Sophia is a junior at St. Louis Park High School, a member of Climate Generation’s YEA! program, a Three Rivers Park District teen council member, and a percussionist.
Youth Environmental Activists (YEA!) began working on the Climate Justice Education Bill in the fall of 2020. We noticed that other climate change legislation doesn’t address climate justice education. To me, climate justice education means connecting climate change to academic subjects and to systems of oppression, which sets climate justice apart from just “climate change.” Climate justice is broad and affects every aspect of our present and future, so it can relate to all school subjects.
Climate justice instruction is important to me because I was only taught basic information about climate change in school. I had to seek out additional resources on my own, which was grueling, especially considering the mass of misinformation there is surrounding climate change. I’d never heard of climate justice until I joined YEA!.
Yet, I am lucky. Many students who are less privileged than I am do not have the time, capacity, or connections to seek out the materials I did. If climate justice was taught directly in schools, all students could gain the knowledge that leads to effective and equitable action against the climate crisis. It is particularly important for young people to have this knowledge because we will be the most affected by the climate crisis. We must prepare for and reduce these effects.
YEA! worked with various Minnesota legislators and organizations to create and introduce the Climate Justice Education Bill (HF 550/SF 666.) Unfortunately, it did not get a hearing and will not pass this legislative session. However, we are still working to incorporate climate justice into classrooms by including it in the state social studies standards and by communicating directly with teachers. Although the bill won’t pass this session, we succeeded in spreading awareness about climate justice education. We discussed our ideas with many groups such as Youth for Eco Solutions, the Three Rivers Park District Teen Council, and Navigate MN, as well as many legislators and individuals.
I learned a great deal from this experience. I have a better understanding of how a bill becomes law. I feel more comfortable speaking with legislators. I gained presentation, collaboration, and social skills. I will need all these abilities in my future activist efforts.
I never imagined I’d co-create a bill, but I did! You don’t have to be a political genius to support—or even create—legislation. Whoever you are, you can make a difference.