By Jericho Rajninger
Overview of youth climate action:
Likely to witness the environmental impacts of a changing climate within their lifetimes, young people have approached the issue of climate change with a certain urgency. Young adults are some of the most prominent supporters of the Green New Deal and have proven to be vigorous advocates for climate legislation and action. Recently, many youth organizations have gained national attention. Here are just a few:
With the understanding that youth are often ignored in discussions of climate change, the founders of Zero Hour wanted to start a movement that places young voices at the center of climate action. Zero Hour believes youth are most fit to keep adults honest and accountable. Since its inception in 2017, Zero Hour has hosted a Youth Climate Summit, a lobby day in Washington D.C., an art festival and a climate march, all of which have emphasized the need for immediate, solution-based climate action.
Sunrise activists believe oil, gas and other industry executives are standing in the way of meaningful action against climate change. These activists stress the importance of transforming public opinion about the climate into political power. One of Sunrise’s main goals is to help spur the adoption of the Green New Deal, what they believe to be the strongest chance the next generation has to save the environment. The movement has participated in climate strikes and government sit-ins and even organized an interstate tour in support of the Green New Deal.
Climate Justice Youth Summit:
This Summit is one of the largest annual conventions of young climate activists of color in the United States. Last year, the summit was hosted by UPROSE, a grassroots organization dedicated to climate justice and youth leadership. Youth leaders at the Climate Justice Summit recognize climate change will disproportionately affect marginalized communities, and so the Summit features these marginalized voices on the front lines of climate action.
- Youth Climate Activists You Should Be Following on Social Media: https://www.earthday.org/19-youth-climate-activists-you-should-follow-on-social-media/
- They Can’t Vote Yet, But Youths Are Ready to #Climate Strike: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/they-can-t-vote-yet-youths-are-ready-climatestrike
- How a New Generation of Climate Activists is Reviving Fossil Fuel Divestment: https://wagingnonviolence.org/2020/03/climate-activists-reviving-fossil-fuel-divestment/
- Amid Shutdowns, Youth Climate Activists Are Writing the Curriculum for a Just Economic Recovery: https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/04/30/coronavirus-climate-crisis-online-curriculum/
- Xiye Bastida: How Are Young People Making The Choice To Fight Climate Change?: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/22/860168455/xiye-bastida-how-are-young-people-making-the-choice-to-fight-climate-change
Ms. Clarke: We’re approaching the end of human’s existence on this world…and so when you put tens of thousands of people in the street who are all feeling that drive to do something about it, it’s a really incredible experience.
Ethan: I spoke with Isha Clarke, a senior in high school from Oakland, California, about her experience as co-founder of Youth Vs. Apocalypse. Isha has organized some of the most spirited climate change demonstrations with students not old enough to vote but still having a big impact. Her organization has had immediate impact changing the debate around a proposed coal terminal in her hometown with a visit with the developer:
Ms. Clarke: We actually went to his office and we were dressed as elves delivering this long scroll to him with a bunch of signatures from kids all over Oakland who said, we don’t want coal for Christmas.
Ethan: Isha believes similar demonstrations across the country will help mark a shift in public attitudes about climate action.
Ms. Clarke: When you do that, you organize in a way that brings out people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves climate activists, but are 110% on the front lines of this destruction and are being disproportionately impacted by it.
Ethan: To learn more about youth climate activism, and for more climate solutions, go to climatebreak.org or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Ethan Elkind, and this was Climate Break.