When I am 25, I would like to live in an apartment in a city, own a pet beagle and spend copious amounts of time in coffee shops and used book stores. By this time, I’d also like to be closer to my dream of running for public office. But, most importantly, by the time I’m 25, I hope that the climate crisis hasn’t killed me.
Because, you see, I’ll turn 25 in 11 years. Eleven years is how long the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given us to change policies in time to meet international goals of limiting climate change.
By the time I’m 25, I hope my hometown of Sacramento isn’t struggling to recover from a flood deadlier than we’ve seen in living memory, thanks to climate change. I hope longer heatwaves and smoke from intensified wildfires don’t make our air unbreathable. I hope my dreams are still possible because, if my home is destroyed, or if pollution makes it impossible to go outside, I won’t be able to run for office or own a dog.
How can I focus on helping others or enjoying myself if I’m scared for my own life?
I’m the founder of the Sacramento chapter of Fridays For Future, a group of local youth who organize climate strikes in accordance with the larger Fridays For Future movement. Our efforts were inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who started skipping school on Fridays to protest inaction on climate change by her country’s government.
I also work with a national youth-led organization called Earth Uprising. I am only 13 years old. I love fighting for change, but I shouldn’t have to do this. I don’t want my children to have to be climate activists. I want them to be children, to be carefree. In our current situation, being carefree isn’t an option. We have an obligation to act because politicians have failed to do so.
Politicians have tools at their disposal to combat this crisis. Yet in the face of a climate catastrophe and environmental injustice, they cower in fear. Inaction is an issue not only with conservative politicians but with liberal ones, too. California, which is depicted as a “green” state, is one of the largest oil producers in the nation. Our oil is among the dirtiest in the world, rivaling that of the Alberta Tar Sands.
Frontline youth climate activists from across the state – like me – want a chance to discuss with Gov. Gavin Newsom how he can cut down on oil production, protecting our communities.
With rampant political inaction, and statistics offering dire warnings, our fate can seem bleak, and the crisis can seem too enormous to wrap our heads around. Our adult leaders have failed us thus far. That’s why youth are becoming leaders, organizing climate strikes, the next of which is this Friday, Sept. 20.
We need action because our lives are not a political game. The fight for climate justice is one that we cannot afford to lose.
We strike because the fossil fuel industry has fooled the American public, telling us that the crisis is a far-off phenomenon, that if we just make small lifestyle changes like avoiding plastic straws, the crisis will be remedied. They’ve told us not to worry because we won’t suffer the worst consequences. Our great-grandchildren will, and that’s a long time away.
Youth like me are the great-grandchildren that the industry has alluded to. We are here. We are angry. On Friday, youth and their adult allies around the world will strike to demand action on climate change. Sacramento will be participating, with attendees congregating on the West Steps of the California State Capitol from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm. We demand that politicians rise to the challenge – because we already have.
Will you strike with us?