To say the least, this year’s Youth Climate Kickoff was a transformative experience.
When arriving at Roosevelt High School, we were greeted by a host of happy and welcoming faces. Because we arrived relatively early, there was time to mingle and immediately make new friends. We sat and talked until the day officially started.
Everyone introduced their names, pronouns, and reasons they were at the event. Answers ranged from wanting to better communicate about local environmental issues to the youngest attendee proclaiming, “I want to change the world.” Riding on the elation of being in a safe space with like-minded people, we played a few more games. Then, it was time for workshops.
We mutually agreed the most interesting and impactful workshops we attended were about Environmental Racism and Protest.
In the Environmental Racism workshop, we discussed how people of color, independent of their income level, are most affected by environmental pollution. Thereafter, we played the “privilege game,” where everyone possessed $50 and had to “buy” certain privileges, such as access to clean water, clean air, healthy food, internet, etc. Eight $10 privileges were presented, meaning each person could only have five. Learning about Minnesota communities who face this reality was truly eye-opening.
In the Protest workshop, everyone shared their respective protest experiences and why they were impactful. We proceeded to talk about the theory behind protesting, drawing from Michel Foucault’s philosophy of governmentality. We discussed how existing outside of certain binaries is protest within itself. Additionally, we discussed the recent Youth Climate Strike. The leaders of the event themselves discussed its underlying philosophy. Then, as a group, we discussed the effectiveness of the recent strike and how it was portrayed by the media.
We were both nervous, not having much experience in climate activism. We didn’t want our lack of past involvement to single us out in group discussions. However, we were both pleasantly surprised at the variety of past experiences present at the event. Each person’s respective knowledge and interests only added value to discussions and the day itself.
From the workshops, we realized how little other environmental activists discuss environmental racism and became determined to discuss the topic back at school. We also learned immensely about how protesting works to change both culture and policy.
Overall, we loved connecting with like-minded activists and learning about other issues and movements. Being there, we really felt like we were changing the world.
Written by Jordan Akers and Meera Dear, 12th graders at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood, MN.