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After the March: Building a Youth-Led Climate Movement

By: Ilana Cohen & Rachel Lee

PHOTOS BY ERIK MCGREGOR

On Saturday, July 21st, thousands of students, adult allies, and organizations across the globe marched and rallied to demand that our lawmakers act on climate change. Here in NYC, 300 participants marched from Columbus Circle to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, right by UN Headquarters, to join the call for environmental justice. As marchers, we chanted our support for a carbon tax, urged President Trump to recommit to the Paris Accords, and declared that #thisiszerohour for climate action. In our post-march rally, we heard from students experienced in environmental activism. Halfway through, speakers and rally-goers joined in making the internationally-recognized Climate Sign and, with our signs held high in the air, we told our neighbors what compelled us to take part in the historic youth-led event. Soon enough, our call had captured the media’s attention; NYC’s action was featured in TV and online news outlets including the New YorkerFull Frontal with Samantha Bee, and MetroFocus. Yet our movement extends far beyond July 21st—that’s why we’re joining New Yorkers on September 6th in the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice march. As young people, we demand elected officials who will stand up for our future

On July 21st, we accomplished two major goals that will bolster our movement going forward. First, we made clear demands: we called for total divestment of public and private funds from the fossil fuel and big agriculture industries, a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and a complete stop to the current construction of oil pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure. We also coupled these national demands with local ones, calling on Governor Cuomo to pass a plastic bag ban and on NY lawmakers to support progressive environmental legislation like the Climate and Community Protection Act. Second, we engaged new members of the climate movement. We welcomed our peers, parents, and coworkers into the fight for climate justice, showing them that every voice can be instrumental in making change.

Our dedication to tackling special interest politics and demanding climate justice extends far beyond July 21st. In the wake of the March, we published a Post-March Action Guide detailing opportunities for march participants to continue contributing to the climate movement through joining Zero Hour NYC, attending climate events, supporting our organizational partners, and using their power as NY constituents. Now, we are working to expand our leadership and volunteer bases to tackle new climate actions this fall.

This September, Zero Hour NYC will partner with major environmental organizations, including People’s Climate Movement and 350.org, in the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice campaign. As we saw at our July 21st March, students recognize the importance of having a just transition to renewable energy. We’re calling not only for a more sustainable future, but also for a more socially just and equitable one. We want an inclusive green economy that invests in the marginalized communities disproportionately suffering the effects of climate change and environmental pollution, as well as that provides new opportunities for the workers who stand to lose employment from the necessary dismantlement of the dirty energy sector.

With NYC March co-organizers Ilana Cohen and Amy Torres preparing for college this fall, we are excited to see the march’s superstar junior coordinator Rachel Lee take over as Head Coordinator of Zero Hour NYC.

Rachel believes that now more than ever, it is imperative to get involved in climate activism—especially for youth. The state of today’s climate and the lack of strong environmental legislation affects us the most. Zero Hour NYC joins students from the NYC area to discuss and put into motion ways to combat the problem of climate change. Our organization is entirely youth-led and grassroots; there is no hidden agenda or profit. Our successes are representative of our generation—of the tremendous capability of youth to effect change, even when the majority cannot vote.

You can sign up to volunteer for Zero Hour NYC using this form. Invite your friends and family to do so as well! You can also follow Zero Hour NYC on social media (Facebook/Instagram: @thisiszerohour.nyc Twitter: @zerohournyc) and learn more about us at zerohournyc.weebly.com.

350NYC Members at Zero Hour March


Join the NYC Youth Climate March on July 21st, 2018

By Ilana Cohen & Amy Torres

While taking an environmental politics course the second semester of our senior year in high school, we quickly realized what is so often omitted from the rhetoric we hear about climate change: it’s not just an issue that affects our children or grandchildren, it’s an issue that affects all of us right now. We, Generation Z, may not have made the same contribution to global warming that our parents and grandparents did, but we’re still going to bear the brunt of its effects. As Americans and as global citizens, we have a unique responsibility to take action—and that’s what our work as Co-Head Coordinators of Zero Hour NYC, organizing a youth-led climate march on July 21st, is all about.

