minded youth?

Isabella: I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a public figure! But, being an organizer has definitely impacted the way in which my community interacts with me. There's been a mixed response from the people of Cincinnati. Some folks have left hateful and demeaning comments under articles about the work that I do, whilst there are others who continually support my work and show up to everything my fellow youth organizers and I host. These supporters are of all different ages, backgrounds, and races which makes me feel incredibly proud of the things we've accomplished.

Yes, I am so grateful to have found a wonderful group of young people who have shown me so much love and support. I think that every organizer finds those people who share their values and will love them unconditionally. These are the people who give us the strength to continue, even when times are tough. I am so blessed to exist in the same spaces and at the same time as the passionate, hardworking, and intelligent folks in OHYCJ. Without them, I don't know who I'd be today as an organizer or a person. 

Ehma: What are your thoughts on how our society and particularly our lawmakers have been handling the climate crisis? How can they be doing better?

Isabella: One of the biggest problems in politicians', society's, and even organizers' response to the crisis is such a strong focus on numbers over people. I think it can be really easy to be consumed with the notion that we simply need to lower our carbon emissions and that any amount lowered is a win for us all. When, in reality, this could not be further from the truth. For example, just because a combined heat and power plant is more efficient and emits less CO2, if it runs on fracked gas, there are communities who are being harmed by that fracking. Furthermore, those communities are more likely to be low income communities of color. This is why it is imperative that we approach environmental issues from a framework of justice. Just lowering CO2 emissions does very little to help restore the communities that are being destroyed and taken advantage of by large corporations. To truly bring justice, we must fight this problem at the root by abolishing those systems that have created environmental destruction. To dismantle capitalism, colonialism, and systemic racism is to dismantle the climate crisis. 

Ehma: If a young person reading this wanted to get involved in activism and help change the world, what advice would you give them? 

Isabella: My biggest advice to young people is to find the folks who are already working in your community and join them. It seems very simple, but it was truly the thing that changed my life. When I first sought out a youth-led organizing group in high school, I was delighted to find Cincinnati's Young Activist Coalition. They helped make me the organizer that I am today. I recommend looking through Facebook and Instagram to see when upcoming protests, meetings, and events are being held. And from there, get involved! Attend as many events as you can, volunteer to help out when you have the time, and most importantly, make friends with your fellow organizers. Growing to love one another is what helps us to pour love into our communities and change the world. Revolutions are built on love.

Ehma: Are there any activist projects you’re currently involved in that you’d like to talk about, or plans for the future?

Isabella: Yes! OHYCJ is currently working in collaboration with Stand.earth on their campaign against P&G’s forest destruction to manufacture Charmin toilet paper. We’re organizing a digital day of action on December 22nd to tell P&G that the public is not happy that they destroy idigenious lands and caribous habitat to make a profit. Anyone can join in by posting a tiktok, tweet, or instagram post on the 22nd and using the hashtag #greenout22! 

We’re also working on a new campaign that will launch in 2021. It will focus on university divestment from fossil fuels and will specifically target Ohio State University and their construction of a Combined Heat and Power Plant on campus that will run on fracked gas. We’ll have more info available soon about how folks can help out. To stay updated, follow us on instagram, twitter, facebook, and tiktok @climatestrikeoh. And if you’re from Ohio, we’d love to have you join in on the planning stages by becoming apart of the org- https://forms.gle/iSBJSVtFwJ1d2fbB9 

LENKA PLATT

@lplatt3

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MKM Climate Justice team member Kaitlyn Leitherer interviewed 19-year-old Lenka Platt from Halifax, Pennsylvania. They discussed her experience developing a successful bill that designated the Eastern Hellbender as Pennsylvania’s official state amphibian. 

Kaitlyn: How did you really discover your passion for environmentalism and sustainability? Some people consider it a really niche topic.

Lenka: I’ve always been exposed to nature, and that has truly influenced my childhood and current passions. My family would always go to state parks for vacation. We’d spend time outdoors, like paddle boarding on the Susquehanna river. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has also been such an important factor. Every year, I’d go on their trips and learn what they have to offer, locally and throughout the watershed. Then, in 10th grade, I joined the CBF student leadership council, and that’s where my passion really took off.

Kaitlyn: Can you explain what the Hellbender Defender initiative is and how you became involved in it?

Lenka: It was an initiative formed by the Chesapeake Bay Student Leadership Council in Pennsylvania to spread awareness and advocate for the Eastern Hellbender, which eventually led to a Senate bill being passed that designated the Eastern Hellbender as an official state amphibian. We believed we needed to step in and help protect this important amphibian because they are an indicator species, and can therefore inform us of the quality of our waterways. Unfortunately, due to sedimentation, deforestation, invasive species, and pollution in Pennsylvania, their population is declining, so this legislation was extremely important.

Kaitlyn: Because this was entirely youth-led, did you encounter any struggles or advantages?

Lenka: Yes, both. One disadvantage was that although we’re all passionate about protecting Hellbenders through official legislation, we’re not experts. We don’t hold law degrees nor environmental science degrees. However, that wasn’t too much of a struggle since we had so much support from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the senators we worked with. People wanted to listen to us because we were all high schools. That was truly unique and it was one of our main advantages in this process. Kids have a big voice, and people shouldn't tell you that you don’t. 

Kaitlyn: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Lenka: Throughout my Hellbender Defender journey, I’ve learned that your voice as a kid has a lot more of an impact than that of a regular adult. It’s out of the ordinary, and so people pay closer attention to it. Use that power to your advantage now because I’m 19 now, and once you turn 18, you lose some of that power. When you do speak out, you’ll find that so many people are going to support you. During the Student Leadership Council’s awareness campaigns in middle and high schools, students were so excited about Hellbenders! People dressed up as Hellbenders, asked for more of our stickers, and wore their Hellbender tattoos with pride and glee. It was an awesome feeling to have that many people excited about Hellbenders.

Kaitlyn: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better when it comes to environmental regulations, listening to the youth? 

Lenka: Our lawmakers need to listen to scientists and realize that clean water and environment is a fundamental right that they need to support and protect. They need to pay even closer to the kids who are advocating for these rights because in the end, we’re going to grow up in a world that they currently regulate and create legislation for.

CHARLENE  ROCHA

@_charlenerocha

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MKM Climate Justice team director Rachel Fink interviewed 16-year-old Charlene Rocha. They discussed her TEDx talk, a new YTV show that she stars in called CitizenKid, and working towards environmental justice through legislation.

Rachel: What got you involved in youth and climate activism specifically?

Charlene: My involvement and care for the environment have always been an important part of my life, even if I didn’t realize it when I was younger. Whether it be through shopping at thrift stores, joining a club at school, or implementing laws in my municipality, I’ve always tried doing my part and pushing for the change that I want to see. The biggest influence on my activism was definitely attending FridaysForFuture strikes. At these strikes, I was able to connect with young changemakers in my community, learn more about taking action, and started taking the initiative to turn my passion and determination into real-life impacts!

Rachel: How did you get involved with public speaking/ TED talks and how do you use this in your activism?

Charlene: I’ve always really loved public speaking and wanted to share my perspectives on certain topics with others. I have been able to speak at some amazing events like GirlUp Toronto and used my TEDx talk to tie into my own experience of others projecting stereotypes and assumptions onto me. I use public speaking as a way to share how others can get involved in leadership opportunities with workshops and talks. I know that many people want to be more involved but don’t know how to start. I like to use my platform to encourage everyone to take that next step and find justice in the problems they see.

Rachel: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better when it comes to listening to the youth?

Charlene: Our society is so stuck on the idea that Gen Z kids are lazy and uneducated. It’s really important to have youth voices heard and listened to because, in the future, we’re going to be the ones making the change and dealing with the issues our current generation faces. Lawmakers need to understand and prioritize our future because, if we continue down this path without making changes, we will get to a point where we are unable to fix the problems created. This is an urgent situation and lawmakers need to listen to science and the youth much more than they currently are.

Rachel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

Charlene: Yeah definitely! I am part of the YTV original show called CitizenKid that highlights four Canadian youth activists (I’m one of them!). It premieres on Friday, June 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT on YTV and is honestly a great way to learn about the climate crisis and how to get involved in a fun, educational way. It was an amazing journey creating the documentary and I hope everyone who watches loves it as much as I did!

Rachel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Charlene: The best piece of advice that I have is to ask questions and not be afraid to put yourself out there. If you have an idea, passion, or just an interest in social justice issues, take the initiative and be the change you want to see.  It can be scary at times but I promise, once you start advocating for issues you care about, a community of people will join and support you.

KAITLYN LEITH

@ecoglamorous

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MKM Climate Justice team director Rachel Fink interviewed 16-year-old Kaitlyn Leith from Baltimore, Maryland. They discussed her involvement in her school’s environmental organization, her Instagram account @ecoglamorous, and her plans for her environmental activism brand “EcoFabulous”.

Rachel: What got you involved in youth and climate activism specifically?

Kaitlyn: There was an open spot in my school’s environmental organization, so I decided to go for it, not knowing anything about sustainability. When I got the position, I did a ton of research on everything related to the environment and our planet. After learning about how much needs to be done in the little time that we have left, I felt hopeless. Our planet is being destroyed, and I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. Then a few months later, I took a course on social entrepreneurship, and it opened my eyes to something so important. Big change rarely happens when you try to do it all by yourself. Saving our planet needs to include as many people as possible. When I realized that, the hopeless feeling I had for months went away, and I became so motivated to get my community involved in environmentalism. 

Rachel: How do you use social media to take part in the climate justice movement?

Kaitlyn: I actually have an Instagram account dedicated to environmental education and activism. It’s called @ecoglamorous. My main goal for the account is to make sustainability a daily part of everyone’s routine, even if that means just checking out one of my posts as you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. Sustainability is pretty dense and takes a lot of time and dedication to really unpack, and I understand that with any student’s crazy busy schedule, sustainability gets pushed to the side. With school, grades, and other responsibilities that take first priority, it’s obvious that environmental awareness should not come at your expense. So, I try to make sustainability accessible to everyone, whether that means sharing a vegan breakfast recipe or giving the details about current environmental law. Everyone has their own unique restraints, opportunities, and opinions, and I think it’s so important to remember that as we progress in the climate justice movement.

Rachel: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better when it comes to listening to the youth?

Kaitlyn: Some people in society, especially those apart of older generations, are very quick to label environmentalism as naive or silly. Personally, from the people that I’ve met, this attitude comes from a lack of desire to learn or understand a perspective that differs from their own. However, we (and this means everyone) need to work to keep an open mind and be empathetic towards others’ opinions. There is so much value in having different opinions, but only when there is interaction, conversation, and understanding between them. Once we have that mutual respect, that’s when progress can be achieved. 

Rachel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

Kaitlyn: Yes! In the fall, I’m planning for my environmental activism brand “EcoFabulous” to host clothing swaps at Baltimore schools. This venture is one part of my overarching goal to make sustainability accessible. At first, I thought to be sustainable you could only buy from crazy-expensive ethical brands (like Patagonia or Reformation) or spend your rare free time searching through endless piles of clothes at Goodwill. Neither of those options is as easy as going to the mall and having dozens of inexpensive, trendy clothing stores at your fingertips. This became so frustrating to me because I knew how awful the fast fashion industry is to the planet, the workers, and even the consumers, but it seemed like the only option! So, I’m currently working to make sure fashion doesn’t come at the cost of the planet or the consumer through pop-up “swap sessions” at Baltimore schools. These pop-ups will allow students to swap, sell, or buy pre-owned clothes from other students. If you’re from the Baltimore area, I’d love to see you there!

Rachel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Kaitlyn: You don’t have to be perfect at what you do. You just need to be passionate about it. Bigger change comes from 100 people trying their best to live sustainably (with mistakes here and there) than from 1 person doing it flawlessly.

ARI GRACE

@itsarigrace

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MKM Climate Justice team director Rachel Fink interviewed 17-year-old Ari Grace from Utah. They discussed Fridays For Future- Utah, #ArisClimateFacts on her Instagram, and her plans for future climate strikes.

Rachel: What got you involved in youth and climate activism specifically?

Ari: There were a few shootings in my area, so I wanted to get involved with activism around that, but it didn't end up working out. I started seeing things about Greta Thunberg on my Instagram, so I started watching her speeches. I was only watching because I thought she was cool, but once I heard what she was saying, I got concerned so I did some research. I decided to start a school strike, and like hers, my parents were NOT on board. I did it anyway and now it's been almost a year.

Rachel: How do you use social media to take part in the climate justice movement?

Ari: Social media is such a huge platform for activists, especially youth. Almost every person that comes to strike in Utah found out about it through our social media (@fridaysforfuture.ut on Instagram!!) And the majority of events, conferences, etc that I get invited to, I get offered because of my social platform. I try to post facts about the climate crisis on my social media, I even started a thing called #ArisClimateFacts, where I cover environmental issues and news on my Instagram. I also started making A Day In The Life of an Activist vlog on my YouTube channel, which people really seem to like. I also post all my speeches to my YouTube channel. Social media is a huge way I make my voice heard in that respect. It doesn’t matter if it was 30 or 2,000 people who were actually at the event I spoke at, I can reach endless people online with a video.

 

Rachel: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to listening to the youth?

Ari: They need to just listen at all in general, even those who do “listen” aren’t really hearing us, just trying to save face. They also (in Utah at least) have a habit of “accidentally” changing activists' time to speak the morning of so we’ll miss it, which is rude and frankly immature, but it does show that they’re afraid, which means we're winning. They need to understand that even if they don’t want to listen to us, they still need to listen to the scientists that back up what we’re saying, and to understand that the youth working hard enough to get a chance to talk to them are the ones who have done their research, they’re much more educated than most people on the topic and really DO know what they’re talking about.

Rachel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

Ari: Here in Utah we’re really excited for the 3-day global strike this April for the 50th anniversary for Earth day. We’re going to have a huge strike, speakers, music, hopefully even a screening of the full-VR documentary This Is Climate Change. We’ll also dedicate a part of the strike to let everyone get into groups to explore how they want to be involved in climate activism and give them the resources they need to start. Hopefully, we won’t have to cancel due to COVID-19. Salt Lake is in a state of emergency right now, so hopefully, we can get things under control before April. Other than that, I’m super excited to hopefully be going to the Ecological Society of America conference this fall (fingers crossed!) and to also hopefully going to DC to lobby congress for climate action in November! And of course, we’ll still be striking weekly. Wow, I just said “hopefully” like 4 times oops. (also for more info on the April strikes: @fridaysforfuture.ut on Instagram, @FFF_UT in twitter, or fridaysforfutureut.org)

 

Rachel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Ari: You aren’t going to start tomorrow, so start today. You can tell yourself “oh, I’ll go to strike next week” or “Oh, I’ll choose the vegan option next time,” but trust me, you won’t. We have to just buckle up and force ourselves to start TODAY. Also, you won’t be alone. Even if you’re the only one going on a school strike in your area, you can recruit friends or reach out to environmental orgs around your city. Make sure to spread the word on social media so more people can come out, and if all else fails, you have hundreds of activists online who will befriend you and accept you as one of our own. <3

HANA ELTANTAWY

@hana.tawy

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MKM Climate Justice team member Evie Young interviewed 17-year-old Hana Eltantawy from Ellicott City, Maryland. They discussed Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice, the Sunrise Movement, and the Young Socialists movement.

Evie: When I was doing some research before reaching out to you, I was really impressed with all of your work! What got you involved in climate activism?

Hana: Since I was young I’ve had an invested interest in the environment and protecting it and read a lot of environmental science research, but it wasn’t until moving to Ellicott city that I begin to really get involved in climate activism. You may have heard about the infamous Ellicott city floods? If not, a shortened version is that catastrophic floods have been occurring in our town which have damaged buildings, cars, businesses, and etc. These floods were caused by heavy localized rain and were only supposed to occur once every 1,000 years but with the changing climate we’ve seen these floods happen within a few years of each other. One in 2011, and even more damaging one in 2016 followed by another in 2018. When the 2018 flood occurred, our city had JUST recovered from the damage of the 2016 floods and it was once again put back to square one. It really was a wake up call that I had to get involved and do something, as I can’t imagine how it’s going to be as the climate only worsens. 

Evie: I would like to talk to you more about your work with the Sunrise Movement. What has it been like? What other issues are you involved with solving?

Hana: My work with the sunrise movement has honestly been challenging in my area but worth it nevertheless. Asides from fighting for politician accountability and a green new deal, sunrise also places an emphasis on Indigenous sovereignty. While it’s been scary thinking about the direction our planet has headed, and striking has been scary, the sunrise community has been very supportive of each other and made the whole process easier. 

