Local Action for Global Decarbonization

The young girl on the right didn’t fully understand the climate movement yet and probably couldn’t tell you what climate justice meant (to her, or really at all). I am that girl, and I’d like to believe that now, I have a pretty good grasp on what climate justice means to me and the kind of work I want to do in the future to make a clean and livable planet for all a reality. You can read about that here.

This past year, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to organize for iMatterNow, a grassroots campaign of youth leaders in junior high and high school who are demanding that U.S. communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that ensure a healthy planet for future generations.

I have watched youth across the country rise up and mobilize within their schools, churches, volunteer groups, and cities to demand that city councils start taking decarbonization – and their futures – seriously.

FROM GLOBAL TO LOCAL

When I was much younger and much more naive, I used to think that the issue of climate change would be 100% solved through big international conferences, with world leaders coming together and cooperating to create the most effective policies to address climate change, with the best climate science and with future generations in mind.

That is, shockingly, not the case.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I am still naive, though I prefer to call myself hopeful now, and I believe we can still stop the worst impacts of climate change and avoid the tipping point before it is too late. I no longer believe, however, that this future is solely in the hands of global policymakers.

The immense growth of grassroots actions and networks in the climate movement is key to addressing climate change; the power of the people can do much more than the people in power.  

By starting the mindset shift about climate change and sustainability in cities, I believe people will be more receptive and open to what a just and livable future could look like. As I’ve organized for iMatterNow and seen empowered youth start these conversations, I’ve become even more confident that the change must begin local to have a chance at global success.

Now, the science is clear: the current level of fossil fuel consumption is unsustainable and the planet is warming so quickly scientists aren’t really sure what to do (each year seems to be the new hottest year on record).

I’ve seen the impacts of climate change from the melting of the west Antarctic peninsula to the intensified drought in California. Decarbonization will be key to ensure a stable climate and to prevent further impacts – to stop the complete melting of the Arctic, to prevent greater sea level rise on coastal cities and islands, to protect the Earth’s biodiversity.

So much is at stake. The stabilization of the climate depends on us becoming carbon neutral through a variety of means – offsetting our carbon emissions, making a swift transition to renewable energy, and much more. These are all really, really big goals. And justifiably so. Decarbonization calls for a radical systems and mindset change towards a focus on sustainability and climate justice.  

But to make that change? That change starts with one empowered youth.

EMPOWERED YOUTH, CLIMATE JUSTICE

iMatter_SLPCityCouncil

In this picture, youth leaders from the city St. Louis Park are presenting the Youth Climate Report Card, a part of the iMatterNow campaign, providing a grade to their city in a variety of areas like renewable energy and waste disposal.

The youth in St. Louis Park are just one example of the impact that a small group of empowered youth can have in their community. I am inspired every single day simply thinking about how hard they worked to get the Climate Inheritance Resolution passed in their city and the incredible potential they have to make more tangible impacts that benefit the lives of those they know.

I’ve talked previously before about what climate justice has meant to me in other blog posts, and iMatterNow embodies my definition of climate justice. By empowering youth across the nation to take action in their communities, a ripple effect is created. In their communities, change happens with policies, an increase in renewable energy, and a mindset shift. These community leaders then progress into college, graduate school, and careers to become global leaders to impact climate policy.

With decarbonization and the empowerment of youth, climate justice becomes more than a term and much more than a goal for the future.

Climate justice becomes reality.

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