Zero Hour was founded by Jamie Margolin, a 16-year-old from Seattle, Washington who wanted to galvanize her peers in the fight against climate change. Since its founding, Zero Hour has succeeded in uniting youth voices across the country and globe, and in building bridges across social movements to create an intersectional and powerful coalition dedicated to both social and environmental justice. On July 21st, Zero Hour will stage an international Youth Climate March—with the main march in Washington, DC and sister marches from NYC to Melbourne, Australia—demanding a fossil-fuel free future and a just transition to 100% renewable energy.

Here in NYC, our Zero Hour chapter is partnering with a diverse array of activist groups and organizations to maximize turnout for our NYC Youth Climate March. We have worked closely with People’s Climate Movement, 350NYC, 350.org, Alliance for Climate Education, and the Youth Progressive Policy Group. We are also working with People’s Puppets to engage youth through art and add another dimension to our message of building a more sustainable future.  

The NYC March will begin at Columbus Circle at 11am and end at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by UN Headquarters, where it will be followed by a Rally featuring student speakers from various backgrounds in environmental activism. Through their speeches, we hope to make more accessible an issue that can often feel detached from our everyday lives or grounded in statistics—really, tackling climate change is as much about humanitarianism, concern for our fellow humans’ lives and livelihoods, as it is about science. In addition to students, adult allies, and organizational partners, we are encouraging elected officials, political candidates, and businesses to prove their commitment to a more sustainable future by joining us in our March and at our Rally.

 

Our work does not stop here. We hope to show students that activism goes beyond attending demonstrations. That’s why we’re using the March to introduce students to the larger climate movement and publishing a post-march action guide that will detail some of the key ways they can grow their involvement in climate activism beyond July 21st.

To RSVP to our July 21st March, go to our Facebook and Eventbrite links. For more information, follow us on social media: Facebook/Instagram — @thisiszerohour.nyc & Twitter — @zerohournyc. Also, check out our website and email thisiszerohour.nyc@gmail.com with any press/general inquiries. Lastly, please donate to and share our grassroots fundraising campaign at gofundme.com/zerohournyc — we need your help to obtain the materials necessary to make our March and Rally the most impactful they can be!


To become more involved in the March, sign up here to be a day-of March volunteer. We’re holding a March Day Volunteers Training and Information Session on Wednesday, July 18th from 6-8pm at 125 Maiden Ln #5, New York, NY 10038, where we will prepare people who will help facilitate the march and go over in-person all of the critical march information, such as the route and transition to our post-march Rally (we will also publish all of this information online).

 

 

Climate Change in My Eyes 
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers, 12 yr old climate leader


#5 – April/May, 2018

The first week of April was spring break for my school, and my family and I went out west to experience some of the beautiful places there, quite different from New York. We hiked through Zion National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Grand Canyon National Park. It was incredible to realize that places so beautiful existed in my country, just a few hours away. What makes America so great and diverse, among many other things, is its climates and environments.

Escalante is one of the national monuments that I visited, and it is home to some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes I have ever witnessed, as well as examples of the ancient, rich culture of Native Americans. But several months ago, Trump announced his plan to shrink a few national monuments, an outrage to Native American groups and environmentalists. Escalante was one of them. This land, that was home to some of the most beautiful rocks, plants, and art could possibly be used for oil and drilling, and the natural beauty and cultural importance of these areas will be disrespected and destroyed. When I first heard of Trump’s plan, I was devastated and angry, and that was before I witnessed the stunning environment of the Southwest. Now, it is even more absurd to me.

