March 20, 2019
By: Keriann Cooper, Policy Intern

Youth Climate Justice Summit: When the youth come marching in

On March 6th, two hundred Minnesotan youth gathered together at the Youth Climate Justice Summit to lobby for their futures, justice, and climate change.

They asked their legislators to support multiple topics, including the MN Green New Deal bill, a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task force, ceasing the Line 3 replacement project, and the 100% renewable energy bill.

Imagine, 200 youth, ages 10 to 19, having a total of 50 meetings with their districts legislators in just one day, all for the purpose of protecting the lives of Minnesotans. We don’t expect our futures to be easy. If the earth warms 2C higher, or even 1.5C higher, there will be a lot of clean up to do from the destruction of climate change. Even more people than now will be struggling to survive.

We young people are trying to be proactive, we want our governments to take climate action so we can prevent the worst effects of climate change. At the Summit we told our legislators that we are sacred, that we are concerned for how our rapidly changing climate will impact us, and that we want them to support bills that will create a just transition to renewable energy.

The day began at the Good Neighbor Center with a welcome breakfast of delicious bagels and the creation of a group banner to later remind us of the day. I came with a group of my Roosevelt classmates who didn’t know much about lobbying, but were ready to learn. At the Good Neighbor Center, there was a great vibe going of excitement and anticipation. That excitement grew stronger when we started singing songs together, led by our emcees: Sophia, Isra, and Maddy. These chants felt super powerful, and the next day I was singing them on my way to the bus stop.

“♪ When the youuuth coming marching innn, O’ when the youth come marching innnn. I can’t waait to see in the futurrre, when the youth come marching in! ♪”

Then we had Lia, Maise, Anna Grace, and Maddy lead a workshop on how to lobby — people practiced their legislator meetings with people from their district.

After that we raced to the Capitol to take a group photo with our MN Can’t Wait shirts!!

Youth smile with their hands raised in the Capitol rotunda

Throughout the day we had our legislative meetings and workshops. Some people had to pull their legislators out of hearings and have a quick word with them, and some people got to have a long, good chat with their legislator.

I met with Senator Torres Ray and Representative Wagenius. Both of them were really attentive and seemed interested in what we had to say. For me, meeting my legislators was a new experience and it was better than I expected. They both told us that they fully support the MN Green New Deal, they both agreed that we shouldn’t replace Line 3, and that it is very important to have an effective Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task force. At the end of the meetings they took a picture with my group!!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to any of the workshops, but I heard that they went wonderfully. In the morning, we had a climate story workshop led by Anna Grace and Marco, and the intersectionality of climate change workshop led by Akira, Sonia, and Felicia from Women for Political Change. We also had a self-led art station where people drew inspirational messages on t-shirts.

At the end of the day we had a legislative panel in the church’s sanctuary. It started off with three inspirational high schoolers sharing their climate stories. Katie talked about how much she loves cross country skiing and that she will lose that fun activity, her passion, because of climate change. Tiger told an analogy about how climate change is like a timed chess game. If we don’t make the correct choices in the time we have (12 years), then we’ll lose the game (climate change will become an absolute crisis). Julianna shared how she worked with iMatter Eden Prairie to pass a climate inheritance resolution in her city, and joined MN Can’t Wait. All of these stories were great encouragement for everyone to keep fighting for climate justice.

Legislative panel at the Youth Climate Justice Summit

These speeches have motivated me to further develop my own climate story so that I can also share a powerful message and inspire other people, just like their stories inspire me.

After the climate stories, we had Climate Generation’s founder Will Steger share about the importance youth bring to the climate movement. Then our legislative panel began, with Representatives Patty Acomb, Frank Hornstein, Greg Boe, Jamie Long, Commissioner Steve Kelly (Commerce), and Commissioner Laura Bishop (MPCA).

We started planning the Summit in November. I worked with others, including other youth, people from partner organizations, and Climate Generation staff to organize the event. We had meetings to plan the agenda, decide what we wanted to lobby on, figure out event and speaker roles, and divy up tasks. We also sent out many emails to schools and other organizations to invite them to the Summit, sent media releases to the press, and called legislative assistants to schedule meetings. Unfortunately we had to postpone the Summit from our original date because there was a huge snow storm, but we didn’t let this stop us. I think it was all the hard work put into planning the Summit that made it so successful!

I think this summit showed everyone something. It showed the youth who went that they have power, they can make change, and that our government was structured to have their voices heard.

Many legislators were shown that the young people of Minnesota, their future voters, care about climate justice and that our futures are important to us. I hope we made a positive impact on their view of climate change, and I hope we made them realize climate change is a huge problem. Lastly, hopefully youth went home and told their friends and family about their lobbying experience and by doing so, we created more public awareness!!

Thank you to everyone who came!!

And another thank you to everyone who helped make the summit amazing!!