The passion present within younger generations is understandable, as those in and below their 20s will truly experience the extreme consequences of global warming. Older generations, however, will only experience the beginnings of disaster. As such, the fight against climate change has always been youth-led, with prominent activists like 17-year-old Greta Thunberg spearheading the movement. Around the world, young people are pushing for climate justice in many ways, whether through political activism, clubs and organizations, or something else entirely.
At Berkeley High School (BHS), much of the student body is deeply involved in the climate justice movement, with a number of student-led clubs devoted to the cause. Academic Choice (AC) junior Anya Draves recently started the Zero Waste Club as a way to help people learn how and why we need to reduce waste, as well as to initiate greater sustainable changes in the Berkeley community. Draves explained, “Within the past year or so, my eyes have really been opened to the amount of plastic we use and how much of an impact this has on the climate.” Draves wanted to spread this awareness and use it to make change, which is why she started the Zero Waste Club with co-President Talulla Miller-Ross, also a junior in AC. Right now, Draves and Miller-Ross are also leading an initiative to persuade popular grocery store Berkeley Bowl to switch to compostable produce bags. The teens created a petition and brought it to the Berkeley Bowl manager after receiving hundreds of signatures. Despite the clear community support, they were met with resistance from the Berkeley Bowl administration.
“It’s kind of scary,” Draves shared, when asked about the lack of climate justice passion among adults. Draves explained that many people, when asked about climate change, “are of course going to say ‘yes it’s a problem, we need to address it,’ but then refuse to take any accountability within themselves.” Medina Lam, a junior in AC and co-founder of the BHS Sunrise Movement Hub, expressed a similar sentiment. “A lot of adults are like ‘yeah this is an issue,’ but they aren’t willing to take charge.” Lam explained, “I think that obviously young people are willing to lead these movements because we’re the ones getting left with the aftermath [of global warming] and so it’s a lot more pressing.”
Lam is part of a group of sophomores that started the BHS branch of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led initiative fighting for climate justice and equity. Julia Ebrahimi and Annabelle Davis, both juniors in AC and two of the other co-founders, were in agreement with Lam’s statement. Davis added, “People in general always often assume that someone else is going to take action… until someone else says ‘hey there’s this huge issue, come help us, come join us.’” Lam, Davis, and Ebrahimi believe that the youth are that spark. Ebrahimi explained, “We’re making them realize that there are problems they haven’t addressed yet.” The teens all believe, however, that young people have the power to enact great change even without the direct support of adults. “At the end of the day it’s young people who are forcing the change even if we don’t have the positions,” said Lam. In the future, the BHS Sunrise Hub is planning to collaborate with other activist groups on various community-based initiatives, including outreach to local youth.
Although youth, at BHS and beyond, are truly driving the fight against climate justice, it’s a cause that needs support beyond the barriers of age. Draves addressed everyone when she asserted, “The future of the earth is in your hands, the lives of your children and the lives of their children are all in your hands.” Young people are fighting for our futures, and we need the strength and engagement of our elder generations.
The Zero Waste Club (@bhszerowaste on Instagram) meets on Fridays from 4-5 PM, and the BHS Sunrise Hub (@sunrise.berkeley.high on Instagram) meets on Fridays from 2:30-3:30 PM. Both groups are always excited to host new members!
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