 

Evie: What has it been like organizing events to raise awareness about climate change?

Hana: Time consuming, difficult, and a little discouraging at times to be honest. It took a LOT of work to convince people that striking was important. It began with organizing a group of people who were passionate about the climate and we all agreed to strike on 12/6. From then on we delegated different roles for organizing and all collectively went out to gain a following/ recruit people. We tried to get at least one representative in each school of the county. We had small strikes within each school, and then moved to the George Howard building (a political building in our area) and continued our strikes outside. We also planned a die in. The event garnered both positive and negative attention but ultimately I’d say it had its desired effect as our local politician is now aware of us and appears to be meeting some of our demands such as restricting the real estate developers in our area. I’m also really invested in religious equality, which is something I’ve worked on with an organization I co-founded with my friends called the Young Socialists movement, with the help of my schools Msa. I’m dedicated to raising money and awareness for Muslims suffering due to crisis around the world.  

Evie: What was the response surrounding your effects from your community and your peers? Did you find similarly minded activists who were also willing to take on important issues like climate change and religious equality as well?

Hana:  I touched on it above but it was definitely mixed.  I found similar minded activists in the groups I mentioned but it definitely took me some years of living here to really find them. 

 

Evie: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better when it comes to making policies regarding more sustainable living?

Hana: I think that we need a huge push towards more sustainable energy. It’s possible for us to implement more it would just require a change in infrastructure. While this would be expensive, it would be possible with proper government funding under the green new deal. While controversial, I’m also a big believer in the use of nuclear power. Lastly, and most importantly, I think we need to elect politicians who will place restrictions on corporations and their emission of greenhouse gases/ burning of fossil fuels, because those corporations are in fact the bulk of the problem, and by cutting the amount of carbon they’re releasing into the atmosphere, we’d greatly reduce our carbon emissions overall. 

Evie: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

Hana: As cliche as it is, power is in the numbers.  All big movements of change in history were only made possible because large groups of people banded together to hold their politicians accountable. We need each and every person we can get on our movement to Join our movement. Even those who were not previously activists have the potential to learn and join us in fighting for our cause. 

Evie: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about?

 

Hana: Yes, currently I’m volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign as many others are throughout the country. Much more importantly though on a local level, aside from our earth day initiatives (I’m a sunrise strike circle host at my school), sunrise is working to have our country declare a climate emergency and put the necessary funding and resources to solving the problem. I’m also starting to work (along with many of my friends) with the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice. They’re working really hard right now to provide a safe space for our immigrant community to speak up and end the ICE contact in our county. 

Evie: If you could tell yourself one thing when you were younger, what would it be?

Hana: If I could tell my younger self one thing it would be to stop being afraid to get involved. In the end you have the ability to get so much done if you just put yourself out there and stop worrying about possible failure or what others might have to say. 

CELIA DARLING

@celiarosedarling

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MKM Climate Justice team member Evie Young interviewed 17-year-old Celia Darling from Rochester, NY. They discussed Rochester Youth Climate Leaders, a sector of New York Youth Climate Leaders, and her lobbying experiences.

Evie: What motivated you to get involved with climate activism? Who are some figures in this platform that inspire you? 

Celia: This might sound silly but I was super motivated by local kids in Rochester. In 2018 I started an environmental club at my school (basically so I could sleep at night). Through that I got connected with the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders where I met Liam Smith, Lindsay Cody, and Hridesh Singh who are the most amazing people and best inspirations I could have ever asked for. They were a catalyst for my activism as they were just kids in my area working making Rochester a greener place. (Also I am a HUGE Bill McKibben fan!) They really proved to me you don’t need to be someone with a huge following, several degrees, or copious amounts of money to save the planet. That’s what really motivated me to get involved!

Evie: What is it like for you to march in the climate strikes? 

Celia: I always feel that a strike is an enlightening experience. I live in Rochester so it is chilly in the winter. We held our section of the New York Youth Climate Leaders’ strike this February 28th and it was 22 degrees, windy, and snowy but we still had a crowd show up. I think the quote that has best represented my striking experience is “my fingers are cold but my heart is warm.” Because truly seeing people come out and support climate policy warms my heart.

 

Additionally, I have had equally wonderful experiences planning strikes. It makes the strike even more rewarding when you’ve spent hours researching locations, on zoom calls, and making Canva posts for the strike. I think it’s beautiful to stand there at the event and think to yourself that you are a little reason everyone else is standing there. That’s what I strive to do and what NY^2CL really strives to do, get as many people involved that can call themselves activists. We believe that is how we save the world.

 

Evie: What was the response from your community after organizing this strike? What was it like to find other like minded activists?

Celia: I’m going to speak on our community response on two levels: Rochester and New York State. For the past year the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders have been lobbying to get a Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee in our county. We have spoken at legislative meetings, written letters, and planned strikes. Not only has this activism caused there to be a vote for this committee on March 10th (we’ve been told by several legislators it will pass) but has allowed dozens of youth in our community to get involved.

 

On a state level this strike we had on the 28th coincided with NY^2CL  strikes across NY. Our demands were what we call “A Green New Deal for NYS.” This includes passing the Climate Community Investment Act, divestment of the NYS public workers fund and our teachers pension funds, 1 billion dollars in the state budget to fight the climate crisis, and no further fossil fuel expansion in NYS. This strike sent a message of a green policy agenda to our representatives across NY.

It also was able to unify NYS youth with a green message to protect our futures.

 

Meeting other youth activists is the most heart warming experience. I love being able to help bring new activists into the fray and learning from those more experienced than me. If we can find a silver lining to climate change it’s the amount of kind, genuine, and warm people I have met because our planet is dying.

 

Evie: What do you think our lawmakers need to do better when it comes to solving the climate crisis?

Celia: In general, do more faster. My dad always says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. It’s the same thing with climate policy, the best time to implement it was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. I would also like to empathize that solving the climate crisis isn’t a partisan issue, it’s an everyone issue. And we are seeing support for green policy from both sides of the aisle, specifically with young voters. I’d ask for lawmakers to make policy that is preventive not reactive and to keep their children’s futures in mind when crafting policy.

 

Evie: Why do you think it’s important for young people specifically to get involved with solving climate change?

Celia: Plain and simple, it’s our futures. We have to advocate for ourselves and those who cannot advocate for themselves now to prevent the consequences of climate change later.

Evie: Are you working on any projects at the moment?

Celia: Yes! The New York York Youth Climate leaders are planning a 50th anniversary of Earth day strike on Albany with a lobby day the day prior. Here is the link to register for everyone in NY! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfR4Uns5eOoyuLrd6QPBgfIdl9kU7SOAOTTKuUm8ml9dlttSw/viewform

 

Evie: What advice would you give to fellow climate change activists? Especially when dealing with deniers?

 

Celia: I hope that they never underestimate the amount of positive change they can make. Additionally, if they are every told “no” from a politician or an organization, it’s a no for now, not a no forever. If you keep at it people have changes of heart. I’ve experienced it. 

As for climate deniers it’s important to think about why they think that way. For climate activists, it seems silly anyone would deny science however for some people science isn’t the largest source of truth in their life (for them it could be an organized religion or even the government). As a climate movement we need to work with these groups so that everyone can understand why we need to save the planet and become part of the movement. When it comes to dealing with climate in person or online, kill them with kindness and don’t give them a reaction. If you do those two things they will be taken a back and you can have a nice conversation. If not just ignore them. Time is better spent trying to get those who are apathetic involved than deniers.

DEVISHI  JHA

@devishijha

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Isabel Hope interviewed 17-year-old Devishi Jha from Valparaiso, Indiana. They mainly discussed her role as Zero Hour's Partnerships Director and the involvement of women of color with the climate justice movement.

Isabel: Tell me about your role as Zero Hour’s Partnerships Director. What have you learned from that and how did you get to that position?

Devishi: I have been on the Zero Hour team for a long time. I started out as an ambassador and then joined the partnerships team. I loved connecting with other climate leaders and collaborating on different campaigns. It has been such an overwhelming but crazy experience being able to make a real impact on my future. As Partnerships Director, I manage the work that Zero Hour does with other climate organizations, companies, and local nonprofits. 

Isabel: What would you like to see our next President do on their first day to combat the climate crisis?

Devishi: Officially have the United States create and sign a Green New Deal and become one of the leading countries to solve the climate crisis, rather than one of the countries that refuse to do so. 

 

Isabel: Why is it important for women of color to lead this climate movement?

Devishi: I believe that women have a very strong voice and have a large role in the climate space because they are often in a frontline community that is or could be directly affected by the climate crisis. That is why women of color are at the forefront of the climate movement.

 

Isabel: What is something you wish you saw more of in climate activism as well as youth activism in general? 

Devishi:  I want to see more activists (climate, or not) from the Midwest region! I am the only Zero Hour director based in the Midwest, and I would love to see more representation from fellow Midwesterners. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about or plans for the future?

Devishi: There are many fun projects that Zero Hour is working on for 2020! We are currently launching our Vote4theFuture Campaign, and have also created a C4 branch of our organization. We are very excited for Earth Day 2020 as well. 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world? ​

Devishi: It may sound cliche, but the best advice I can give is to not be scared to put yourself out there! Make that call, send that email, and give that speech. It helps advocate for what you believe in and ends up making the world a much better place. 

BRIDGET LORD

@bridgetrlord

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Climate Justice team member Eric Njuguna interviewed 16-year-old Bridget Lord from Worcester, MA. They discussed FFFUSA, Polutters Out, and March for Climate.

Eric: When I was doing some research before reaching out to you, I was really impressed with all of your work! What got you involved in youth and climate activism specifically?

Bridget: Thank you so much! My mother was born on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. When she visited a few years ago, she took me with her. I realized it was not the same place she had experienced so many years ago - the drought had only become more and more severe and the complete disrespect for the land had only worsened. I understood then how pervasive the climate crisis is, how it disproportionately impacts people of color (specifically indigenous people and black people) and women, and that climate justice is social justice. I couldn’t stand by, knowing what was happening, without acting. 

 

Eric: I would like to talk to you more about your work at Polluters Out regarding climate activism. What got you so involved? Can you identify a specific catalyst?

Bridget: Climate activism is wonderful yet exhausting work. There are hundreds of beautiful souls to work with whom I love and appreciate with all of my heart - unfortunately, there are also many people filled with competition and desire for power. If we are going to change this world, we must do it together. Polluters Out recognize that and unify climate activists regardless of organization or country or identity to create a space where youth activists from around the world fight for our common goal: climate justice. 

 

Eric: What has it been like organizing events to March for Climate, protests and other activities with Boston Climate Strike?

Bridget: Organizing strikes can be described in two words: amazing and exhausting. It is countless late nights and all-nighters, legislative research, conference calls, train rides to Boston, fliering and chalking, and hours on Canva - but I love every second of it. I’ve met so many wonderful people - to name a few, Sabrin Zahid, Lucía Palou Garcia, Paul Yang, and Hawa Hamidou Tabayi - and learned so much about how to stand up for myself - whether it’s with legislators, state police, or ignorant old men. 

 

Eric: What was the response surrounding your effects from your community and your peers? Did you find similarly-minded activists who were also willing to take on important issues like the Green New Deal and youth engagement?

Bridget: I found so many passionate people when I got involved in climate activism - many people who were concerned about similar issues as myself, but hadn’t previously considered activism. It’s been amazing to see my friends and peers getting involved in the climate movement when it’s not something they’d ever considered before or something the plan on doing as a career, because they see how urgent this fight is and how easy it is to get involved in the movement.

 

Eric: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to listening to the youth?

Bridget: I know that many legislators do not see the power of the youth - but they should. They think that because we cannot vote yet, we’re not worth their time; or that because we are so young, we don’t know what we’re talking about. This could not be further from the truth. Legislators have forgotten that they serve the people, not just the voters, so their job is to listen to and represent us - even their young constituents - and if they don’t, they will feel the electoral consequences. We are the generation who gets out and votes, and if lawmakers haven’t seen that yet, they have another storm coming.

 

Eric: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?​

Bridget: The climate crisis is rooted in oppression and injustice - so our movement must be built on inclusion and justice. We have to listen to each other, open our ears and eyes to new people, new ideas, to understand this issue fully and fight it effectively. That’s why I love collaborative, open communities where so many young people, regardless of age, identify, knowledge, connections, or experience, can make a difference. 

Eric: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

Bridget: I’m currently working with FFFUSA to finalize our trip to Washington, DC and our strike on Friday, February 21st. If you’re in the DMV, come strike with us! I’m also always helping new activists start chapters of Fridays For Future and making FFF a more inclusive place. I’m also, of course, getting ready for Earth Day Strikes across the United States!

Eric: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

Bridget: You are far more powerful than you know. This world can change with your help. Find your passion, your cause and follow it - fight for it. I have heard, “You are so inspiring!”, “I wish I could do what you’re doing”, “That is so cr*zy!” and I just cannot stand it. You CAN do what I am doing. If you want to get involved with Fridays For Future, hell, message me! All are welcome in this movement. If it’s not climate justice or FFF, that is great too! Dive right in. I am also here for anyone who wants to have a one-on-one conversation about how to get involved in activism - again, just message me! It’s hard to recognize and appreciate our own potential sometimes. Trust me, I know it can be scary. But you have to do it if you want this world to be a better place. 

RACHEL FINK

@rach.el.fink

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Shayna Rutman recently interviewed MKM's new climate justice director Rachel Fink, 18, from Baltimore, MD! They discussed "tikkun olam", Fridays for Future, and Sea Youth Rise Up.

 

Shayna: What inspired you to divulge into youth activism?

Rachel: I was fortunate enough to be raised by four people who not only allowed me to be free-thinking and opinionated, but encouraged me tirelessly to stand up for myself and others, regardless of the influences intending to keep young people voiceless. While my mom raised me on the concept of “tikkun olam,” the Jewish philosophy, meaning to heal the world through acts of kindness and passion for social justice, my dad reminded me on a weekly basis to “never trust anyone over thirty,” and be very critical of those with authority, and the source from which they got it. Along with this, I watched my older brother and sister spearhead movements of youth advocacy, as part of the Baltimore Algebra Project, protesting racial injustices in our city and using peer tutoring to empower students. 

As a result of these incredible influences, I have always found youth activism second nature, and recognize the pattern of young people initiating nearly every great movement in history. I am especially passionate about the subject regarding the environment, as it is a crisis which so clearly affects youth disproportionately, yet never accounts for the youth perspective. Because climate change is an innate inequality amplifier, it is absolutely necessary for young and diverse voices to be amplified in the fight for our future.

 

Shayna: Do you have a specific passion for the climate justice movement?

Rachel: Climate justice is so important to me because it is the great intersection of so many forms of hope and justice. Of course, climate change is an inequality amplifier, and has such disproportionate effects on those who lack the privilege and power to ignore it. For this reason I believe it is extremely important to prioritize environmental justice, however the shifts needed for genuine climate justice go so much deeper than any small changes. The environmental crisis is the result of greed, imperialism, and apathy, and I believe the best way to overcome these things is social revolution. Revolution, which we see the environmental movement embody on a daily basis, through their words and actions, uplifting ignored voices, encouraging peace and generosity, and condemning greed.

 

Shayna: Tell me how you got involved with Baltimore's Climate Strike.

Rachel: Honestly it was a bit of an accident. Baltimore City has no Fridays For Future chapter, but a week or two before the strike, a couple young activists simply made a group chat and invited anyone they knew who may be interested to join. In the end it was about nine of us, sitting in a cafe, cramming to plan a massive strike in two weeks, and those, maybe three, hours we all spent together were so much fun we ended up rebranding ourselves as YEN, the “Youth Environmental Network,” and are now working together to plan Baltimore’s Environmental Action Month in April.

 

Shayna: What is Sea Youth Rise Up's mission?

Rachel: Sea Youth Rise up is a really incredible program, which works to empower youth by giving a group of seven young people from around the country the chance to go to Capitol Hill Oceans week in DC, and lobby in the House and Senate for ocean health and youth inclusion in governmental advocacy. SYRUp also connected us with experienced lobbyists and people from the full spectrum of the environmental movement, to offer networking experience and a range of options for a successful career within the field.

 

Shayna: What do you hope future lawmakers will do to address global warming as a crucial issue of our time?

Rachel: I hope current and future lawmakers will take the time to educate themselves on the reality of climate change, and facilitate political change which holds corporations accountable, without placing all responsibility on communities. For instance, although no solution is perfect, initiatives like a carbon tax or extremely strict limitations on fracking and pipelines would be far more effective and conducive to just and accessible environment development. 

