As the new Policy Manager for Climate Generation, I am excited to track and support environmental justice policy on all levels of government for students in our Youth Environmental Activist Network (YEA!).
I joined Climate Generation in March of this year–right in the middle of Minnesota’s legislative session. The Capitol is a unique experience to navigate- a lot of last minute hearings and decisions are made, so I had no real expectations walking into it this year, especially since the state had its first DFL trifecta in nine years. With Democrats controlling the Governorship, State House, and State Senate (by one seat) I was curious to see how much we can get done, especially since not much passed last year due to the Senate being under different leadership from the House. However, I knew that the voices of communities on the frontlines of the worst of the impact of climate change needed to be front and center. Before joining Climate Generation, I was working on modifying the Homeless Youth Act and later had the pleasure of joining the fight for the Climate Justice Education Bill (HF2297/SF476) that YEA! students co-authored.
While our Climate Justice Education Bill didn’t pass this year, it was heard in the House of Representatives’ Education Policy Committee, where it was met with support from DFL representatives. As written, the bill will bring conversations around climate justice into our state’s classrooms. YEA! students stewarded writing the bill language and I saw their passion during their testimonies to the Education Policy Committee. To them, talking about climate justice and our climate crisis will not only alleviate anxiety around it, but will also help create solutions for a sustainable future.
Being new to environmental justice spaces, I’m grateful to the YEA! students and community coalitions for teaching me about the state and local initiatives happening so close to me. The Cumulative Impacts Bill (HF3146/SF3211) has been a multi-year fight for community access to regulatory powers. In other words, it gives vulnerable communities who have disproportionately experienced the worst of pollution, the power to accept or deny new and existing permits for facilities wanting to build in their neighborhoods. The bill passed both the House and Senate after years of hard community organizing by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who are most affected by this bill and air pollution.
While I do believe in celebrating the wins we had this legislative session, it is also important to recognize how much work is left to do. It has been great to see the progress communities have made as a result of this last session, yet we must continue to hold them accountable once these bills are passed and implementation starts. If a bill is implemented and doesn’t reflect the needs of the community, then it does almost nothing to protect them and grant them access to the resources they need.
Policy implementation often doesn’t have much community involvement and leadership, unless it is tirelessly fought for, so it will be important to track the progress these bills make as they become law.
I want to pay respect and give thanks to the number of community members who helped organize others and led the fights we saw at the Capitol. As someone supporting and observing I was overwhelmed and in a daze, so I know the work that got done was not easy. Even with more BIPOC community members getting elected into office, being BIPOC at the Capitol is extremely intimidating — but I hope more of us continue to show up. I hope we continue to apply pressure on our elected leaders and hold them accountable.
Moving forward, I am excited to start planning for our Climate Justice Education Bill getting across the finish line in the next legislative session. I look forward to creating political education opportunities in an effort to organize more young people around state and local policy, and more community-led initiatives that fight for environmental justice in BIPOC communities. A powerful tool used to help pass legislation this year was storytelling from the community and I am excited to do the same with other climate justice activists at the United Nations’ SB (Subsidiary Bodies) Conference in Bonn, Germany! Expanding my knowledge around policy and organizing, from a more global perspective, will be a fruitful experience to help build solidarity and continue to drive Minnesota’s climate justice down a path of success.
Minnesota took several amazing steps in addressing our climate crisis, and we are only getting started!
B. serves as Policy Manager for Climate Generation. They are a Minneapolis Southsider and first generation graduate of the University of Minnesota. B. has several years experience in community organizing and policy work and is excited to bring their experiences in voting rights and housing advocacy to Climate Generation’s climate justice work. They believe in investing in our young leaders to build a better future and sustain movement work and have centered the voices of young people in previous campaigns. B. is a participant in the Wilder Foundation’s Community Equity Program, a nine-month political leadership cohort-based learning journey for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community leaders and change makers.