Climate Voices

May 15, 2018
By: Jason Rodney, Former Senior Youth Coordinator

Youth Advocate for their Future at the 2018 Youth Climate Justice Summit

What did you love about the Youth Climate Justice Summit?

“Advocating for myself and adults listening.”
“The like-minded people, and seeing where legislators stand on issues.”
“Getting the chance to talk to legislators.”

This is some of the feedback students gave after our day of action at the State Capitol. On April 25, 2018 about 100 students from across the state came to St. Paul to teach, learn, and take action for climate justice. It was a thrilling day, complete with powerful youth speakers, securing commitments from Governor Dayton, workshops, and students building connections.

One of my greatest joys of the day was seeing the transformation of students’ energy, from nervousness and self-doubt before their meetings with legislators to passion and excitement afterward.

One student reported, “I loved getting to talk to the representatives and finally realizing how down-to-earth they are. I thought it would be a lot more stressful than it actually was.”

This was a common sentiment. Most students who attend our youth day at the Capitol each year have never before met with their legislators. As Natalie Cook, former YEA! MN Program Coordinator, told me, youth need to know that the Capitol is their house. The Youth Climate Justice Summit is one more step toward making that a reality.

[bctt tweet=”Youth need to know that the State Capitol is their house. #actonclimate #climatejustice”]

Later in the day, students reported back from their meeting with legislators. Many had very positive experiences, teaching their lawmakers about climate solutions and sharing why they personally, as young people, make climate justice a priority. Some students had tough conversations, leaving the meeting in disagreement with the lawmaker, but they spoke their truth.

Throughout the day, youth participated in the democratic process in many ways.

Students from Brightwater Montessori in North Minneapolis encountered a protest on their way to a meeting with their legislator. In the lawn near the Capitol, Antonia Alvarez was staging a hunger strike for immigrant rights. The students were excited about her cause and told their representative about her strike. Rep. Fue Lee asked the students to introduce him to Alvarez, so they did.

YEA! MN Core member Lia Harel was in a group of students that got passes to enter the floor of the House of Representatives while it was in session. She said being in that space meant “we got to pitch to a whole bunch of people. And it was cool to experience the democratic process.” She and her friends witnessed Rep. Erin Maye Quade’s sit-in for gun control (inspired by the national movement of youth), including the end of her 24-hour protest, when she stood up.

Students also strategized for action beyond the Summit.

YEA! MN Core member Carson Kowalski led a workshop on Line 3 and invited youth to stay involved to stop the new pipeline from being built and ensure the current pipeline is cleaned up.

Another Core member, Shaza Hussein, led a discussion about environmental racism, where youth explored how the legacy of oppression lives on in today’s movement. Youth met with staff from Eureka Recycling to engage in zero-waste work, and staff from Climate Generation helped students plan how they could pass resolutions with their school boards committing to teach climate change science.

We asked students what actions they would take after the Summit to carry on the work.

“Contact my school board!”
“Talk to my dean about adding compost to our school.”
“Start a club at my school.”
“Get involved to stop Line 3.”
“Draft a bill.”
“Volunteer for a campaign.”
“Meet with legislators more often.”

[bctt tweet=”Start a club. Meet with legislators. Volunteer. Youth are committing to make #climateaction a priority. #YouthClimateJustice”]

The possibilities are endless. I know that we are more powerful together, so my commitment is to help these students remain connected, so that we can build solutions as a collective.