 

 

Shayna: What advice would you give to young activists who don't know how to get involved in the climate justice movement?

 

Rachel: Don’t be intimidated! For me, the best way to get involved was to surround myself with motivated, passionate people. And even though it was, and is, crazy intimidating to see all the amazing things other people have done, it's important to remember that people have so much knowledge and support to share with each other. So take every person you meet as an opportunity to learn and grow, and make sure you use your time for something you genuinely care about.

 

Shayna: Is there anything else you are working on to bring the conversation forefront?

Rachel: February 20th, 2020, I am testifying with a group of other young people, before the senate in Annapolis, to expand Baltimore’s newly passed plastic bag ban, to the state of Maryland. I am hoping to bring greater attention to danger single use plastic poses to the health of humans, animals, and the climate.

Along with this, I will be a keynote speaker at the Youth Environmental Action Summit in Salisbury this March and the Clean Water Celebration in Chicago, this April. I hope to use these opportunities to express to young people their potential to influence social and political change.

ANISA NANAVATI

@anisananavati

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I spoke with Anisa Nanavati, a 15-year-old climate justice activist from Tampa, FL. We talked about Earth Uprising, science, and being brave.

 

Isabel: Talk about your work with Earth Uprising. What are your responsibilities with that organization and how have you been able to work with your community?

 

Anisa: I am currently the US Ambassador of Earth Uprising. I help our city coordinators stay in touch and serve as a point of contact for Earth Uprising business in the United States. I am a part of the Youth Staff which governs the organization. I was able to help organize Tampa’s September 20th strike, where we had more than 300 strikers with us, along with Tampa Climate Strike in my community. I have also had the opportunity to speak with our representative, Kathy Castor, who is the head of the Climate Crisis Committee. I hope that our local chapter can build better relationships with elected officials in the future and make sure that our voices are heard. We are also in the process of planning a beach cleanup as they are quite arguably the most beautiful parts of our city.

 

Isabel: As a young woman of color, what does climate justice look like for you?

Anisa: As a young woman of color, I have seen how we are left behind and forgotten at times. It is important to recognize that women of color are on the frontlines of this crisis, and when drafting legislation, they cannot be left behind. My climate justice is inclusive and does not forget about the disabled and people of all genders, sexualities, and races.

 

Isabel: Is there something you would like to see change when it comes to how we talk about the climate movement or the movement itself?

Anisa: As a movement we need to reinforce the importance of the science. It is imperative that we listen to our scientists and draft plans of actions with their advice. We also need to educate the people who deny the crisis and the youth so that they can take action. The climate movement is a movement for all, and the world needs to be reminded that no matter what one does to attempt to escape the crisis, it will catch up to them. The climate movement also needs to remember our strength together. We need to rally around each other and support one another to bring about the necessary change. I would love to have media outlets and our government leaders actually listen to us.

Isabel: What are some goals you have for your community regarding the protection and engagement of young people?

 

Anisa: The youth need to lead the climate movement. We are the future and we need to protect it. As our leaders continue to ignore us, we must make our voices heard. Participation in the climate movement has taught me many valuable lessons about politics and how it functions. Many of us cannot vote, so the only way that we can make our voices heard is by being apart of the climate movement. In order to keep each other safe, we must uplift one another.

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about or plans for the future?

 

Anisa: Earth Uprising is working on some very cool things. Things are still in the works, but we cannot wait to bring some incredibly cool things to the climate movement.

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Anisa: I would encourage them to just jump in. The impact of one voice is immeasurable and it is so important to make sure that all of them are heard. Changing the world is difficult, but we must be brave. A piece of advice that I would offer to new activists is to hold what inspires them to take action close to their hearts because genuine passion is one of the most important things in activism. Activism can be challenging and lonely at times, but if an activist has one event, a mantra, or a person that inspires them, they will go very far.

CHANDINI AGARWAL

@chandiniagarwal

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MKM Field Director Stephen Baker spoke with Chandini Agarwal, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Los Angeles, CA. They talked about Arielle Martinez Cohen, a climate justice club, and fighting an uphill battle.

 

Stephen: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding the climate crisis in the United States. What got you so involved? Can you identify a specific catalyst?

 

Chandini: I got involved with the climate justice movement because I have always been aware of climate change my whole life. In March, I attended the Youth Climate Strike in Los Angeles and I was so inspired by the number of people who were striking to stand up for climate justice. I was so amazed by the youth who had organized the strike, especially a classmate of mine, Arielle Martinez Cohen, who performed her own songs that she had written about the crisis and the movement. After that strike, I became an organizer for Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles and have been organizing strikes with them ever since.

 

Stephen: What was the response surrounding your effects from your community and your peers? Did you find similarly minded activists who were also willing to take on important issues like the climate crisis and organize events (climate strikes)?

 

Chandini: After I got involved with climate justice activism, a few of my friends asked me how to get involved as well and one of them is now an ambassador for Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles. I also started a climate justice club at my school which has brought together a group of students who all want to act on climate change.

 

Stephen: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to the climate crisis in America?

 

Chandini: Our society and lawmakers need to start treating the climate crisis as a crisis. They need to realize that there are so many lives on the line based on decisions they are making now and start putting people’s lives over profit and the economy. I think once they start to recognize this, they will be morally forced to make good decisions and start to make positive changes.

 

Stephen: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

 

Chandini: I think it is important to connect with all young people, even people who are not activists because whether they know it or not, climate change will affect them. Talking to people can bring in a lot of diverse voices and help bring more people of color into the discussion. It is really important that everyone’s voice is heard. Also, talking to people who are not activists can inform them of the severity of the problem and get them involved with creating change too, maybe even make them become activists.

 

Stephen: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

 

Chandini: I am currently working with Youth Climate Strike to plan our event for the next international strike day. 

 

Stephen: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Chandini: I would say don’t lose hope. Often in climate activism and activism in general, it can feel like an uphill, almost impossible battle, but it’s really important for people to remember that they are not alone. There are people all over the world fighting for the same cause so it’s important to not feel like all the weight is on your shoulders.

GRACE YANG

@withgraceyang

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MKM team member Emily Weinberg talked with Grace Yang, a 14-year-old climate justice activist from Lexington, MA. They discussed Cape Cod, being on TV, and the Lexington Climate Strike. 

 

Emily: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding climate justice. What got you so involved? Can you identify a time that really opened your eyes to its importance?

 

Grace: Last year, Bill McKibben, Nobel Prize nominee and founder of 350.org, came to our school to talk about climate change and the importance of climate activism. He’s actually an alum of our school, and as the birthplace of America, I was disappointed that we weren’t carrying on our legacy into the next global revolution. It’s always been at the back of my mind. My parents took me to Cape Cod last summer and it was hard to enjoy myself when I kept on looking at the beautiful landscape and thinking that it’ll be underwater soon. Activists like Greta Thunberg have really inspired me and showed me that I can make a difference too, and I have to. I can’t be complicit while my future is taken away from me.

 

Emily: What was it like to be on TV for your activism? Was it scary? How did you cope with the pressures of being under the spotlight?

 

Grace: Being on TV wasn’t scary - nothing can be scary compared to a world that’s burning down around me. I had a great experience with my interviewer, Steve Iverson, as well as Linda Kebichi, my Communications Director who did the interview with me. I think reporters and the media are so, so important to informing and world and making it better. Being under the spotlight wasn’t what made me stressed, although I had to learn to deal with heavy criticism and hate. I’m 14 years old and it’s hard. I’m 14 and I still haven’t figured out how to deal with it, but I will.

 

Emily: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to promoting the health of our planet and listening to youth activists?

 

Grace: Everything.

 

Emily: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

 

Grace: Because we are the generation that will fix this world. We are the generation that will rise up from the ashes of previous generations’ mistakes and save this planet for generations to come. We are the most powerful group of people I’ve seen and it inspires me every day. For many of my team members, the Lexington Climate Strike was their first experience in activism. They’ve told me how grateful they were for this experience and even if everything else failed, I’ll be glad they got this opportunity to learn and grow and make their voices heard. It’s not just for them, it’s also for the climate movement: We need everyone to get in on this movement because it’ll take everyone to save our futures.

 

Emily: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future? What are the next steps to the climate strike? Will there be future strikes?

 

Grace: I’m starting up a Sunrise hub! Sunrise Movement is an American youth-led movement that’s already made headlines and done amazing work. They got the CNN climate town hall going and now they’re pushing for the Green New Deal.

 

Emily: What makes activism rewarding to you? Even when you are exhausted, what makes you continue pursuing your activism? How do you take care of yourself while being a youth activist?

 

Grace: Activism is rewarding to me because nothing is more important. This isn’t a hobby or an extracurricular - this is me seeing that there’s terrible injustice in the world and wanting to put an end to it. When I’m exhausted or angry or frustrated or hurt, I push on because I have a choice between doing nothing or doing something. Self-care while being an activist is still something I’m working on. I put way too much pressure on myself for the September strike and was incredibly stressed out all the time. When I was worried, I would tell myself that I’m only 14 years old and that in 5 years, the only thing that would matter would be the fact that I led a strike.

 

Emily: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Grace: Go for it. It’ll be hard, and at times you’ll want to cry and yell and curl up in a ball. But it’ll be worth it. You are worthy of everything and you are worthy of a world you can live in.

GRACE GOLDSTEIN

@goldsgrace

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MKM team member Emily Weinberg talked with Grace Goldstein a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Manhattan, NY. They chatted about the US Youth Climate Strike, frustration with adults, and climate open mics.

 

Emily: What got you involved in youth and climate justice specifically?

 

Grace: I went to the first Global Climate Strike that reached the US, on March 15th, 2019. I was already an organizer with the youth gun control movement, but I went to that first strike knowing nothing about Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, or the new youth climate movement. I went home, knowing that this movement is as unique as it is complex and important. I knew I needed to work close to the heart of it. I applied to join the US Youth Climate Strike not long after, and ended up one of two NY State Leads (the other is Audrea Din, she’s based in Albany). It’s impossible to be a youth climate justice activist in NYC without somehow joining forces with Fridays For Future NYC, so I started working with FFF organizers to coordinate the next big strike in the US. When it was time to start planning September 20th, I got involved with FFF and the NYC Climate Strike Coalition right away. I ended up joining the “Core Committee” as an Outreach representative which is basically the group of 15 FFF-affiliated youth, working overtime to plan the strike, working with other organizations, and keeping the 60+ youth working on strikes coordinated. 

 

Emily: What has it been like organizing events to raise awareness of climate justice and politician’s inaction to help save our environment? 

 

Grace: I always say that there’s a lot of love in this movement- love for the planet, for nature, for humanity. For each other- other youth, and for the unborn generations we’re fighting to protect. For the people and communities who have always been in this movement- for members of the indigenous, low-income, POC, and/or frontline communities. That’s always central to our work. There’s also a lot of frustration with the way the climate crisis, and climate justice activists, are treated. Adults, often the exact people we’re urgently telling to implement substantial changes, thank us, and say that we give them hope, instead of taking action.

 

Emily: I’ve seen that you’ve done some open mics for the environment, what was your experience like? Could you share a couple lines?

 

Grace: Climate open mics, poetry readings, and art shows, especially when they center on youth or members of disproportionately impacted communities, are as important as panels and board meetings. Art is a really important method of communicating and expressing feelings and ideas. It connects us and allows us to inspire one another. I’m a songwriter, and I’ve played what I guess I’d call a protest song that I wrote, called “Court Song,” at a couple of these open mics. My favorite line, though perhaps not very hard-hitting out of context, is: “If I guard all these ruins, will they come back to life.” It comes towards the end of the song, and it’s definitely my favorite line that I’ve ever written, because it just cleanly expresses a feeling that I’m always carrying with me in my gut, through all the marching and organizing and writing and speaking. It’s powerfully relieving to sing it out loud to people who share the same dedication and frustration.

 

Emily: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to sustainability and protecting the environment?

 

Grace: I think that right now, measure supposedly taken to prevent climate change and end the climate crisis are highly performative. Climate breakdown is too fast-moving for baby steps, especially when it comes to lawmakers or large corporations. Lawmakers need to think more about solving the issues, and less about looking like they’re solving the issues. People can do better by simply taking this seriously- getting informed on the current effects of climate change, from contaminated water in predominantly black communities, to pipelines in indigenous communities, to flooding and hurricanes and drought and starvation and everything else that’s hitting real people in real time. The obligation to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle shouldn’t be from guilt, because guilt is fragile. We need to foster the same feeling we fostered during world wars- that if everyone does their part, we can win this thing, but time is at the essence to do so. 

 

Emily: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

 

Grace: I think I speak for everyone in the climate justice movement when I say that we want to create a culture of sustainability, regeneration, and intersectionality that will carry on long-term, but also address the urgent, radical changes that need to be made to give us a fighting chance at survival. After the Youth Climate Summit at the UN on September 21st accomplished nothing, my activism game plan is to hold adult leaders accountable anyway we can. We’ve been in the streets, we’re working our way into the press, and we need to take this fight to the polls. It’s time for people to vote like their childrens’ lives depend on it. 

 

Emily: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Grace: Stop asking for instructions or permission. Go to protests. Organize in your school and community. Research the issues you care about, and some issues you don’t, because you never know how important something is until you’re informed. Network with other youth activists, show up to open meetings with activist organizations, and if you find a position you can apply for, give it your best shot regardless of experience. Activism is all-hands-on-deck, all the time. There’s no red tape, just show up when you can and you will absolutely make a difference and get your voice heard.

AMALIA HOCHMAN

@amaliahochman

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MKM team member Emily Weinberg spoke to Amalia Hochman, a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Somerville, MA. They spoke about environmental science, gun violence prevention, and being a full-time activist.

 

Emily: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding climate justice. What got you so involved? Can you identify a time that really opened your eyes to its importance?

 

Amalia: I took an environmental science class last year and learning the science behind the climate crisis helped me realize that there are a few large fossil fuel industries that are contributing massively to the crisis and that it a tangible thing to work to stop them. This class made me realize that we can calm the crisis down, it's not too big to handle. I had heard about the Sunrise Movement, and their work got me really excited. I then found out that there was going to be a climate strike in Boston and I decided I had to get involved. I realized that the climate crisis doesn't just affect the earth, it affects every person and every living thing. It intensifies every form of oppression and I realized that if we want a fighting chance to have a just society then we need to end the climate crisis.

 

Emily: I know that you have also been active in terms of gun violence prevention. What did you learn from organizing the walkouts at your school that you took with you to plan the climate strike?

 

Amalia: Organizing around gun violence prevention trained me so well to organize other events. I learned how to talk to the police, and be a marshal, and make demands. I learned how to meet people where they are at and also hold high expectations. I learned that there will always be people who doubt you, but that doesn't mean that your work is invalid. I have used all of these skills and many more that I learned during the walkouts for the strike.

 

Emily: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to promoting the health of our planet and listening to youth activists?

 

Amalia: I think that our politicians need to take us seriously when we demand a Green New Deal. This piece of legislation and the values it holds is our best chance at having a future and our politicians need to wake up and realize that.

 

Emily: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

 

Amalia: We need everyone to be in this fight, whether you consider yourself an activist or not. This is a fight for our futures, it's a fight for our lives, and we need to stand side by side to win. Young people are crucial to this movement because we won’t get the chance to live our lives and have a future if we do not win. Older generations got to grow up already, but we won't get that chance if we don't end the crisis.

 

Emily: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future? What are the next steps to the climate strike? Will there be future strikes?

 

Amalia: There will definitely be future strikes, this is only the beginning. I am planning on figuring out how to become a full-time activist. I think that it doesn't make sense for me to be in school every day when I could be working to calm this crisis down. We will keep fighting until we win - stay tuned for details of upcoming strikes.

 

Emily: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Amalia: You can do it. We all can do it, and we need to do it together. Reach out to your friends, get the conversation started, and join an organization together. We can not be alone in this fight, and building relationships is the most important part. Get involved with an environmental justice movement. Work to stop the big fossil fuel industries and fight against the corrupt politicians. We need huge structural change. Just recycling and being vegan isn't enough anymore. The entire system needs to change if we want a chance to live. Also, vote.

ETHAN WRIGHT

@ethancwright4

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I spoke with Ethan Wright, a 19-year-old climate justice activist from Manassas, VA. We chatted about being Zero Hour’s Advocacy Director, George Mason University, and the NRA.

