March 15, 2018
Why I am a 16-Year Old Climate Activist
Originally published on Refinery29
I am a 16-year-old climate activist. Our movement is unstoppable.
Young people have had enough. Students dominating the news cycles right now have had enough of living with gun violence. We are tired of waiting for adults to take action on the problems that are threatening our lives: The end of gun violence, racism, and climate denial are far past due. So now the young people like me are stepping up to make sure adults stop wasting precious time and start actually working to resolve these persistent challenges.
I started taking action in my home state, joining 12 other young people in Washington filing a constitutional climate action lawsuit against the state, Gov. Jay Inslee, and several state agencies in King County Court for their refusal to take sufficient climate action. Our case is not entirely unique. There’s a similar effort underway in the Juliana v. United States case, in which a group of kids are suing the U.S. government for failing to take action on climate change. While we’re suing Washington state, they’re suing Washington, D.C. And recently, judges ruled that despite the protests of the Trump administration (like the Obama administration before it, fighting this case is one thing they have in common) their suit can move forward. It may not be the exact same as the suit I’m in, but it’s an encouraging step forward.
And we need all the good news we can get, because climate anxiety is a real thing. It’s scary to me how it’s become normalized that our world is dying. Kids at my school say things like, “Oh I really want to do that or visit that place… if climate change hasn’t destroyed it”. There are so many if’s in our lives right now, adding another layer of uncertainty to an already uncertain time in life. My friends and I should be worried about what college we’ll go to, our major and our future careers, not whether or not we have a livable climate.
Here’s the honest truth. Scientists tell us that since we’ve waited so long to take action on climate change, radical transformation of our planet is now all but inevitable. The only thing that can create the change we need in the time we have left, if we’re honest with ourselves, is a radical political transformation that holds the rights of youth, of indigenous peoples, of women, of all people as more important that the rights of corporations to pollute and perpetuate intergenerational injustice on me and my peers. Climate change is not a problem of our generation’s making, but apparently it’s now up to us to do the work that should have been done decades ago.
We will continue putting this pressure on our leaders to make change by planning a wave of youth action on climate this summer because we have had enough of living with climate change.
Our movement is called Zero Hour to emphasize the sense of urgency my generation lives with every day. This is it, this is the only time we’re going to get to act on climate. There’s no “in the future” there’s no “in 20 years”. It was an emergency 30 years ago. It’s Zero Hour to act on climate change.
On July 21st, 2018, young people are going to march in Washington, D.C. and all over the country for common sense climate change legislation immediately. A few days before the march, students will flood Capitol Hill to lobby and demand concrete action from our representatives. We will not relent until those demands are met.
Zero Hour started with me, Jamie Margolin, a lone 16-year-old high school sophomore nearly a year ago after learning that our president planned to remove our country from the Paris Climate Agreement. I am proud to say we have grown into a strong, diverse movement of students spanning from coast to coast. From the resilient indigenous youth who led the #NoDAPL movement, to the young people sueing our governments over climate change, we are a movement of activists who will not take no for an answer.
This mobilization is only the beginning. We mobilize to bring to the world’s attention how much climate change impacts my generation. We are centering youth and climate in the national conversation, and then taking that momentum to create real change. Just like the students of Parkland, the youth of America cannot afford to wait any longer for adults to protect our right to the clean and safe environment. We’ve waited long enough, and so far no one has taken the action necessary to solve this defining issue. Generation Z has realized that we are the leaders we have been waiting for.
We are organizing, lobbying, mobilizing, and we are not going to stop until we get what we need and deserve. Every individual from every community should have access to clean air, water, and public lands. If humanity wants to survive this crisis, we need to put the needs and health of our communities before corporate gain. Youth will hold our adults and elected officials accountable for their legacy of destruction and inaction when it comes climate change.
Jamie Margolin is a 16-year-old high school sophomore in Seattle and the founder of Zero Hour. Follow along @ThisIsZeroHour and click here to contribute to the Youth March.