Youth Leading in Climate Action
by Karrie Quirin
“Your task as the young… is to reinvent the universe, the universe made out of stories — to change the stories, to tell them, to bury them, and to give birth to them. A difficult task, but not an impossible one.” – Rebecca Solnit
With the recent news of the US withdrawing from the Paris Accord, many young people are feeling overwhelmed and distraught. However, I wanted to speak to young people today and let them know that hope is not lost. In fact, now is the most important time to take action —and many young people like myself are doing so. To other inspire others, I want to share a few of my personal actions against the climate crisis.
Two groups I am working are doing amazing work. My involvement with SustainUS is through their COP23 Creative Challenge, which gives young people (ages 18-25) the chance to become a youth delegate at the COP23 (Conference of Parties) in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. The Creative Challenge asks youth to submit artistic work, such as a painting, blog, or song that expresses their passion for climate justice. Through two rounds of competition, participants tell their personal story and emphasize the importance of taking action. This opportunity is amazing because it puts youth in the forefront of the climate movement and allows their voices to be heard on the world stage. For the Creative Challenge, I told my personal story about climate change through Climate Stories Project, and also submitted this poem:
Patient Name: Mother Earth
I’m checking for Her vital signs and they are fading.
A fact we’ve known for decades but still are waiting…
Waiting for the forests to regrow.
Waiting for the seas to retreat.
Waiting for the carbon levels to slow.
Waiting for water in this heat.
Waiting and waiting and yet still debating-
If we are the cause or if it’s just how the earth works.
Let me ask you-
Do you blame the victim of an assault?
“She looked too appealing so it’s her fault”
But I guess that’s not considered rape
Even when you claim Her as your own landscape?
Or should she be considered abused?
If you take and take
Until every single last resource is used
But, if this goes unseen is the behavior excused?
- - - - - - -- -- -- - -- - - - - - -
So often we turn a blind eye to those who need us most.
In Her case, like many, the case cannot be easily Diagnosed.
The cure is a challenge.
That will take years to perfect
The cure is a battle.
But for Her we shall fight to protect.
For She was never or ever will be merely an object.
The audio recording of my poem can be heard here. You can see all the submissions from the Creative Challenge here.
Another group I am working with is Earth Guardians. Starting this past April, I became a member of Earth Guardian’s RYSE Youth Council, which stands for Rising Youth for a Sustainable Earth. We are a group of 21 young environmental leaders in our local communities. We work together to support each other and promote national efforts to advance sustainability—a top priority is fostering new youth leaders for climate action. One way we are going to do this is through a summer training for which we will learn communication and leadership skills, which we will then put to use in our own communities. To make this happen, we are have a fundraising campaign which lasts until June 30th. We kindly ask for your support!
I sincerely hope that my experiences inspire other youth to take action against climate change. There are so many ways to get involved and make a difference. The future of our planet is in our hands!