 

Isabel: Talk about your role as Advocacy Director for Zero Hour. What does that mean to you and how did you get involved with it?

 

Ethan: My role as Zero Hour's Advocacy Director focuses on the organization's platform, messaging, content creation for campaigns/events, and acts as the "political wing" to work with elected officials. I see advocacy as the foundation of any organization, it is integral to the purpose of what we at Zero Hour are trying to accomplish. My journey to joining Zero Hour started during the summer leading into my gap year in politics and climate justice when I stumbled across their page while scrolling the internet to find an organization that resonated with me. After spending a good deal of my gap year working on political campaigns, I reached out to Zero Hour in January to join the team. Since then, I made my way through Global Outreach and Advocacy until I finally applied for the open Advocacy Director position. 

 

Isabel: Tell me a little bit about your school strikes for climate. What inspired you to do that and what has the impact been like?

 

Ethan: Every Friday, I strike from my classes at George Mason University to demand that they divest their $3 million in the Energy Sector, more specifically in the fossil fuel industry, and also demand that the $3 million will be put towards a sustainable school plan. I had read about the divestment movement going on at other institutions and saw the positive impact these strikes have been having, so I did research into George Mason to see if my school was invested in the fossil fuel industry. I have started a petition for students to sign to eventually show to the President of the University to demand that necessary action be taken, and enact a sustainable school plan as well. I have been able to get some school media attention on this to raise awareness of this action, so hopefully my strikes will reach a larger audience. 

 

Isabel: What is something you have learned about yourself or society through your youth-led climate work?

 

Ethan: My biggest take-away from being in the climate movement is that without tackling all systems of oppression, we will never be able to overcome the climate crisis. 

 

Isabel: You are also doing a die-in every week at the NRA headquarters. Why do you believe young people are so powerful at holding corporations accountable?

 

Ethan: Every Sunday, I protest in front of the NRA Headquarters to hold them accountable to the gun violence epidemic happening in our country. The youth do so well in these protests movements because we organize and mobilize so well. The youth's message is bold, our persistence is unmatched, and we will make sure we are heard. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about or plans for the future?

 

Ethan: Zero Hour has some huge actions coming up for this next year. The advocacy team is ramping up to have our biggest year yet with the campaigns and actions that we are doing. 

 

Isabel: Cool! What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Ethan: To quote MLK Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." In all the work that you do, lead with compassion, empathy, and love. 

EDDY BINFORD-ROSS

@eddybinfordross

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MKM team member Shayna Rutman spoke with Eddy Binford-Ross, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Salem, OR. They chatted about civics education, Salem Climate Strike, and getting all hands on deck.

 

Shayna: When I was doing some research before reaching out to you, I was really impressed with all of your work! What got you involved in youth and student activism specifically?

 

Eddy: My interest in activism and politics started in 6th grade when I asked my mom to teach civics at my school in preparation for the 2016 election. Those classes instilled a love for current events, and a desire to get more involved in local government, the legislature, and Congress. From there, I became a vocal proponent of mandatory civics education in schools and had the opportunity to give a TEDx talk on the importance of civics education. I am currently working to pass legislation requiring Oregon high schoolers to take a civics class. All this work gave me the tools that I needed to become a well-rounded activist. I attend the Women’s Marches (including the first one in DC), I participate in March For Our Lives, I help run the social media for a library bond measure, and I am working with my mom to improve the standards of care for children in border facilities. I also volunteer for candidates I support and am working to address the climate crisis.

 

Shayna: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding the Salem Climate Strike! What was a specific catalyst that drew you to this movement?

 

Eddy: I had grown up being aware of the effects of climate change, however, I felt like I didn’t have a way to make a difference. Then in the fall of 2018, I had a meeting with some youth climate activists from Eugene and the Oregon Senate President, about the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. That meeting was extremely disappointing, the Senator treated us with a lack of respect. Our elected officials didn’t seem to care very much, so it was time for the youth to take charge and fight the climate crisis. In March of 2019, I organized the first Salem Climate Strike. We only had 25-30 people show up, however, I was not discouraged. I knew that every movement needs a baseline, somewhere to start and to grow from. In May, we organized the second Salem Climate Strike and this time we had about 150 students attending. I spent weeks at the Capitol this past summer lobbying for the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. With this legislation, Oregon was poised to become a nationwide leader in addressing the climate crisis. Unfortunately, big corporations encouraged the Republican Senators to flee the state, which they did, killing the legislation. We organized again this September. We had 300 people show up, support of legislators from across the state, and letters from both our U.S. Senators. Our work will not stop here. We will keep speaking out until the climate crisis is addressed locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally. 

 

Shayna: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to climate justice?

 

Eddy: Society needs to move away from the mindset that someone else will fix the climate crisis because we have seen time and time again that they haven’t. People need to get out there and fight for their planet and future. They cannot continue to hope that others will solve the problem. Climate change is an all hands on deck kind of crisis, so that means we need every person, young and old, to get out there and get involved. Our lawmakers at the state and federal levels have spent far too long discussing and debating and failing to pass meaningful laws addressing the climate crisis. It is time for our elected officials to fight for their constituents or we need to vote them out.

 

Shayna: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

 

Eddy: It is so crucial that youth become involved in combating the climate crisis and that they lead this movement. We are the generation that will feel the effects of climate change and so, we must all work to protect our future. Youth have been denied a place at the table for far too long. Our opinions and perspectives have been pushed to the side because we are too young to vote. We cannot continue to let this happen. We must participate in our democracy and fight for our planet. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and this movement will be one for the history books. 

 

Shayna: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

 

Eddy: In the early Spring, we will plan another climate strike in hopes that the turnout is even better than it was for the one in September. One of my projects for the Winter will be creating more connections between climate strike leaders in cities across Oregon. I’m hoping to be able to bring our movement in Oregon together because it’s very disjointed right now. It is crucial to have these statewide connections, especially when we are fighting for changes at the state and national levels. My other big project will be creating a team for Salem Climate Strike. I want to get some youth volunteers, from different schools across Salem, to handle things like social media, press outreach, and graphic design. This will help us get more people involved in the movement and spread our work to schools across the city.

 

Shayna: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Eddy: Don’t be afraid to use your voice, it is your most powerful tool. Speak up and speak out about issues that you care about. It will seem daunting at first and it may take a lot of courage, however, it is better to face your fears and fight for the things you believe in than to let your perspective go unnoticed because you were too scared to speak.

ZEENA ABDULKARIM

@zeeeeena

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I chatted with Zeena Abdulkarim, an 18-year-old climate justice activist currently based in Atlanta, GA. We talked about advocating for women of color, Zero Hour, and local government action. 

 

Isabel: Can you tell me about your work with Zero Hour and the youth-led climate movement in general? How did you get involved?

 

Zeena: I sent in my application to work for Zero Hour and was put in the advocacy team where I started doing research for our Getting to the Roots of Climate Change presentation. After that, we started planning for the Youth Climate Summit and I was just doing a lot of content creation. Being an advocate for women of color is my calling and the climate crisis impacts women of color the most heavily so I feel like I am doing the work I need to be doing.

 

Isabel: That is a great segway! How do you feel that racial justice and climate justice are intersectional?

 

Zeena: Communities of color have very little societal support so as the climate crisis hits, we will not be able to survive. There just isn’t support and we need to fix that especially for frontline communities. 

 

Isabel: What is a step you would like to see taken in your community to help fight climate change?

 

Zeena: I would like to see more youth of color speaking out against the climate crisis. The climate crisis is predominantly white-washed and that doesn’t make sense. White people are not going to face the same level of tragedy that people of color will face. I would also like to see our local government taking action to become more green. We need environmental consciousness nationally. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or any plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Zeena: I am working toward local government action against the climate crisis.

 

Isabel: Cool! What is your advice to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Zeena: Find an organization to get involved in and get involved with it.

XIYE BASTIDA

@xiyebeara

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I had a discussion with Xiye Bastida, a 17-year-old climate justice activist currently based in New York City, NY. We talked about immigration, changing the system, and school strikes.

 

Isabel: I know you have been super involved in striking for climate action. What do school climate strikes mean to you as a student?

 

Xiye: For me, striking means disrupting the everyday. As students we are preparing to contribute in society, but the society we are going toward is not one where we can do anything. When we strike, we are saying “why are you preparing us for an unstable future?” 

 

Isabel: How does being a Latinix youth climate activist affect your perspective on other political issues?

 

Xiye: I am originally from Mexico and I don’t have U.S. Citizenship. I come here on a Visa and so it is really important to me how immigrants are being treated. It is heartbreaking for me to see the United States rejecting refugees fleeing from the climate crisis as if they have no value. We are supposed to help each other. I know it is more complicated than I am making it seem, but it should be simple. If someone is in need, help them. 

 

Isabel: What steps would you like to see U.S elected officials or even our next President take to fight climate change?

 

Xiye: We have demands and one of those demands is a Just Transition to 100% renewable energy. Keep fossil fuels in the ground, hold polluters accountable, and respect indigenous lands. It’s about a change in the system from thinking that we are in this for profit to thinking that we are here for a healthy life and healthy planet. 

 

Isabel: What has been your most memorable experience fighting for justice with other young people?

 

Xiye: September 20th was the most memorable experience along with March 15th where we had over 5,000 students in New York for the Global Climate Strike. A few weeks ago, we had Greta Thunberg strike with us and 1,000 students came out. There have been so many memorable moments, but we are still looking forward. This is going to be what’s going to turn the tide.

 

Isabel: Are there any other activism projects or plans for the future you would like to speak about?

 

Xiye: We are going to be striking every Friday and also showing up on school campuses every Saturday to register people to vote. We know that striking raises awareness, but we actually want to get people engaged. 

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Xiye: We all have the power to make our voices heard. Do not be complacent to injustices of society. 

SOFIA ANKER 

@sofianker

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MKM’s Field Director, Stephen Baker, spoke to Sofia Anker, a 15-year-old climate justice activist from Pasadena, CA. They talked about NPR, Meatless Mondays, and not waiting until 2050.

 

Stephen: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding the climate crisis in the United States. What got you so involved? Can you identify a specific catalyst?

 

Sofia: I would say it was one day when I was listening to NPR and they were talking about the fact that we had 11 years left before we couldn’t do anything and thoughts flew through my head. I kind of freaked out. I wanted to be something in life and if our earth is uninhabitable, I won’t be able to do that. That’s what propelled me into climate activism.

 

Stephen: What has it been like organizing events to raise awareness for climate action in America? How have you been able to kickstart the conversation?

 

Sofia: It’s been an amazing but stressful experience. So many people have different views on what they think we need for the environment. The truth is that we’re all in this together. We all have one goal and that’s what people see when they come to protests. Everybody is angry about the same subject. Whenever I bring up my work to someone they always want to talk about my personal solutions. I will first tell them to try to cut out beef and other meats. At my environmental club, I encouraged my friends to try Meatless Mondays. It’s been fun to have people come up to me excited about a day they went vegetarian or they used all reusable containers. It reassures me that there’s some hope. 

 

Stephen: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to the climate crisis in America?

 

Sofia: I think lawmakers need to understand that most people in America are behind taking action. They need to get that if they come up with a plan and execute it, the praise from people who know it was long awaited will far outweigh the backlash from climate change deniers. Lawmakers also need to understand that they can do small things too. They don’t need to tackle the bigger picture all at once. I would like them to know is that the threat to our environment is serious and it can not wait until 2050 because the economy won’t support that solution. 

 

Stephen: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?

 

Sofia:  It is extremely important to connect with young people because we are the ones who will be most affected. We are the next generation and to be informed, angry, and passionate is all we can be, but it’s what we need to be right now to ensure we have a future.

 

Stephen: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?

 

Sofia: We are hoping that the excitement and energy hasn’t died down since the amazing turnout at the September 20th Global Climate Strike. On a more local scale, I’m organizing a clothing swap at my school so students don’t have to buy into fast fashion. 

 

Stephen: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?


Sofia: Get out there. Volunteer at events, go to protests, meet people, talk to them. People are always looking for someone to speak at an event or help them set things up or start chants or do crowd control. It’s just a fact, people need people. Find out who’s in charge and talk to them about what you can give them and what they need.

JUWARIA JAMA

@juhwaria

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I chatted with Juwaria Jama, a 15-year-old climate justice activist from Minneapolis, MN. We talked about low-income areas, pollution, and uplifting marginalized communities.

 

Isabel: Why is it so important for young women of color to take the lead on the climate movement?

 

Juwaria: The climate crisis mainly affects people of color and low-income communities. It is extremely important for those in the frontlines to be leading movements like these.

 

Isabel: Totally. What drew you to climate work and why do you believe it should be everyone’s top priority?

 

Juwaria: I am from North Minneapolis, a predominantly low-income and people of color area, and we have been on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Living so close to downtown and connected to highways, we have horrible pollution and many people that look like me are most affected. When I was finally able to process this and realize that my own people were suffering, I got further involved in environmental justice and am now more focused on climate justice solutions. 

 

Isabel: What have you learned about intersectionality through your work with climate and youth activism?

 

Juwaria: Every single issue that you can think of is intersectional. The climate movement encompasses so many other movements and works to uplift the voices of marginalized communities, as they are the frontlines. I have learned a lot about the power of youth and that the world we are fighting for is much more than it is now. 

 

Isabel: Are there any activism projects you would like to talk about?

 

Juwaria: On September 20th, across the globe, young people struck to demand our leaders to move us into a greener, more sustainable future while supporting front hand communities that are already affected from this crisis. Every single state and country had a strike to take part in. 

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Juwaria: The world is yours. It is important to remember that so many other people do not have the privilege to speak up, go to protests, and take part in other activism. If you have the privilege to, don’t take it for granted. Use your voice to fight for others. 

RITVIK JANAMSETTY

@youngscholarrj

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I talked with Ritvik Janamsetty, a 16-year-old climate justice activist currently based in Las Vegas, NV. We discussed Earth Uprising, living in India, and President Trump. 

 

Isabel: Can you talk about your job as Earth Uprising’s Press Coordinator? What is Earth Uprising all about and how did you get involved?

 

Ritvik: Earth Uprising is an organization that is all about climate education and taking direct action. Over the summer, we did Climate Strike Summer which was where we had strikes for 8 weeks that were themed by problems that led us to the climate crisis. We also worked on the September 20th strikes. My job as Press Coordinator is to keep in contact with reporters and make sure that we get publicity. I was on the media committee for the September 20th strikes and was the leader of the local press sub-committee where we pinpointed the big strike locations to try and help local strikes deal with press.

 

Isabel: That’s amazing. Why is climate justice important to you as a young person?

 

Ritvik: I am originally from India and I used to live right near a slum in the industrial area of my town. In big cities in India, there is so much pollution that sometimes you can’t even breathe. For people like me with asthma, I just couldn’t go outside or it was a hassle. Other people don’t have the privilege of staying inside an air conditioned home like I did or like I do now. Many people in India are stuck in a system of oppression that forces them into places where the climate crisis is extremely apparent and they have no escape. If they stop working, their families won’t eat. That makes me really want to fight for climate justice.

 

Isabel: How does being a young person of color currently living in America affect the way you look at climate change and other political issues?

 

Ritivik: Whenever I think of any political issue, I try to put it in the context of how it is in India. I try to see the differences so I can see what the best course of action is. Being a person of color in the US subjects you to many sources of racism. We have to stick together and try to power on.

 

Isabel: What steps would you like to see politicians or even the presidential candidates take to address climate change?

 

Ritvik: I would really like to see President Trump take action on climate. Take the climate and our earth more seriously. If you don’t take care of the earth, not only will everyone die, but you won’t make any more money as well. I am all for strong climate legislation like the Green New Deal, but for that to pass, Democratic candidates need to find some bi-partisian consensus even partially. I would love to see some of them reaching across the aisle to engage on climate in different ways. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects that you would like to talk about or plans for the future?

 

Ritvik: Earth Uprising is planning on doing campaigns with climate education to get more young people to understand the facts. That is our goal.

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Ritvik: I used to be very skeptical of activism because a lot of people where I live made fun of it and that convinced me not to try. It was not until recently that I said enough is enough. Don’t let anyone bring you down. Only you know what is right. Don’t stop because what other people think about you. Do what you need to do to save the world.

SARAH GOODY

@sarah.goody4

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MKM Communications Director, Lilly Minor, talked with Sarah Goody, a 14-year-old climate justice activist from Marin County, CA. They discussed personally connecting to the climate crisis, remembering why it is important, and Climate NOW.

 

Lilly: What got you involved in climate activism?

