Youth action for Earth Day everyday (Opinion)
When April 22 or Earth Day rolls around each year, it causes many people to reflect on the state of our environment and consider how to protect our planet.
The first Earth Day was initiated when there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, and no Clean Water Act. It was the idea of Senator Gaylord Nelson as a way to bring issues with the environment onto the national agenda. Twenty million Americans demonstrated to protect the environment in different U.S. cities on April 22, 1970.
The overarching environmental issue today is climate change. It has developed into a world wide crisis, affecting everyone in some way. It causes drought, extreme heat, melting ice caps, rising seas, warmer ocean waters, and extreme weather events to name a few. There are serious risks to people and the planet, including endangering human and biological health, causing food insecurity, and jeopardizing homes and livelihoods.
One group that is focusing on climate solutions is Citizens’ Climate Lobby. It is composed of ordinary folks pulling together to make extraordinary differences on climate change. This year, hundreds of CCL chapters across America have been joined by youth, who are deeply concerned about the world they will inherit.
CCL’s Tahoe Youth Action Team has brought together voices of a new generation. As one of over 20 CCL TYAT members, local seventh grader Faith Anderson said, “I was drawn to youth climate action with many of my friends because of the changes I was seeing in Truckee. I have lived here since I was three, and the snow then compared to this winter has drastically changed. This summer is supposed to be a very large drought.”
On why CCL’s Tahoe Youth Action Team is important to her Anderson adds, “The collective action that takes place in this team is amazing to experience. I feel that I am making a difference and I’m not just sitting back and watching it happen. Being involved with the team empowers me to stand up for what I believe in and not take no for an answer when it comes to something I care about.”
Local students on the Citizens’ Climate Tahoe Youth Action Team have taken action to educate people on climate change. They hosted a showing of the movie, ‘I Am Greta’ about Greta Thunberg’s journey as a climate advocate. For last month’s Global Climate Strike, they organized local students to submit art about climate change for an installation in downtown Truckee businesses. Team members also hope the current Earth Day exhibit of Climate Warming Stripes banners at Squaw Valley will help people see the historical impacts of a warming world.
Four of the youth team members have taken their advocacy directly to meetings with members of Congress. One thing they have shared with elected officials is a particular climate solution called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act or H.R. 2023.
“It’s a big solution for the climate problem in the time frame that is needed,” Anderson said.
Leading scientists, economists, and businesses support H.R. 2023 as a key option for federal action because it reduces America’s carbon pollution to net zero by 2050 without burdening America’s citizens. It levels the playing field for clean energy by putting a fee on fossil fuel pollution. The money collected from fossil fuel companies goes to Americans in the form of a monthly “carbon cash back“ payment so that everyone can afford the transition.
There are many things on the list of upcoming actions for CCL’s Tahoe Youth Action Team.
Both the Town of Truckee, as well as South Lake Tahoe have passed resolutions to support the Energy Innovation Act, so it’s a perfect opportunity for the youth team members to present updates on the bill in Congress.
The great thing about young people getting involved in Citizens’ Climate Lobby is they learn how to engage elected leaders in a conversation about solutions. They become civically minded which is a key component of the organization. When people exercise their personal power and use their voices to be heard, it transforms them from spectators to engaged citizens. Youth are increasingly worried about the effects of climate change on their future, so this kind of engagement can make them stronger and give them hope.
The Citizens’ Climate Youth Action Team is learning that the way to build enduring solutions for climate change is to find common values and to welcome everyone as a potential ally in pursuing a clean and prosperous future. They carry on with the intention of Earth Day every day, advocating for a stable climate and they welcome the Tahoe community to join them in collective action.
Faith Anderson is a CCL Tahoe Youth Action Team member and seventh grader at a Truckee school. She likes to ski at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in the winter and go white water rafting and camping with her family in the summer.
Janet Atkinson is the advisor to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Youth Action Team and is a former elementary school teacher. She is inspired by her teenage children to actively seek and share climate solutions.
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