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The Growing Climate Change Youth Movement

When children appear in a court of law it’s often a replay of David and Goliath, especially when those youngsters are up against the federal government for not enforcing climate change measures. In April, 21 teenagers filed a lawsuit suing the U.S. government for just that reason and in a move that surprised the legal world, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon agreed that the lawsuit should go on to the Federal District Court.

Working to lessen the impacts of climate change is very much a battle being waged by our youth; it’s a fight for their own future. In schools, it’s no longer a token mention on Earth Day but a large scale movement encompassing school clubs about climate change and the environment to training teens about activism, and the huge Divest movement on thousands of college campuses all over the world.

For almost a decade there have been growing numbers of movers and shakers and a ground swell of organizations have geared to help our youth effectively battle the climate deniers. Those 21 teen plaintiffs are  represented by Our Children’s Trust, an environmental law nonprofit group which for the last five years has been helping young plaintiffs file climate cases in all 50 states. Their legal platform is based on a youngster’s legal right to a climate recovery campaign. The trust’s website is quite comprehensive and includes their legal successes and an interactive map of their legal campaigns in the United States.

Partnering with Children’s Trust is Equity for Children which addresses a wide range of youth related issues including child neglect and poverty, child rights, health and social policy to name a few. Their bilingual website is easy to navigate. About a year ago Equity for Children launched a program examining how climate change disproportionately affects poor children and developing and disseminating case studies about climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives led by young people between the ages of 10 and 24.

The Alliance for Education has as its mission to  educate teens, which places them at the front and center of the climate change story. They regularly hold live assemblies in schools that offer students options on how they want to be involved, from small lifestyle changes to bigger public agendas. To date, Alliance for Education claims to have reached over two-million teens through their assembly programs and have seen almost 500,000 students take action on climate change. About 4200 have been trained to be climate leaders.

Global Kids is another organization geared towards building young leaders with education and leadership development programs.  Global Kids works with underserved youth to achieve academic excellence, self-actualization and global competency, and empowers them to take action on critical issues facing their communities and our world.

All of these organizations have mastered the art of social media and have produced slick YouTube videos of their actions, not to mention blogs, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The list of organizations actively supporting youngsters has grown:

Kids Korner at Miami Sea Rise teaching Florida youth about the coastal communities at risk.

First Here, Then Everywhere: a blog featuring the experiences of young climate activists who post each month including interviews with the leaders of these groups sharing their insights of why and how they do what they do.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a special kids page on their website that exhorts youngsters to be “Part of the Solution” and to do something about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Information includes learning about technologies that reduce GHGs and actions kids can take to save energy and ways to prepare for and adapt to climate change.

The Divest movement started small in 2011 when just a few Unites States campuses spoke out against their college administration’s investments in fossil fuel companies and pressed them to instead invest in clean energy. Today, the Divest movement is active in 436 institutions world wide whose fossil fuel investments represent about $2.6 trillion in assets. The Students Divest organization  is a very active group that addresses the multiracial climate justice movement.  On America’s east coast alone the following Divest groups have made an impact and have appeared in headlines:

Divest Harvard

Columbia Divestment Group

Divest Seven Sisters

Fossil Free Yale

CUNYDivest

NYU Divest

Columbia Divest 4 CJ

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