 

Sarah: I was first introduced to the climate crisis in 6th grade. We spent a month dedicated to exploring the causes and effects of climate change. This was an eye-opening experience for me. I had never felt so personally connected to a social justice issue. Most problems I had witnessed before such as gun violence, immigration rights, racism, etc. did not seem to apply to me on a personal level. The climate crisis was very different. I discovered that I played a key role in the increase of CO2 in our atmosphere. What inspired me to start taking action was the fact that global warming will ultimately result in the extinction of the human species if not acted on immediately.

 

Lilly: How do you stay passionate about this issue when things seem extra difficult?

 

Sarah: I remember why I am doing this work. I am a climate activist because I want to see a better future for our planet. I want my children to grow up and see things like the beach for it’s true beauty. Remembering why I am dedicating myself to climate activism helps replenish and motivate me to keep going. 

 

Lilly: What has been your most memorable experience as an advocate for climate action?

 

Sarah: The most memorable moment I have had so far as an activist was speaking at a ClimateOne-PBS event in San Francisco. It was unreal to be on the same stage as the people who I view as role models like Julia Olsen, the Lawyer behind “Youth vs. Gov.” What made this experience something I will never forget was I got a nose bleed during my entrance and the program had to stop for 10 minutes!

 

Lilly: Are there any activism projects you are working on or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Sarah: I am working on expanding a group I recently founded called Climate NOW. Climate NOW is an organization which hosts monthly meetings for youth in the San Francisco Bay Area to learn about the climate crisis and how to take effective actions to reduce rising carbon emissions. 

 

Lilly: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Sarah: Educate yourself! Education is the most powerful tool as an activist and will help you make the most of your time.

OLIVIA WOHLGEMUTH

@olivepit_

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I talked with Olivia Wohlgemuth, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Brooklyn, NY. We chatted about using your privilege, the flawed education system, and not waiting to solve climate change. 

 

Isabel: What got you involved in climate activism and what other work have you done in the activism space?

 

Olivia: I learned about climate activism through the global strike on March 15th, 2019. I decided to organize my own high school to walk out and join the rally. I have gone to protests for gun violence prevention as well as fighting to desegregate our school systems in New York City. When I see events going on for things that I am passionate about, I will participate, but my main organizing work is climate. 

 

Isabel: Cool! What is something that your community could do to better support the youth-led climate movement?

 

Olivia: I live in a wealthy upper-class neighborhood with a lot of resources. That means we have a responsibility to use our privilege to speak out against injustice. We are pretty aware of what’s going on so we need to act on that and do something about it. I don’t see that in my community as much as I would like to. We must try to end injustice where we see it because we have the access to do so.

 

Isabel: Why do you believe that students striking from school has been so powerful when it comes to creating change?

 

Olivia: When you are under 18, school is your role in society. It’s your civic duty. We are too young to have a full-time job or vote so we go to school and get educated. That’s what we do. It’s what we are supposed to do. By rejecting that role, we are pointing out that the system is flawed. We don’t believe in the validity of the education we are studying because we are studying for a future we’re not going to have if we don’t solve the climate crisis.

 

Isabel: Tell me about this past Global Climate Strike. What were you hoping to achieve through it?

 

Olivia: The strike was really special because the U.N. Climate Summit, where world leaders come together and discuss climate solutions, was 3 days later. We came together in New York and around the world to say that we want to see serious solutions laid out on the table. This is not the time for doing the bare minimum. We need serious action in order to meet the deadline of 2030 from the 2018 IPCC report and world leaders need to work to make that happen. If we wait, climate change will reach a point of no return. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Olivia: I just want to point out that the strike on September 20th was not a destination. It was a catalyst for achieving total climate justice. There’s going to be a lot more where that came from.

 

Isabel: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Olivia: Your voice is your most important tool. It is your responsibility and your privilege to be able to use your voice. Action is the antidote to sorrow and hopelessness. It’s hard to stay hopeful in 2019. It would be easy to submit to hopelessness, but we still have action and we still have our voices. The solution is to take action. History has shown that when a bunch of people come together and say “we won’t stand for this,” it works. 

CIARA LONERGAN

@ciaraglonergan

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I spoke to Ciara Lonergan, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Boston, MA. We talked about Earth Uprising, the urgency of saving this planet, and a global strike.

 

Isabel: Tell me a little about your work with Earth Uprising. How did you get involved with that organization?

 

Ciara: I run internal communications for Earth Uprising which basically means I help keep everything between our city coordinators running smoothly. I first met the Earth Uprising founder, Alexandria, when I interviewed her for an English project about climate change. I started following the Earth Uprising social media accounts and found out they were looking for city coordinators so I applied to do that in Boston. I am also the Boston City Coordinator, by the way.

 

Isabel: Cool! What have you learned about youth-led movement through fighting climate change with other students?

 

Ciara: I’ve seen that there are a lot of aspects to this fight that people don’t realize. Through Earth Uprising, I have met so many amazing people that I never would’ve connected with and I have seen that young people are such strong individuals. I think older generations need to see that as well because we are not stopping.

 

Isabel: Speaking of older generations, why do you believe lawmakers should prioritize this planet and the young people fighting for it?

 

Ciara: Politicians need to care about the climate crisis because without our planet, we have nothing. If we don’t have a planet, none of the other things they are talking about matter. 

 

Isabel: What would you like to see on a local or national level regarding youth issues?

 

Ciara: I would love to see politicians realize that the youth have a voice and we are not backing down.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future that you want to talk about?

 

Ciara: Currently we are planning for the global strike on September 20th. If you want more details about that, they can be found on Earth Uprising’s social media.

 

Isabel: Great! What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Ciara: Just get involved and start doing something. You really just have to go for it.

MIKAELA HUTCHINSON

@miki_hutchinson

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I spoke with Mikaela Hutchinson, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Hunterdon, NJ. We talked about misconceptions, giving kids a voice, and diving in. 

 

Isabel: As a young person, why is the climate crisis important to you?

 

Mikaela: I used to live on a very small island and with the rising sea levels, it could be underwater. That terrifies me. It breaks my heart and I have to fight for my home. As young people, we are going to be the most hurt by the climate crisis. The people that truly caused the crisis are going to die soon and we have to live with their mistakes. That is why we have to do something now.

 

Isabel: To that point, what is something you wish adults or politicians could understand about the youth-led climate movement?

 

Mikaela: We are not little kids who are twiddling our thumbs and can’t do anything. We created a Youth Climate Summit for young people to discuss systems of oppression that contribute to climate change. We are not stupid and we shouldn’t be treated like that. 

 

Isabel: If you could sum up the  Zero Hour Youth Climate Summit with one message or one call to action what would that be?

 

Mikaela: Youth need to take action. You can do this. Zero Hour is trying to give kids a voice and show that we will not let climate change go unnoticed.

 

Isabel: Totally. Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Mikaela: I joined Zero Hour recently, so I am still learning how to be an organizer right now, but hopefully I will start a sister chapter in my area.

 

Isabel: Cool! What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Mikaela: I came into this organization with little to no information about organizing or activism. I just learned how to do it because I cared about the climate crisis and environmental racism. I was totally out of my comfort zone, but you have to be uncomfortable sometimes and  just dive in. 

ANAIAH THOMAS

@anaiah_bre

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I spoke to Anaiah Thomas, a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Bergen County, NJ. We chatted about science, Miami, and being on a finance team.

 

Isabel: As a young person, why is the climate crisis a top priority issue for you?

 

Anaiah: I feel like the climate crisis is a top priority issue for everyone. It has been looming over our futures forever and it’s time that we address it. Climate change ties together every big issue that you hear about in the news. Also, climate activism connects with me because I’m a “science girl” and I love to try and call people to action. Science gives us a way to do something about this. Maybe we don’t have to entirely change our method of energy if we can find a way to sequester carbon? We can use it for artificial photosynthesis, real photosynthesis, and just improving on what we already have. There is so much that can be done.

 

Isabel: What is something that you wish adults or politicians could better understand about the youth-led climate movement?

 

Anaiah: Whenever I hear certain adults talk about climate change, they always talk about the economics of it or how it will affect different companies. They never talk about the people that will be impacted. Kids can’t vote. We don’t have much say in what happens with politics, so we see an entire culture. We see the people. I don’t think the government is thinking about how we are going to lose people and communities. We are going to lose Miami. That’s not just your beach house, honey.  That is an entire group of people. 

 

Isabel: I want to talk about the Youth Climate Summit a little bit. You were on the Finance team for it. Can you sum up what the summit was all about and what your role was with it?

 

Anaiah: The summit was our idea of a next step after a march. It was a step forward to create more educated climate activists. We chose Miami because that is a place where you need young activists to be on the frontlines of the issues. My personal role in this was just to help the finance team get the amount of money we needed to host an accessible summit. We want kids to be taken seriously and in the finance team, that can be a struggle. When you ask for funding, sometimes people request documents that you can only get when you are 18. You have to explain that you are a teen activist trying to hold a climate summit and not everyone gets that.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on or plans for the future?

 

Anaiah: In my community, there isn’t a lot of big action because it is such a small town. However, there are a lot of little groups that really care about the climate issue. Not big scale movements, but people who really get the idea behind all of this. I want to support the idea that saving the world starts on a local level. 

 

Isabel: That is great. What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Anaiah: When I first joined Zero Hour, I had no idea it was going to be so big. Maybe I just wasn’t super optimistic, but I had no idea we were capable of this. The contract for the Youth Climate Summit was written in our names. I think what makes us so special is that none of us have formal training yet all the work gets done. Nobody taught us all this stuff. You can accomplish amazing things at any age with no corporate training needed. 

IZZY WARREN

@crazyoragutanlady

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I chatted with Izzy Warren, a 15-year-old climate justice activist from London, UK. We talked about the economy, animal rights, and making the world a better place to live.

 

Isabel: What got you involved in the fight against climate change and why do you believe it’s important?

 

Izzy: I’ve wanted to work in wildlife conservation since I was 8 or 9 years old. It took me a little while but I think it eventually just clicked that the greatest threat to the animals I wanted to protect was climate change. Once I realised that it wasn’t long before I got heavily involved in the climate justice movement. Climate activism has extended so far beyond animals for me now though. It’s looking at things like immigration, the economy, politics, racism, women’s rights, youth rights and workers rights and seeing how we can combat the divisiveness in society today. Climate change isn’t a single issue. It encompasses every aspect of our life from food to housing and that’s why it’s so important. It’s a matter of life and death, not just in the future but also now. It’s so easy for people to forget the communities that are already suffering from climate change, we don’t really have 11 years left, we need solutions now.

 

Isabel: Talk a little about your work with the youth climate strikes. What do you hope comes out of that movement?

 

Izzy: I’m currently the volunteer coordinator and social media co-coordinator for the UK Student Climate Network which is the group that organized the school strikes in the UK. I’m obviously hoping that we see action on climate change, but I also hope that as a movement we are changing the perception of young people and the role that they have in protest and politics. If at the end of this we’ve reached a point where a teenager can speak out without people saying they’ve been radicalized or brainwashed by adults, then I’d consider that a win. 

 

Isabel: I saw that you are also an animal rights advocate. This seems like a basic question, but in your opinion, how are animal rights and climate justice intersectional?

 

Izzy: Animal rights are what got me into environmental activism in the first place. I think it goes back to that basic concept of valuing life which is at the core of what we are doing. Whether it’s the lives of people or animals, climate change is destructive and dangerous. I also think that for me, I wouldn’t be able to call myself an animal rights activist if I stayed silent about climate change. Climate change is going to cause mass extinction, and if you want to protect those species then you need to get to the root of the cause.

 

Isabel: What do you believe that your lawmakers could do to better support climate justice and action?

 

Izzy: I think there is a lot that needs to happen. In the UK, we were the first country where the government declared a climate emergency, but that hasn’t changed anything. Their approach is very much words instead of action. So, there is a lot we want to see change. There are the straightforward things that need to happen; banning fracking and investment into renewable energy, but we are also fighting for a green new deal to restructure our economy, we are campaigning for a lower voting age, we want curriculum reforms in schools. We are trying not just to stop or delay climate change, we want to remove the things that caused it in the first place and make the world not just inhabitable, but a better place to live.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on or plans for the future that you would like to talk about?

 

Izzy: Right now I’m channeling most of my energy into mobilizing for the general strike on the 20th of September. I’m also the UK ambassador for Earth Uprising where I’m working on some very cool (secret) stuff! In my “downtime,” I run workshops for little kids to teach them about ocean plastic.

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Izzy: Don’t let anyone stop you. It’s absolutely not going to be easy. There will be a lot of condescending adults, plenty of late nights, way too many hours on the phone and your social life might take a few hits. But it will absolutely be worth it. Not just because of the cause you’re fighting for, but because of the community you’re going to discover and the empowerment you’ll feel. However make sure you fight for yourself too. Take breaks, get enough sleep, don’t forget to eat. Your well-being matters as well.

ISABELLA JOHNSON

@isabellasjohnson

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Caroline Skwara, our Midwestern Regional Director, interviewed Isabella Johnson, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Naperville, IL. They talked about the effects of climate change, being the Illinois Youth Climate Strike state lead, and education.

 

Caroline: Why is the climate justice movement meaningful to you as a young person?

 

Isabella: The climate justice movement is meaningful to me as a young person because climate change will take away so many innocent lives. For me, this is not a political issue, a partisan matter, or even a debate, this is life or death. I believe that every person, no matter their race, religion, sexuality, gender, or class deserves to live a dignified life. The effects climate change is going to cause (and is already causing) are violating that right to live. It is also important to me because my generation, my friends, are at the forefront of this fight. We are the ones lobbying, protesting, striking, and begging for our representatives to take action to save our world. We are fighting because the adults, the people who should be protecting our futures, are not. This movement is meaningful to me because it has to be. I cannot choose to do nothing when I see my home being destroyed right in front of my eyes. The earth is my home, and it needs all the help it can get. 

 

Caroline: So I read that you're the state lead for the Illinois Climate Strike. What has that experience been like and what inspired you to get involved?

 

Isabella: Being the state lead for Illinois has been an amazing experience. From organizing meetings to organizing strikes, I have learned so much about leadership, communication, and problem-solving. I have met the most amazing people and have the best team I could ever ask for. I really do enjoy it, but it comes with some struggles too. It is a big time commitment,. The time I am not spending on my schoolwork, I am spending on my activism. I have put hours and hours of work into this, and it has payed off. It will always be worth it. Right now, I have a Chicago chapter and a Springfield chapter. We are working on expanding our team to as many chapters as possible to ensure that all students in Illinois can have an opportunity to stand up for their futures. I was inspired to get involved with this movement once I learned about climate change. Once I saw the phrase "11 years left" until the worst effects of climate change are unavoidable, I felt a range of emotions, from anger to sadness to confusion to determination. I was determined to help save our earth, so I was overjoyed when one of my fellow Chicago activists reached out to me and asked if I wanted to help plan the first Chicago strike.

 

Caroline: What do you think lawmakers are getting wrong or could do better when it comes to climate change?

 

Isabella: Lawmakers are not taking climate change seriously. They are putting money above the life of our planet. They are not taking bold enough actions to make a difference. It is hard to describe what they are doing wrong when the majority of them are not doing anything in regards to climate change. The most disturbing action they take however, is choosing to dismiss our voices. They ignore us, the very people who are going to be affected the most by climate change. We are fighting for our lives, and they claim we do not know what we are talking about. I assure you, my fellow climate activists are the most educated people I know. We whip facts out of our heads to counter the lies they tell us, we read legislation, we read science reports, we look at graphs, we know what we are talking about. 

 

Caroline: More generally, what do you believe could be improved with the climate activism movement going forward?

 

Isabella: I think the climate activism movement could be improved more going forward by focusing more on education. So many kids and adults are ignorant of what climate change is, and the extent of it. If we could educate more people on it, I believe we can create more change. 

 

Caroline: Are there any activism projects you are working on/plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Isabella: With IL Youth Climate Strike, I am organizing tree-plantings, beach clean-ups, and lobbying days this summer. Our next big event is our next strike on September 20th. It will definitely be a lot of work, but I am excited. My team and I are going to try our best to make this our biggest strike so far! 

 

Caroline: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Isabella: My advice to other young people who want to speak up is to go ahead and do it. Do not let adults intimidate you or put you down. You have power, so use it. If you start talking, people will start listening. When I first started my activism work last year, I knew barely anything. I never would have imagined I would be here today, leading a state-wide organization successfully. So, take the risk. Speak up. Activism changed my life, and maybe it will change yours too. If you do not know how to get involved, join an organization like US Youth Climate Strike. Our generation has to stick together, so join us and join our fight to save our world.