But the people in the Trump administration aren’t the only ones putting our parks and monuments in danger. Climate change threatens the plants and animals there as well. There is so little water there as it is that every drop means something, and climate change will make the heat and drought worse, draining reservoirs like Lake Powell and Mead, who supply water to thousands of people. It will kill the plants that supply home, shade, and also stop the soil from eroding.

I encourage everyone, environmentalist or otherwise, to go visit a national park. They remind me of the beauty and history of our huge, complex country, and put new life, love, and perspective in my journey for a safer, cleaner Earth.


Climate Change in My Eyes 
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers

#4 – March, 2018

On February 14th, a 19 year old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida broke in and started shooting. 17 people at the school died. In the aftermath of the shooting, grieving students have been speaking out, giving new life to the decades old issue of gun control. However, some people have been questioning the kids’ strength and the validity of their fight. They say that students aren’t qualified, that they aren’t thinking straight.

But even those people can see that there is a reason why no one has forgotten about the Parkland shooting. It has stayed front and center, all thanks to the courageous students who have taken up the fight. Without those kids, gun control would have once again faded into the background. So never again can someone be justified in saying that kids are powerless, or that they don’t know what they are doing. Kids are most vulnerable, and we have to work just a little harder to be heard. So we have as much grit and determination as anyone, and anyone who thinks kids don’t know what they are talking about has never met anyone like the thousands of kids who are working hard every day to get things done.

Most people praise the kids, but some seem surprised at this level of determination and eloquence, coming from such young people, who are going through such grief. But they shouldn’t be. My generation is fearless, mature, and politically aware. We are willing to organize protests, campaign for our rights, make great sacrifices, and put in hard work, like the Parkland students have been doing. Everyone one of us if capable of real change. In the environmental movement, kids can make change, and have reason to be more determined than anyone else. My generation will suffer the most, and we will not let people who won’t even be around to witness what lies in store for us dictate our future.


Climate Change in My Eyes 
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers

#3  Fear – February, 2018

One thing I’ve learned from my experience with learning about and speaking about climate change is how to cope with fear. When I started doing research about climate change, I learned how devastating its effects are and will be. We have a few years to take drastic action before climate change becomes irreversible. And my generation will be hit the hardest. Having to comprehend and come to terms with these things scared me a lot, and I think it scares other people too. I believe that fear is part of the reason why people are not taking part in climate activism. Adults are afraid to admit to kids that they’re in real danger, and might be afraid to admit it to themselves. Especially with an issue like climate change, that happens so slowly and quietly, it can be easy to convince yourself that nothing is happening, that it’s no big deal. I understand that notion, but it’s important to understand and to try to fix the issues that bother you.

I was really scared for a while, and got sad every time we experienced erratic or unusually warm weather. Until I wrote my petition and started working with 350NYC, I was pretty miserable, scared to read the news or look at the weather report. I also read about other organizations who were doing amazing work as well and visited their websites. There are dozens of other communities around the country who are fighting for the environment that deserve recognition and support. Knowing that I was making a difference made me feel hopeful, and seeing all the progress being made by other people who cared just as much as I did was really inspiring. In life, you can always turn fear and sadness into action and passion. I suggest that everyone find organizations that are doing work that really inspires them, and volunteer, sign petitions, go to marches. People facing their fears and turning them into action will, no doubt, change the world.

Climate Change in My Eyes 
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers

#2 Climate Education – January 2018

Climate change is a problem right now, and it will only get worse. My generation will be dealing with effects of climate change more than any previous generation. That is why activism is so important to me- because I need and want to stand up for my future. And while many kids scan the newspaper, and almost all have social media, they still aren’t fully aware of the causes and effects of climate change. Perhaps it’s because you can’t see climate change, and it isn’t all of a sudden, like many other current events. It’s hard to acknowledge that something can be so bad when you haven’t heard of people dying from climate change, or of people currently suffering from it’s effects.

