Teen activists energize climate action at town hall
For years, climate change and environmental issues have proved to be the human rights puzzle that politicians and scientists have yet to solve. However, Greta Thunberg, a fervent student climate activist from Sweden, decided to take a stand against this period of inefficiency and staged a strike by walking out of school and demanding change at the Swedish Parliament.
At first, this odd practice puzzled classmates, teachers, and legislators, but her continued efforts to defend her beliefs sparked a global movement of student climate strikers. These students have organized town halls and have created a conversation between politicians and students to enact climate reform and other policies.
Now, Aditi Narayanan, founder of Zero Hour Phoenix and youth coordinator for Climate Strike AZ has taken these principles and initiated youth-led strikes and town halls locally. I had the opportunity to attend the Youth Environmental Town Hall at the Tempe History Museum that featured local representatives and provided a space for the public to engage in conversation about conservation.
Rep. Epstein from Legislative District 18 spoke about “operating under Greta Thunberg’s language” and “finding solutions that address the issues that affect communities today.”
She explained that as a community, it is essential to emulate the work that Greta is doing on a local scale and directly converse with legislators about issues.
Rep. Epstein highlighted that by investing time toward clean water and air policies, legislators would be investing in families and investing in the success of children.
She drew a connection between climate policy and the economy, stating that “if we do not have water, we conclusively do not have industry.”
Co-speaker, Rep. Blanc from LD 26 addressed the question, how can we circumvent the horrible occurrences that communities are witnessing locally and globally? She concluded that this period of stagnation is because “as people, we have become so partisan, and instead, we must focus on the bigger picture.”
Other notable speakers such as Sandy Bahr from the Sierra Club and Jennifer Martin from Central Arizona Water Conservation District brought up the importance of acknowledging the native land that we are on as Arizonans and devising common-sense climate and energy plans that still allow local industry to thrive.
The town hall provided a place for people to ask questions and share their experiences and stories. Attendees discussed clean transportation and debated light rail and the gentrification of Phoenix neighborhoods. Residents were especially concerned about the environmental toll that large oil companies and fossil fuel industries would have on air quality and the sustainability of the planet itself.
The mission of these Youth Climate Strikes is to call for legislative action to protect ecological water, promote recycling and to take necessary measures against an issue that youth believe is not being considered a priority.
The US Climate Strike notes, “We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation are already disproportionately impacted by climate change, yet, few people in positions of power have acknowledged this reality, and even fewer have begun to confront it appropriately.” Through the efforts of youth organizations, community engagement, and activists, the puzzle surrounding environmental policy and legislation is starting to piece together.