YOUTH CLIMATE SUMMIT

@thisiszerohour

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Meddling Kids Movement was so excited to represent our organization at Zero Hour’s Youth Climate Summit in Miami, Florida last weekend. While we were there, we asked the participants some questions to post on this page. Enjoy! 

 

  1. What is your name?

  2. How old are you?

  3. Where are you from?

  4. Why do you meddle in climate change?

  5. Who is your youth climate hero? (optional)

 

Answers:

My name is Carolina, I am 9-years-old, and I’m from Miami, FL. I meddle in climate change because I care about my future and my youth climate hero is my sister Ava.

 

My name is Hannah Heath, I am 16-years-old and I’m from Weston, FL. I meddle in climate change because I care about our coral reefs and my youth climate hero is Nicole Buekley 

 

My name is Daphne Frias, I am 21-years-old, and I’m from New York, NY. I meddle in climate change because everyone calls our generation the future, but we do not have a secure future when the earth is deteriorating. 

 

My name is Mirabel Pham, I am 19-years-old, and I’m from Greenacres, FL. I meddle in climate change because it impacts everyone and everything whether people are aware of it or not. My youth climate hero is all of the indigenous people around the world.

 

My name is Julia Cook, I am 15-years-old, and I’m from Melbourne, FL. I meddle in climate change because it’s the most dire issue facing our existence and my youth climate hero is Greta Thunberg.

 

My name is Adam Roberti, I am 23-years-old, and I’m from Hollywood, FL. I meddle in climate change because the future of life on earth is at stake and my youth climate hero is Sylvia Carle. 

 

My name is Tayler Ford, I am 17-years-old, and I’m from Cooper City, FL. I meddle in climate change because it’s an issue that desperately needs attention and legislative action. My youth climate hero is Greta Thunberg.

 

My name is Emily, I am 20-years-old, and I’m from New York, NY. I meddle in climate change because we have no time to waste and my youth climate hero is Greta Thunberg.

 

My name is Brittany Croft, I am 32-years-old, and I’m from Dlt Van Alshyne, TX. I meddle in climate change to make a difference and my youth climate hero is my daughter Addison.

 

My name is Maya, I am 14-years-old, and I’m from Miami, FL. I meddle in climate change because I want to help the environment and the future for the better. My youth climate hero is Ms. Caroline Lewis, one of the leaders of the GenCLEO movement. 

 

My name is Madelyn Walker, I am 16-years-old, and I’m from Gainesville, FL. I meddle in climate change because my life depends on it and my youth climate hero is my cousin Isaac who is suing the federal government for climate action.

 

My name is Isaac Augspurg, I am 14-years-old, and I’m from Gainesville, FL. I meddle in climate change because it is the biggest threat to my generation. My youth climate heroes are Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, and all kids fighting climate change.

 

My name is Nicole Buckley, I am 17-years-old, and I’m from Weston, FL. I meddle in climate change because the Everglades are burning and no one is doing anything about it. My youth climate hero is Valholly Frank. 

 

My name is Rachel Grossman, I am 17-years-old, and I’m from Weston, FL. I meddle in climate change because if we don’t do something now, we will regret it later. My youth climate hero is myself.

 

My name is Gabriela Rodriguez, I am 20-years-old, and I’m from Miami, FL. I meddle in climate change because climate awareness is important. My youth climate hero is Greta Thunberg.

 

My name is Avery, I am 12-years-old, and I’m from Gainesville, FL. I meddle in climate change for my future and my youth climate hero is my brother, Isaac Augspurg. 

 

My name is Tegan Ford, I am 19-years-old, and I’m from Cooper City, FL. I meddle in climate change because there will be nothing left to meddle in if the world is on fire.

ISAAC HARTE

@isavetheearth

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I chatted with Isaac Harte, a 12-year-old climate justice activist from Coatesville, PA. We talked about climate change as more than a political issue, Donald Trump, and a Philly Hiking Club. 

 

Note: This interview was done before this information was officially announced, but Isaac is the Philadelphia Head Coalition Organizer with the climate action organization, Earth Uprising. This position launched in June and he is very excited about it.

 

Isabel: What has been your most memorable experience as a youth climate activist?

 

Isaac: One of my most memorable moments as a climate activist was when I was at a protest and someone told me they went to a museum, they were discussing earth science and someone asked if they could discuss climate change. The reply was that they can’t discuss political issues even though climate change is not just a political issue. This is not a positive memory, but climate change is not positive.

 

Isabel: Yep. Why do you believe other young people should be fighting for climate and the earth?

 

Isaac: People as old as Donald Trump won’t experience the same effects of climate change that kids my age will. We need to fight for our future.

 

Isabel: Totally. What are your goals for youth activism within your community?

 

Isaac: My goal for myself is to create a society that is aware of the impacts that the climate crisis has on them and the people around them. If we progress in the fight against the climate crisis, I may start a Hiking Club in Philly for 2020. I think that a Hiking Club would teach people about how valuable the environment is and why they need to save it. 

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Isaac: Youth who address the climate crisis are amazing, strong, and courageous!

MARLOW BAINES

@marlowbaines

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I talked to Marlow Baines, a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Boulder, CO. We talked about Earth Guardians, a renewable energy pledge for Boulder, and natural gas fracking. 

 

Isabel: What was your initial introduction to climate activism?

 

Marlow: My mom started an anti-fracking campaign when I was in 4th grade and we started going to town halls, so I became much more aware of what was going on in the world. In my freshman year of high school, I went to Standing Rock and it blew my mind how much power that people in power really hold. Once I came back, I knew I needed to get involved and I joined Earth Guardians.

 

Isabel: Perfect segway. So, you are the Global Crew Director for Earth Guardians. What is that organization all about and how has it affected your life?

 

Marlow: Earth Guardians really works on training future environmental leaders of today through social justice intersections. We want to give children the resources to get involved and be the most effective leaders that they can be. Our crews are focused on working in their own cities to solve local issues. The organization has changed my life. I went to a summer training and we worked day and night on really tough issues like environmental racism and learned how to be impactful in our communities. I realized that I was waking up excited to learn everyday and when I got back home, I tried to go back to high school and realized I couldn’t do it. I knew I could do something more with my education, so I did an independent study which led me to Earth Guardians even more.

 

Isabel: Transitioning a little bit, why do you think that the global climate strikes have been so helpful for getting youth involved in this conversation?

 

Marlow: It is just a direct call to action. Seeing Greta Thunberg strike for the first 3 weeks of school and then every Friday after that; it’s something so small, but it’s so big. All of a sudden, we started seeing these big marches and then to have 1.5 million students strike on March 15th was incredible. 

 

Isabel: What do you believe your community could do to be more environmentally aware and supportive of young people?

 

Marlow: I think Boulder could sign a pledge saying that they will be transitioning to renewable energy by 2030 and our university could do the same thing. We also need to encourage youth to show up to town halls and city council meetings. Those things make a huge impact.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you are working on?

 

Marlow: We are actually going to work with our local climate reality group to build a non-partisan presentation for our politicians with the goal of stopping natural gas fracking because that is a huge issue here. It has a huge impact on our air quality. We really want to start showing our leaders another way to do things that will not only create more jobs, but increase conservation efforts.

 

Isabel: Really cool! What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Marlow: If something really catches your attention, do some research, educate yourself and then share it with others. That can have a huge impact.

KARLA STEPHAN

@karlastephan_

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I spoke with Karla Stephan, a 14-year-old climate justice activist from Bethesda, MD. We talked about intersectionality in US Youth Climate Strikes, the importance of compromise, and a Climate Debate.

 

Isabel: What got you involved with political activism and what drew you to the climate movement in particular?

 

Karla: A lot of that comes from my parents. I grew up going to protests and the first time I ever participated in civil disobedience was with my mom. It also just comes from the fact that I want to fight for myself, my future, and others around me. Uplifting the voices of those who are silenced is just what my passion is. What drew me to climate activism is that this issue is not being addressed as it needs to be and it is not being taken as seriously as it needs to be. It’s going to affect youth the most and people in power aren’t doing anything about it even though it will literally destroy our future. Also, I want to fight for people in impoverished communities that are already being affected by it.

 

Isabel: Definitely. You were recently selected to be the National Finance Director for US Youth Climate Strikes. What are your hopes within that organization and why is it so important to you?

 

Karla: What is unique about USYCS is that we are really focused on intersectionality in the climate movement. We have people of color as our leaders because we know that those voices are the ones that need to be uplifted the most. We want to include everyone in our group. My hopes for the organization are that we implement real legislative change, but also encourage more activism on the local and state level as well. Grassroots organizing is so important and I hope this becomes a movement that the people in power can’t ignore.

 

Isabel: Yeah! Why do you believe that the climate strikes specifically are so impactful when it comes to evolving this conversation?

 

Karla: I think they are really impactful because it is a visual representation of how we feel. We did a strike outside of the Capitol and that’s not something that politicians can really ignore. It just shows them how we feel. 

 

Isabel: What would you like to see from politicians when it comes to how they protect the future generations on issues like climate change as well as gun reform or inequality?

 

Karla: Everybody is just on one side of the issue and they only want their ideas to happen, but I think the people in power just need to talk it out and come to a compromise. Maybe the Green New Deal can’t happen right now, but over time we can build small steps to getting there. Not too much time because this needs to be fast, but starting with just passing a few laws is something we need to do. The gun reform movement is the same thing. There are two sides and we need to be coming to a compromise. 

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you would like to talk about or plans for the future?

 

Karla: We are still working on our petition for the 2020 presidential candidates to attend an environmentally centered debate. These people are going to be our next leaders, so we want more than just yes or no answers from them on climate change. We want to know what they are actually going to do. We are also continuing to strike which is really exciting.

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Karla: Just get involved with what you are passionate about and do what you can. Don’t try to jump on every opportunity, just stay focused on what you are passionate about because that is what you will be happy doing. Stay involved and uplift the voices that you can.

GRACE LAMBERT

@grace._lambert

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I talked to Grace Lambert, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Seattle, WA. We spoke about adults, focusing on the future, and Washington state.

 

Isabel: When did you first get involved in climate activism and why is it so important to you?

 

Grace: I just got involved as an organizer recently, but it is something I always wanted to do. I have been just going to protests and doing whatever I can to help in my own small way. Climate activism is important because it is going to affect our entire future. If adults aren’t speaking up, then we have to.

 

Isabel: You mentioned being an organizer. What was the most memorable part of organizing the Seattle Youth Climate Strike back in March?

 

Grace: I was one of the first people there and just looking out into the crowd and seeing how many people showed up was really cool. It’s something I’ll never forget.

 

Isabel: What are your goals for the future within the climate strikes and the climate movement in general?

 

Grace: For me, I would really love for adults to take action so that we don’t have to be organizing this anymore. I love doing it, but it’s not something I should have to do. I should be able to focus on school. 

 

Isabel: Speaking of adults, what do you hope lawmakers learn from young people when it comes to creating change?

 

Grace: I hope they learn that it is not about them, it’s about the future. They are all concerned about our economy right now or job losses right now, but eventually we are going to have to choose to focus on climate now for our future. It’s gonna suck, but it is something we have to do.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future that you would like to talk about?

 

Grace: We are still organizing strikes which is really exciting. We are just putting together exactly what we want to see from Washington state specifically. 

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Grace: It’s not as scary as you think it is and you can do it. It’s gonna be hard, but you’ll find people along the way who will help you. 

CLAIRE NELSON

@nelson.claire

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I spoke with Claire Nelson, a 16 year-old climate justice activist from Phoenix, AZ. We talked about Arizona Youth Climate Strike, clean energy, and the boring stuff.

 

Isabel: Talk about your recent experience with the Arizona Climate Strike. What inspired you to get involved with that and how impactful do you feel that it was?

 

Claire: I was inspired to get involved by the students in Europe who did a huge strike in February. So, I did some research and I got in contact with my now co-lead, Aditi. We started working with her organization Zero Hour Phoenix, to organize our local strike. I feel like it was really impactful. Our biggest impact was being able to connect with other organizations and supporters from across the state. We also got some meetings with our local state representatives and some city officials. We are going to continue to advocate for climate policy on the city, state, and national level.

 

Isabel: What do you believe that your lawmakers in Arizona should be doing better when it comes to climate change and environmental action?

 

Claire: Currently there are no plans to accelerate Arizona’s transition to a 100% clean energy grid. Arizona has no significant fossil fuel reserves but one of the highest potentials for solar in the nation. However, our government officials and the people who run our power companies refuse to invest in this opportunity. We could revitalize Arizona’s economy through the investment in clean energy and protect our environment at the same time, but instead consumers are punished for installing solar by fees from power companies and we have to deal with pollution that comes from Arizona’s coal plants. Arizona also refuses to incentivize the transition to electric vehicles even though cars are one of the most common sources of pollution in our capitol city, Phoenix. Across Arizona on the city, county and state level, our climate action plans are outdated and not as strong as they should be. Our cities also are terrible at waste management, our recycling programs are mediocre, and the state government actually banned banning plastic bags. We are one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse states, but our government has taken no steps to actually protect our ecosystem and the future of our residents. I hope to be part of the group of people from across the state that actually gets things done.

 

Isabel: As a youth climate activist, why do you think it is important to be intersectional in your activism especially relating to other political issues?

 

Claire: Intersectionality is so important in activism and in politics because a single group of people can never see the full picture. Climate change and pollution affect people in different ways, but it hits our low-income communities the hardest. These are the communities who face the most challenges from power companies and who face the biggest threat from the heat. The rich can plant trees and blast the AC, but our low-income communities don’t have that option. Most of the coal plants in Arizona are on reservations. That means they are polluting the air of our tribal communities across Arizona. It is important that their voices are represented in our movement. It is our job to fight for them when they cannot, but also to uplift their voices and put them in front of our movement, so the solutions that are implemented can help them instead of doing more damage. It is so important that youth are represented in the environmental issue because we, as a generation, are the ones most impacted. Adults need to start making changes alongside us because there is no way we can fix this problem on our own. We need radical action from everyone and we need it now.

 

Isabel: Why do you think that youth-led movements have been so successful with advocating for change?

 

Claire: Youth-led movements are powerful just because of the passion that young people have about the things that they care about. Some of the biggest movements have been led by youth. We often feel underrepresented in our government and that our problems are being ignored. We are driven by anger and frustration, but also by a burning fire in our spirits and a bright idealism that motivates us to shoot for the stars. Anything can be our moonshot and anything can happen if we work hard enough. We aren’t jaded like some adults are. We haven’t been torn down by the system. We believe in the future and we believe in change.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you wanna shout out or plans for the future?

 

Claire: If you live in Arizona and want to support the work that my team and I do, follow us on social media @climatestrikeaz. If you are a student and would like to join the Arizona Youth Climate Strike email us at climatestrikeaz@gmail.com.

 

Isabel: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Claire: Changing the world is overrated. Local government is where the power is. Your state legislature, city council, and school board has more of an impact on your life than the federal government does. They decide what happens in your community. If I can change the way Arizona does things, we are one step closer to our goal. If I can convince Arizona to become green, the power we sell to other states becomes green too. If I can get our senators and representatives on our side, that would be more voices on the national level advocating for change. In your local government, your voice matters. We don’t have to dance around the problems of a nation and the world, we can focus on ourselves. We can be productive and impactful on the local level and become leaders in our communities making actual change instead of one small voice in a sea of thousands. Activism isn’t fun and games. Activism is not just press and protests, it’s boring too. Activism is sitting in city council meetings and budget meetings that bore you out of your mind. Activism is researching the issues more than is probably necessary. Activism is sending out the same email for the 5th time and hoping people show up. Activism is more than tweeting and protesting, it’s the boring stuff too. People need to pay more attention to the boring stuff because that is how things get done.

ANYA SASTRY

@anyasastry

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I talked with Anya Sastry, a 16-year-old climate justice activist from Barrington, IL. We spoke about being National Outreach Director, giving youth the chance to speak, and the U.N.

 

Isabel: So, you were recently elected to serve as National Outreach Director for the US Youth Climate Strikes. Why is that organization so important to you?

 

Anya: That organization is so important to me because I feel like it’s addressing issues that people in power and elected officials are not. Environmental injustice is a vital issue and adults need to address it as such. I also love that it is entirely youth-led. Our generation is taking things into our own hands.

 

Isabel: As National Outreach Director, how do you plan to uplift and empower youth within the climate movement?