That’s why incorporating the science and the politics of climate change into school curricula is so important. Kids need to know what they’re up against. Many schools already have programs that deal with solving climate change. At my elementary school, NEST+m, we had an organization, Cafeteria Culture, that gave us lessons and put bins into our cafeteria so food could be composted and recycled. Experts from the organization came to talk to us about littering and pollution. Now, I am in 7th grade at Hunter College High School. Recently, my schools had Community Day. The entire student body performed community service and learned about some issues affecting our planet today, including climate change. We watched a video that explained what causes climate change and how it affects our planet, both now and in the future. Afterwards, my group made posters about the issue, and some students went outside  and participated in projects like garbage cleanup. Both efforts started up important conversations among my classmates and were small steps in cleaning up climate change. It is important, more now than ever, that we keep those conversations going.

Kids have a right to know what their future will be like, and, most importantly, that they can do something about it. Education can and should go farther and be more in depth. Picking up garbage and conserving energy are important efforts that every individual must do, but kids need to learn about the other piece of the issue: the big corporations and powerful lawmakers who have policies and practices that are harming the climate and who, in some cases, are trying to reverse our progress. Kids need to learn about solutions that influence these powerful corporate and political interests.

If schools provide education about the science and the effects of climate change, as well as tips and ideas on how to become active in the climate change movement, through technology innovation, policy advocacy, or economic influence we can ensure that my generation reaches its potential as powerful leaders and activists. I will be reaching out to the Principal of my school about the possibility of 350NYC doing a presentation, and looking into how climate change and activism can be made a part of kids lives. I urge all parents, teachers, and students reading this to do the same. The slogan for the People’s Climate March was “To change everything, we need everyone” and climate education is a way to share that message.


Climate Change in My Eyes 
by Sonia Zinkin-Meyers

#1 Introduction – December 2017

My name is Sonia Zinkin-Meyers, and I’m twelve years old. I’ll be the writer of this column, along with some of my schoolmates and friends. My column will be focusing on how those with less power-kids like myself as well as adults-can get involved in environmental advocacy and make a big impact. Along the way, I’ll be sharing my own story: the events and projects that I am participating in. For this very first column, I’ll share how I got to where I am right now, and hopefully show everyone how easy and rewarding it is to get involved with the climate change movement.

I first became conscious of the effects of climate change at sleepaway camp in 2016. That summer, there was a long, devastating drought all across New England. The river had slowed to a trickle, and the lake had lost over two feet of water. I brought it up one day, while walking with a counselor and some friends. My counselor said to us, “You should get used to this. This drought is caused by global warming, and it’s too late to do anything about it.” What she said stuck in my head for a long time. It made me really upset, and after a while I decided to do something about it. I was determined to prove her wrong.

At school, I was given the opportunity to learn more about climate change and ways to combat it. We started a project called Kids For a Cause, where everyone in the class got to pick a topic they cared about and write a series of essays on that. I chose a carbon tax, because it was something brand new to me that was directly related to the issue most important to me: climate change. One thing our teacher emphasized was including a call to action in our essays- a couple sentences on how the reader could get involved in that issue. I read about change.org  in a classmate’s essay, and I decided to take my interest in carbon tax a step further. I went home and started a petition on change.org for a New York State carbon tax. You can sign it here. It took me half an hour to write it and send it out to everyone I knew. In the meantime, I had been scouring the internet for petitions to sign, organizations to get involved in. In my searches, I came across 350NYC.

When everyone I knew had signed the petition and sent it to friends, I had to think of other ways to get the word out. I emailed Lyna at 350NYC, asking if they would put my petition on their website or social media. Lyna generously agreed, and also invited me to one of the monthly meetings, where I spoke about my petition. After that, 350NYC was able to inform me and connect to many other opportunities. I appeared in a promotional video for the People’s Climate March and spoke at Next Generation Now, a rally for child activists. I, along with Ajani Stella, another activist, was also interviewed at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. There I expressed my interest in being an environmental journalist, and this column will allow me to do that while spreading my message and hopefully encourage everyone reading this to be an activist too.

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