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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Young Activists and Climate Change: Leading the Way Forward

Young girl climate activist

You may have heard the quote, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” 

This eloquent statement engages older generations to be trust-holders for future generations. And though it’s a short sentence, its intention suggests a range of environmental and sustainability issues, including pollution and air quality, natural resource extraction, habitat protection, plant and animal biodiversity, and climate change. 

America’s children are now asking more from older generations: to not simply “borrow” the Earth but to be stewards of it. With a passionate call to action, our youth are getting increasingly involved in climate and environmental justice issues. 

Growing Up as Green Advocates 

There are more young people than ever before. Half the planet’s 7.6 billion people are younger than 30. Youth activism is visibly on the rise, with teenagers becoming engaged in marches in the nation’s capital and emerging on the global stage. And, as a generation, they are passionately concerned about climate change

Regardless of political orientation, more than 90 percent of young Americans understand that the climate is changing.

They’re also profoundly skeptical of fossil fuels, especially oil and gas. Growing up with news of oil spills and pipeline breaks, more than half of young Americans don’t believe that oil and gas companies have their well-being at heart. They see clean energy—like wind and solar—as the power of their future. 

Teenagers and young adults are working, individually and in groups, to insist on a cleaner, brighter future for their generation. They’re using their status as digital natives to organize over social media and network to push legal action. 

Some teenagers and young adults are reaching out to their governing bodies, pushing them to enact common sense climate change protection. Climate change lawsuits brought by children and young adults are pending in nine states, including  Massachusetts. The landmark national case that was brought by 21 young plaintiffs against the federal government won in an appeals court, after the executive branch of the federal government had moved to have the suit dismissed. 

Young People Making a Difference 

Here are some notable organizations organized by, or including, young people in order to preserve the health and prosperity of our planet through climate justice advocacy and action:   

Zero Hour: Begun by a 16-year-old in Washington state, Zero Hour has grown to a national movement, anchored by young people all across the country. They state, “Together, we are a movement of unstoppable youth organizing to protect our rights and access to natural resources and a clean, safe, and healthy environment that will ensure a livable future where we do not just survive, but flourish.” Zero Hour is planning a Youth Climate March in Washington, DC on July 21, 2018. 

PowerShift Network: The PowerShift Network is a national community of organizations who work with young leaders to fight for climate justice. It supports a broad range of groups who are focused on movement building, including advocacy, protest, and direct action. 

YouCAN: A movement of Our Children’s Trust, YouCAN began in Eugene, Oregon in 2014. The program empowers youths as grassroots organizers and “advocates for lasting legal protection for the atmosphere, oceans, and the Earth's natural resources in the form of binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and climate recovery planning in line with the best available science.” 

Sunrise Movement: An American organization of young people, the Sunrise Movement aims to mobilize young adults of all stripes to work for a better future. They define themselves as, “A movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. We are not looking to the right or left. We look forward. Together, we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.” 

iMatter: Beginning life in 2007 as “Kids vs. Global Warming,” iMatter empowers young people and organizations to promote aggressive local climate change policy. The program matches young climate activists with a mentor who knows the ropes and helps create and nurture young organizations and networks to do work across the U.S.

Earth Guardians: Also a movement supported by Our Children's Trust, Earth Guardians is an international youth movement working to protect the planet. It's also one of the 21 plaintiffs suing the United States federal government. 17-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians. “Young people come with their own inherent sense of justice,” they write. “Our age does not define our ability to create change.” The organization sends speakers all over the world and sponsors young climate change advocates. 

EarthForce: Inspired by three girls’ work in New Hampshire in 1990’s to ban Styrofoam, the Pew Charitable Trust created EarthForce to help young people on their paths to becoming environmental activists. Since its inception, the program has worked with more than 300,000 young people, and continues to update its methods, quantitatively, every year.

These examples are just a few of the organizations doing their part to realize a cleaner future. We’re climate optimists. That’s because we know that everyone can make a difference in preventing the catastrophic effects of climate change by choosing clean energy. CleanChoice Energy’s mission is to make clean energy accessible to all. Learn more about how to switch your home or business to 100% pollution-free renewable energy today.

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