 

Anya: I’m really focused on amplifying the voices of youth who have not had the chance to speak in this platform. The people from a lower socioeconomic status of lesser privilege. I think it is important to put activists on the frontlines of this movement who have felt the impact of the climate crisis firsthand.

 

Isabel: I saw a video of your speech at the climate strike in March and it was very powerful. What was the message you were trying to convey with that speech and how was the event impactful overall?

 

Anya: I wanted to convey that young people see this issue as a crisis. We only have 11 years left and people in power are not taking appropriate action to solve this. I also wanted to let my audience know that it is our time to take action and whether adults like it or not, we are here to stay.

 

Isabel: This is a general question, but it’s important. Why is climate change a top priority issue for you, as a young person?

 

Anya: Climate change is a top priority for me because my generation is going to have to deal with the repercussions of the climate crisis, if we don’t solve it now. I want myself, my children, and the future generations to have a livable future.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Anya: US Youth Climate Strikes will continue to do school strikes and we have a lot of cool projects coming up. I also know that the U.N will be having a discussion about the climate crisis in September, so that will be very interesting to partake in.

 

Isabel: Totally. What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Anya: Just know that your voice is powerful. There will be people who will try to silence you, but if you use your voice in the right way, it can create ripples of change.

ZAYNE COWIE

@zaynecowie

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I chatted with Zayne Cowie, a 9 year-old climate justice activist from New York City, NY. We talked about Greta Thunberg, trolls, and ways to help the environment.

 

Isabel: Why do you believe lawmakers need to listen to young people when discussing climate change

 

Zayne: Because it is going to impact youth more than anyone else.

 

Isabel: What inspired you to strike from school as a way to protest climate inaction and why is it important for you to continue doing?

 

Zayne: My mom read me an article about Greta Thunberg, because she thought I could relate - Greta is autistic and so am I. I keep striking because at the end of each strike I feel like I have accomplished something.

 

Isabel: What is your message to adults that don’t believe the striking is productive and are ignoring the issue of climate change?

Zayne: I don't respond to trolls.

 

Isabel: What do you believe our society can do to be more environmentally friendly and help lead the fight against global warming?

 

Zayne: Governments can declare a national emergency, switch to renewables, reduce car ownership, and improve bike lanes. Individuals can eat less meat, fly less and get out of your cars. This benefits you and the environment.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Zayne: I am going to keep striking and try to get more people to join my strikes.

 

Isabel: Awesome! What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Zayne: Follow those dreams!

MADDY STEVENS

@miss.maddy.makes

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I spoke to Maddy Stevens, a 17 year-old climate justice activist from Kent, CT. We chatted about the urgency of climate change, youth standing up, and animation.

 

Isabel: So, you were the co-organizer of the Connecticut Climate Strike in March. What was that experience like and what inspired you to get involved?

 

Maddy: Co-organizing my first strike was an amazing experience. I had always wanted to be a part of a group and work as a team after learning about other environmental youth groups like Zero Hour.

 

Isabel: As a young person, why is climate a top priority issue for you?

 

Maddy: Climate change is affecting not only future generations but our generation as well. As a young person, I am scared for my future. If climate change is affecting us (underprivileged people more) now, then what will happen in the future is frightening. We are the ones who are going to be affected yet the ones who aren’t, are not doing anything about it.

 

Isabel: Totally. How do you feel that your community could better support the climate justice movement?

 

Maddy: My community could better support the climate justice movement by educating the public about the urgency of the issue. There are many other ways as well like converting to renewable energy that would show their support.

 

Isabel: What would you say to people who believe that climate change is “too big” of a problem for young people to solve and why do you think this youth-led movement is so important?

 

Maddy: Climate change is a large issue but that doesn’t make it unsolvable. We have all the tools to fix climate change. The consequences are just too grand to shrug it off. It is important for us youth to stand up for what we believe in and show the people in power that they can’t forget about us. Their policies are affecting us even if we can’t vote yet.

 

Isabel: Yep! Are there any current activism projects that you wanna shout out or plans for the future?

 

Maddy: I am currently working on an animation series to educate kids about the effects of climate change. The Connecticut Youth Climate Strike recently hosted another event on May 3rd. You can stay up to date by following @ctclimatestrike on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

 

Isabel: What is your advice to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Maddy: My advice is to not let others undermine you. You are more powerful than you think. Even if you may not be able to vote, you can still make change. You can’t wait for others to solve the issue for you. If you want to know how to get involved, make connections. Reach out to others in your town and on social media. There are an endless amount of incredible youth helping save our planet.

MADDY FERNANDS

@maddyfernands

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I spoke with Maddy Fernands, a 16 year-old climate justice activist from Edina, MN. We talked about Greta Thunberg, Minnesota Can’t Wait, and youth activists being amazing.

 

Isabel: Why is climate justice meaningful to you as a young person?

 

Maddy: Climate justice is important to me as a young person because I want to make sure that the world myself, my friends, and future generations grow up in, exists. It’s not just about making sure our climate is just, but also ensuring that any systems we have in our world are just as well.

 

Isabel: Yep! Talk to me a little bit about your work with the US Youth Climate Strikes. How did that movement form and why is it so important?

 

Maddy: So, the US Youth Climate Strikes were initially started by Greta Thunberg’s climate action at the Swedish parliament. What Greta did was, she messed up the systemic flow. With the way our society works, kids have to go to school and adults have to go to work. By Greta refusing to go to school, she has forced a dialogue about climate change that should’ve happened a long time ago. That is what I feel that we can do in the United States. Our country pulled out of the Paris agreement when every other country didn’t, our Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rushed a vote on the Green New Deal so it wouldn’t happen, we are constantly listening to fossil fuel companies instead of grassroots activists, and these strikes are important because students are saying that we are in dire need of change. Our futures are on the line.

Isabel: Yay! What has been your most memorable experience with youth activism and what did it teach you?

 

Maddy: It’s not really an experience, but the people I have been through youth activism are some of the most amazing, kind, and hard-working people I have ever encountered in my life. I will be on calls talking with them about intense societal issues and those moments are so precious to me because I always feel so heard.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Maddy: The US Youth Climate Strike is a national organization focused on striking for climate and making sure climate conversations are in political dialogue.

 

Isabel: Very cool. What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Maddy: Never underestimate your opinion, perspective, or contribution to whatever movement you are a part of. Youth activism can be whatever you want it to be for yourself. It is all important.

KENDALL KIERAS

thisiszerohour.org

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I spoke with Kendall Kieras, a 16 year-old climate justice activist from Seattle, WA. We talked about social media, the recent UN report on climate change, and diversity.

 

Isabel: What got you involved in climate activism and what within the movement inspires you?

 

Kendall: I've been involved in social justice conversations for a pretty long time, but I started out as a climate activist last year. Jamie Margolin, my best friend and Zero Hour's founder, did a presentation about Zero Hour at my school. I signed up to volunteer after that, and have been doing climate justice work ever since. I am continually inspired by all the amazing youth within Zero Hour.

 

Isabel: Why do you believe that lawmakers need to act now on climate change?

 

Kendall: A UN report came out a day before my 16th birthday, saying that we have 12 years to address climate change before the world as we know it is forever changed. This isn't a nice little piece of legislation we can write off when it's convenient. This is urgent.

 

Isabel: Absolutely. So, you used to be the social media lead for Zero Hour, a youth-led climate justice organization. What was it like fighting for climate justice through social media and what does the movement as a whole mean to you?

 

Kendall: Using social media as a tool for activism is a really interesting process. Social media and youth are intrinsically linked. We've grown up with social media, and using social media as a platform for activism has made it accessible in a way it hadn't been previously. However, I'm also keenly aware of the pitfalls of social media. As social media director for Zero Hour, I had to remember to focus on educating rather than tearing people down. Zero Hour as a whole means advocating through diversity. Mainstream climate justice ignores the people at the center of climate change: people of color, queer people, women, etc. Zero Hour seeks to correct the injustice through being a supportive, minority-led space. Every volunteer you'll find at Zero Hour is diverse and has an incredibly unique story, which is very special to me.

 

Isabel: How do you believe that social media can be used as a positive tool for young people and what is the biggest misconception around it?

 

Kendall: Social media can be an incredibly positive space to find a like-minded community. In some ways, I believe if you haven't grown up with social media, you can't fully understand it. Youth use social media as a diary, a jumping off space to organize moments, and a place to create a community. The way Zero Hour interacts with adults on our platform is vastly different than how we interact with youth. Adults see social media through a different lens than youth do, which is why it can be misconstrued as a meaningless waste of time.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you wanna shout out or plans for the future?

 

Kendall: I'm currently working on a project which unites my love for writing and activism in a very special way. Stay tuned on Zero Hour's socials for more. My current position within Zero Hour is Executive Director of Zero Hour Seattle, and a member of the national comms team.

 

Isabel: I’m asking everybody this: What advice do you have for young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Kendall: Figure out what you can contribute to the movement. One of the first things I did for Zero Hour was writing a weekly environment-based poem for our social media. There are a million things I couldn't bring to the table, but all I needed was one thing I could.  For me, poems were that thing. Look for the strengths you can bring that others can't. Speaking out is easiest when you use the special skills you already have.

MAX PRESTO

@max.presto

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I spoke with Max Presto, a 17 year-old climate justice activist from Madison, WI. We talked about the Wisconsin Youth Climate Action Team, adults trying to debate science, and being persistent.

 

Isabel: Talk about your recent experience with the Wisconsin Youth Climate Strikes. What was that like and how did you get involved?

 

Max: I was the state lead for it, so I got to organize some really fun and engaging stuff with my peers. On March 15th, we had about 2,000 people and it was really cool to witness the power that Greta Thunberg has had on the world. Especially as students, we are tired of the normal channels of change and we can see that something’s not working. That’s why we got involved.

 

Isabel: I also saw from your Instagram that you work with the WI Youth Climate Action Team. What are your hopes for that group and where did the idea stem from?

 

Max: The other state leads from WI and I are now the executive directors of that. It’s not just about doing something post-strike, it’s about continuing this wave of change. We have plans to occupy offices, hold demonstrations, give testimonies, and connect people’s voices to the government. We just want to get young people involved.

 

Isabel: That’s great. What would you like to see our politicians doing when it comes to climate action on a local and national level?

 

Max: I want bold and sweeping action on climate change. I know it might seem unrealistic for our politicians to come together to fight the greatest threat to humanity, but I am hoping to make a statement that young people have a valid opinion about this. It’s crazy that the people who are supposed to be our role models are debating whether or not science is real.

 

Isabel: Yep. Switching gears a little bit, I know you are also an advocate for gun reform in the United States. Why do you think that young people are so motivated and successful at creating change on issues like that?

 

Max: The reason I think youth should be involved in fighting climate change is because we will the the generation that is most affected by it and the last generation with a chance of stopping it. I think the same goes for gun control. We have seen a huge rise in shootings and it’s scary. Young people are saying that we believe this is an important issue and it is upsetting that there is no protection for our lives.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future you would like to talk about?

 

Max: I’m working on registering voters and making sure young people have their voices heard. There are people who think that just because we can’t vote, we don’t have a valid opinion. That idea diminishes our democracy and it’s a dangerous path to go down.

 

Isabel: What is your advice for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Max: Be persistent and proactive. That is the best way we can make ourselves heard and break the status quo.

SOHAYLA ELDEEB

@sohayeldeeb

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I talked to Sohayla Eldeeb, an 18 year-old climate justice activist from Port Orange, FL. We spoke about an educational climate curriculum, being the Global Outreach Director for Zero Hour, and #JoinJulianna.

 

Isabel: What made you passionate about climate justice and how has that evolved over time?

 

Sohayla: My family comes from Egypt where there is a lot of pollution and the air quality is very bad. After seeing this, I started organizing a campaign that centers around an educational curriculum to teach elementary schoolers about the environment and how to implement change. I did a lot of scientific research on oil spills and sustainable methodology, but no one would fund the expansion of my research, so I turned more to progressive activism.  

 

Isabel: Talk about your work with Zero Hour. How did you get involved in that movement and what does your involvement currently look like?

 

Sohayla: I had a climate internship that led to me being introduced to Zero Hour and youth activism. When I came into Zero Hour, they were setting up for the Youth Climate March, so I just did a lot of communications work and then my job became coordinating all of the sister marches around the world. After the march ended, I became the Global Outreach/Relations Director and stayed in touch with all the sister march organizers.

 

Isabel: That’s awesome. Why do you think the youth will be the ones to end climate change?

 

Sohayla: Our generation is very aware of not only what is affecting us today, but what will affect us tomorrow and in our future. We are a living example of the urgency of the climate crisis and if we want something done about it, we have to do it ourselves.

 

Isabel: What do you believe could be improved with the climate activism movement going forward?

 

Sohayla: Sometimes people join the climate justice movement for the wrong reasons. They get into it because it’s “trendy” or they do really good work, but don’t ask the right people for help to make a bigger impact. I’ve worked a lot with organizers who have never hosted an event or spoken in public and they are the ones who need mentoring. While it is nice to see young climate leaders getting lots of media coverage, it’s also important to pay attention to the young people trying to get involved.

 

Isabel: Very good point. Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future that you would like to talk about?

 

Sohayla: One really cool thing is that Zero Hour has been invited to write the amicus brief for a youth environmental court case and we have launched a campaign called #JoinJulianna to get people involved. Also, we are currently planning a huge youth action this summer. Stay tuned for that!

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Sohayla: First of all, do it. Don’t be afraid that you don’t have the same level of skills as another young person. The thing we see constantly in the youth activism community is that the people who are leading these movements often times had no idea what they were doing at one point.

HAVEN COLEMAN

@climateactivist

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I chatted with Haven Coleman, a 13 year-old climate justice activist from Denver, CO. We spoke about being underestimated, starting the US Youth Climate Strike movement, and fighting for our future.

 

Isabel: Why do you think it is important for kids to be on the frontlines fighting against climate change?

 

Haven: It’s important because it is our future and our lives. Politicians don’t have to live through the worst of climate change, but my generation is going to see it. So why not fight?

 

Isabel: Totally. I know that you have been striking from school for a while now. What have you learned from your climate strikes about youth activism in our society?

 

Haven: I have learned that adults do not take the youth voice seriously. They underestimate the power of our voices, and when we do speak up it sends a wave of change!

 

Isabel: Tell me a little about the US Youth Climate Strikes. What does that movement mean to you and how did you get involved?

 

Haven: I started the US Youth Climate Strike with Isra Hirsi. The movement means that youth can fight back and that we are strong!

 

Isabel: You also spoke at an event for the Green New Deal. Why do you believe politicians aren’t listening to youth when it comes to climate legislation?

 

Haven: I spoke at the Speaker of the House Pelosi’s office in December. I believe that politicians don’t listen to us and care about the climate crisis because they won’t be affected as much as we will.

 

Isabel: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you wanna shout out or plans for the future?

 

Haven: My main focus right now is the US Youth Climate Strike Movement.

 

Isabel: What advice do you have for young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Haven: Just do it. It is our future so we have a right to stand up and fight for it. Throughout my whole activism career, I have never regretted a minute of it.

ARIELLE MARTINEZ COHEN

@ariellemartinezcohen

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I spoke with Arielle Martinez Cohen, a 17 year-old climate justice activist from Los Angeles, CA. We chatted about songwriting, local actions, and the Zero Hour team.

 

Isabel: What got you involved in youth activism specifically in the climate movement?

 

Arielle: I had a teacher in elementary school who was teaching us about how palm oil affects orangutans and how that industry is not sustainable. It really struck me how many products had palm oil, so I tried to get my family to stop using them. That is where my climate interest started. As far as youth activism, I got involved with the March For Our Lives in Los Angeles. I’m also a songwriter and I write a lot about social issues, so I wrote a song after the Parkland shooting to perform at the march. It was just really cool to work with other kids my age and while gun violence is an extremely important issue to focus on, I also feel like climate change will be the issue of our time because we have 11 years left to reverse it. That is what drove me to get involved with Zero Hour.

 

Isabel: Wow, that is a perfect segway. Can you talk a little bit about your work with Zero Hour and what it means for you to be part of a youth-led climate justice organization?

 

Arielle: I originally got involved when I planned the Zero Hour Youth Climate Sister March in Los Angeles, but I also wrote a song called “Two Minutes Till Midnight” which is now the official song of the movement. I went to the national march, sang my song, and then got on the Partnerships and Advocacy team. I am now on the Logistics team as well, but my main role is reaching out to partners and seeing how we could work together. Getting on calls every week and listening to these people from across the country is so inspiring. It can be such a lonely thing as a youth activist when you are hearing all the bad stuff happening around the world, but when you have other people working with you, it makes it easier.

 

Isabel: That’s so cool. You mentioned Los Angeles a little bit and I was wondering, what has your community done when it comes to fighting climate change and encouraging activism?
 

Arielle: In California, they just passed something saying that restaurants no longer automatically give out plastic straws, which is a small action, but it will reduce the amount of plastic we throw away. I just think it’s important to get involved in our local initiatives and actions. I know a lot of activists work on social media, but I think that showing up is the number one step because that’s what really propels the movement.

 

Isabel: Totally. You also mentioned being a songwriter and an artist. How does your love of music help you advocate for change?

 

Arielle: Music can make people feel emotions that inspire them to take action. When it came to the environmental movement, I just took my music and gave what I could offer. I have gotten to write songs for other organizations and it is really cool because music brings people together.

 

Isabel: I am obsessed with your songs honestly. Are there any activism projects you would like to talk about?

 

Arielle: A few members of the national Zero Hour team just helped organize the youth climate strikes and I organized one in Los Angeles with lots of youth speakers. The strikes helped to spread the word about the climate movement. That’s just really awesome.

 

Isabel: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Arielle: Don’t get discouraged because it can be difficult to work with people who may not value your voice as much, but keep trying and don’t lose hope.

ELSA MENGISTU

@elsamengistu

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I spoke to Elsa Mengistu, a 17 year-old climate justice activist from Thomasville, NC. We talked about Zero Hour, the impacts of climate change for people of color, and intersectionality.

 

Isabel: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with Zero Hour? What are your responsibilities within the organization and what initially got you involved with it?

 

Elsa: Almost a year ago, I saw this post on Facebook from an organization called Zero Hour and when I read more about them, I thought it was really cool that they talked about climate justice. They really focused on people and uplifting the voices of those who would be most impacted by climate change, voices like mine. I reached out to them and then ended up on the partnerships team. As of now, I am the Director of Operations and my role really extends to whatever else the group might need as well. That could be organizing events, figuring out logistics, collaborating with other youth organizations, or assisting on any new projects.

 

Isabel: That’s really cool. What do you think our lawmakers are getting wrong when it comes to the youth-led climate fight?

 

Elsa: I think they don’t see it. Up until this last year, I do not think that youth climate activism was as visible as it is right now. There has just been this power shift and wave of youth activism. Like the school strikes for climate are coming up for the United States and that is something that has been happening in Europe for the last few months. The Green New Deal is pushing people to get active in this movement and a lot of those people are younger like us. I think lawmakers have not been really seeing the youth, but that is starting to change.

 

Isabel: How does being a young woman of color affect your fight for climate justice around the world but especially in the United States?

 

Elsa: Right now, I am privileged to not have to face some negative effects, but that privilege only lasts so long when you are a Black person in America. People like me are going to be impacted by climate change early on and we are going to be impacted the worst. Communities like mine are going to receive less funding, less support, and we are going to have to deal with these problems on our own. It may not be affecting me right now, but it will soon.

 

Isabel: I know you are also an advocate for immigrant rights and racial equality. How do you feel like climate change is intersectional with those other issues?

 

Elsa: I was born in Ethiopia and I immigrated here when I was younger. Climate change is intersectional because it supersedes nationality or geography. I am an immigrant and climate change is going to be one of the largest causes of climate refugees. That’s just one intersection in itself. There are also so many people who don’t have the resources to adapt as quickly to our changing weather patterns, those people are usually poor, and they are usually people of color. That is another huge intersection. Of course climate change will affect all of us, but it won’t affect us all equally.

 

Isabel: That is correct. Are there any current activism projects or plans for the future that you would like to talk about?

 

Elsa: Zero Hour is actually working on some really cool events happening in Miami this July and we are also helping to support the school strikes on March 15th. Outside of Zero Hour, I have just been trying to expand my horizons and support people wherever I can.

 

Isabel: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Elsa: Take it one day at a time. We are not going to change the world overnight and a lot of activists can get burnout, but taking it one day at a time and finding spaces you can fit into as yourself is important. Just do your best. Activism isn’t knowing it all, it is learning and being open.

LILLY PLATT

@lillys_plastic_pickup

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I spoke with Lilly Platt, a 10 year-old climate justice activist from Utrecht, Netherlands. We talked about plastic pollution, protecting all living things, and going on school strike. 

 

Isabel: I want to talk a little about your plastic pickup because that is something you have become very known for. What inspired you to create that?

 

Lilly: In 2015, I was walking with my grandpa and we started counting the pieces of plastic on the ground to try and improve my Dutch speaking. We counted 91 pieces of plastic and in a 15-minute walk, that is a lot. Then my grandpa told me that it might take a day, week, month, or year, but everything on the ground will end up in the ocean. I just thought “Ok I have to do something about this. I have to pick it up.” That’s how Lilly’s Plastic Pickup started. 

 

Isabel: There are also the school strikes going on right now for climate action. What would you say that movement is all about?

 

Lilly: It’s so all politicians and world leaders will start to listen. So that they will keep to the Paris Agreement, recognize rising global warming temperatures and lower the daily emission usage. So many people have told me “Why do this? Why don’t you go back to school or just go play with some dolls?” Well, I have news for you: I don’t really like dolls. 

 

Isabel: Speaking of world leaders and politicians, what do you think they could do to better support kids growing up in the climate crisis?
 

Lilly: They need to open their eyes and see what they’ve been doing wrong. They need to think about all the animals they have killed for no reason, they need to think about all the trees they have cut down just for paper or land, they need to think about how much the seas have suffered, and most of all they need to think about all living things, not just themselves. It’s not all about money. Money doesn’t have a soul or a heart, but animals and people do. They need to listen, think, and open their eyes.

 

Isabel: I completely agree with that. Why do you believe that young people can beat climate change and save the world?

 

Lilly: Children should be allowed to use their voices, not just adults. A lot of people think they don’t have to listen to children because we are small, but it’s usually the smallest people who have the biggest voices. 

 

Isabel: Totally. Are there any current activism projects you are working on or anything like that you want to shout out? 

 

Lilly: There is the Elephant Project with HowGlobal where they put beehives around African village crops to try and stop elephants from getting into the crops. They are trying to protect the crops as well as the elephant’s health and safety. I am also going to Scotland to speak on a youth panel about plastic pollution and marine life. Lastly, I was chosen for Ocean Hero’s bootcamp in Canada.

 

Isabel: Congrats! I’m asking everybody this: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Lilly: You are brave, you are strong, and your voice is more powerful than any negative words. You can do this. You can save the world just by going on these school strikes and fighting for climate. You are the mouse that roars like a lion!

ZANAGEE ARTIS

@nageeartis

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I had a conversation with Zanagee Artis, a 19 year-old climate justice activist from Connecticut. We talked about the Youth Climate March, intersectionality in climate justice, and the motivation of young people.

 

Isabel: So, you are the Director Of Logistics for Zero Hour. What are your responsibilities and what does the organization mean to you?

 

Zanagee: As Director of Logistics, I organized the Zero Hour Youth Climate March in Washington D.C. and assisted logistics leads for sister marches in West Palm Beach, Florida, New York City and other locations to organize their own marches. For the D.C. march, I coordinated with vendors to secure a stage/sound and created the march route from the National Mall to Lincoln Park. My team and I also coordinated with the Capitol Police, National Park Service, and the Metropolitan Police to secure permits for road closures along the route. When I helped create Zero Hour, I believed it would be a movement that would connect youth climate justice activists. I think that the march in D.C. and the numerous sister marches around the world accomplished that, and empowered more young people to get involved in climate justice.

 

Isabel: That's so cool. What has being an environmental justice activist taught you?

 

Zanagee: Being an environmental justice activist has taught me that saving the environment is about saving people. In addition to this, because of climate justice’s focus on people, I’ve gained a new understanding that everywhere that people live is its own unique environment and must be cared for in unique ways.

 

Isabel: Yeah, for sure. People seem to be aware of protecting the environment, but there is still a lot of inaction from politicians. Why do you believe that everybody should care about climate change and work to fix it?

 

Zanagee: Climate activists have known for years that everybody should care about climate change because it affords us the platform to address other issues and is the most interconnecting issue in the world. Although it is impacting everyone differently and to varying degrees, climate change is already impacting everyone on the planet. It is connected to national security, infrastructure, racism, and human health.

 

Isabel: I notice that every political movement has a lot of youth on the frontlines. Why do you believe that young people will bring change to all of the major issues facing this country?

 

Zanagee: Young people will bring change to all major issues facing this country because we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain from changing our world for the better. We have our whole futures ahead of us and we’re the most motivated to create change to ensure that we’re able to have that future.

 

Isabel: I’m asking everybody this: What advice do you have for young people who want to speak out and change the world?
 

Zanagee: For young people who want to speak out and change the world, they should know that every action, whether national movement organizing or just meeting with a local official individually, it contributes to creating positive change and it means something even if effects aren’t seen immediately.

IRIS FEN

@iris.fen

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I had a great conversation with Iris Fen, an 18 year-old environmental justice activist from New York. We talked about the power of nature, lawmaker’s inaction, and working with your best friends.

 

Isabel: What inspired you to start fighting against climate change and how has it shaped your perspective on the world around you?

 

Iris: It wasn’t really one thing in particular. When I was younger my family’s farm was destroyed by a flooding disaster. I realized how powerful nature is and how much destruction it can actually cause. Later on, my father and I protested fracking where corporations were trying to pollute the drinking water in our community. That taught me that we have to fight for nature if we want a liveable future on this planet.

 

Isabel: What do you think that lawmakers are getting wrong when it comes to environmental rights?

 

Iris: Lawmakers are not connecting environmental justice with other things. They aren’t thinking about the fact that we literally need water to survive and when it is polluted, that kills people. They don’t care about the fact that earth is our home and we have to take care of it or we won’t be able to survive. They just aren’t taking action to protect this planet. Also, we are on land that is not our own and indigenous people have sacred burning traditions that are not being respected. So now, we are seeing these massive wildfires all around California. When the media covers those wildfires you hear about what is going on, but you don’t get to see the faces of the people who were the most affected and it feels like such an inaccessible issue.

 

Isabel: For sure. I have talked to a few members of Zero Hour which I think is an incredible organization. For you specifically, what does it mean to be a part of such a huge youth-led movement?

 

Iris: When I was younger, I always wished I would see other kids at protests. Adults would always say “I am doing this for my kids and grandkids,” but I wanted to see the kids and grandkids showing up themselves. It’s just so cool that I have found this family to be inspired and motivated with everyday. It’s awesome that I get to take action towards climate justice with my best friends.

 

Isabel: I also love how this movement has so many young women on the frontlines. How does being a teenage girl affect your fight for climate justice?

 

Iris: We have taken some steps back when it comes to women’s rights, so I think just seeing women take action on anything that negatively affects them is so powerful. It is also very powerful to see groups of young women coming together to fight for what they believe in. When women speak up, we start to see massive changes.

 

Isabel: Totally. Are there any current activism projects you are working on?

 

Iris: We are working on our next big actions which I can’t say much about, but we are going to try and highlight climate change to make sure everyone is educated on the effects of it. I am juggling a lot trying to balance school with activism and my own health, but exciting things are coming up.

 

Isabel: I’m asking everybody this: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Iris: Your voice matters. No matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, or background. We need your voice out there to make a change. The planet needs your voice to make a change. Keep going, keep taking action, and you can change the world.

NADIA NAZAR

@mickey_nadia

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I had an awesome conversation with Nadia Nazar, a 16 year-old climate activist from Baltimore. We talked about Zero Hour, the youth, and saving the entire planet.

 

Isabel: So, you are one of the founding members of the organization Zero Hour. Can you talk about what that organization does and what it means to you?

 

Nadia: Zero Hour is a youth-led climate organization. We mainly focus on climate justice and how climate change is an intersectional issue caused by systems of oppression that we need to dismantle in order to solve it. We are really just fighting for a liveable planet because we will be the ones most affected by climate change and we have such little time left. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a report saying that we have 12 years until climate change is irreversible. It’s important to create a national sense of urgency that we need to solve climate change now.

 

Isabel: Yes. There is a lawsuit going on right now where young people across the country are suing the federal government for climate inaction. How is Zero Hour involved in that?

 

Nadia: Zero Hour is not personally involved in that, but we are partners with the organization Our Children’s Trust and they are doing the lawsuit. We are very supportive of them and Jaimie Margolin (founder of Zero Hour) is one of the plaintiffs in the Washington state trial. It’s great to see that the youth are really stepping up at a systematic level.

 

Isabel: I see more younger people on the frontlines for climate justice than any other demographic. Why do you believe that this resonates with so many kids?

 

Nadia: I think this resonates with us because we are going to be the ones most affected by it. We have been seeing the consequences already with the wildfires in California. Just imagine your home, your family, and your life being destroyed because of something you didn’t choose. We were brought into this world and we started heading in this direction that we don’t want. We just want to live a normal, happy life and the fact that this could kill a lot of our generation is really depressing.

 

Isabel: For sure. What can adults and lawmakers do to support the youth in the fight to basically save the planet?

 

Nadia: Adults and lawmakers could be allies in this fight by taking a step back from speaking, letting us lead, and then actually listening to what we have to say. They should listen to everybody around them and see if they can find actual solutions to climate change. Just put more effort towards it.

 

Isabel: Are there any activist projects you are currently working on that you want to talk about?

 

Nadia: We are going to be organizing some events next July in Miami which hasn’t been announced yet, but it will be something big. I can’t talk much about it, but we do have a lot of upcoming projects.

 

Isabel: Very cool. I’m asking everyone this: What advice do you have for other young people who want to speak out and change the world?

 

Nadia: My advice for young people would be to turn your frustration into motivation. A lot of people get angry, but they don’t do anything about it. So, if you are angry or upset about something then go and fix it. You have the power. Don’t let anybody stop you. People are always asking us what we want to be when we grow up, but what do you want to be right now? Become that person and change the world.

ELLERY GRIMM

@fellerygrimm

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I had a conversation with Ellery Grimm, a 16 year-old environmental justice activist from Washington, D.C. We talked about the youth-led movement Zero Hour, getting involved in your own way, and why voting is crucial.

 

Isabel: So, you are the Youth Press Director for the organization, Zero Hour. What is that movement all about and what are your responsibilities within it?

 

Ellery: Zero Hour is an entirely youth-led movement striving to uplift the voices of people on the frontlines of climate change. Our goal is to educate people about environmental justice and advocate for a liveable future.

 

Isabel: What do you think lawmakers need to know about the youth-led fight for environmental rights?

 

Ellery: Everyone deserves to be happy and healthy. If you don’t represent your constituents with that in mind, you will get voted out. They are called elected officials because they’re at the mercy of our vote.

 

Isabel: For sure. I saw your speech at the #StopKavanaugh rally which was amazing. How does being a gender non-binary person in this fight affect your perspective?

 

Ellery: I was already hyper-aware of my vulnerability and I was happy to be given the chance to talk about it. It’s dangerous for gender non-conforming people in this climate. When 50% of homeless youth are LGBT, they are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the corruption of our country’s law enforcement, and the scarcity of affordable/accessible healthcare. I have no hope that Kavanaugh will change any of those things. He is just another roadblock among many others and should be treated that way.

 

Isabel: What advice do you have for kids who want to get involved in a big issue like climate change but don’t know where to start?

 

Ellery: Nothing bad can come from saying “I want to get involved.” Reaching out to your friends or family and saying “let’s do something about this” is not weird. They are probably thinking the same thing! Going to one big protest a year is not enough. Volunteer, vote, or start a club at your school. My advice is start something new and original. Don’t follow the crowd.

 

Isabel: Absolutely. Are there any activism projects you are currently working on that you want to shout-out?

 

Ellery: At the moment Zero Hour is in between campaigns. We released #Vote4OurFuture at the end of September. Right now, we are planning a couple different things that I am really excited for!

 

Isabel: I’m asking everybody this: As you know, mid-term elections are coming up November 6th. In your opinion, why is it important to get out and vote?

 

Ellery: It’s quite common for the people against voting to come out of the woodwork around November. I see their hopelessness and I understand it. I am tired of losing and absolutely hate it. However, 49.9% of eligible voters didn’t vote in 2016. That makes me feel more hopeless than anything. We talk the talk about making change, but when it comes time to take action, the polls are empty. Voting is when we can tell the government what we want to see happen in this country and we know they will listen because they have to. It is extremely powerful.

© 2019 by Meddling Kids Movement