Youth and Climate Justice Initiative

The WNYEA has been working to bring young people together, to provide educational opportunities, and to develop leadership around climate justice. Certainly, of all the injustices associated with climate change, one of the most searing is the impact of climate change on the generation that is coming to age today and their progeny. Young people listen. They know what is going on and how overwhelming it is. They understand the seriousness of the climate change situation and the injustices associated with unequal distribution of wealth and power. They have asked, in a previous session, “where are the grown-ups?” A fair accusation. But we can also ask, where are the spaces for youth to give voice to their concerns and issues? Where are the structures that include youth, especially front line youth, in the climate justice campaign?

Youth and Climate Justice Workshop, 2016

History

In April 2016, a Youth and Climate Justice workshop was organized by members of the Crossroads Collective and the WNYEA, led by the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) and Grassroots Gardens. The open dialogue brought together 70 youth from across Western New York for a discussion on climate justice, climate change, and how it impacts their lives. It was impressive how much many of young people knew about climate change and about the structure of economic injustice or privilege in which many of them lived.

Given the interest and success of that workshop, the WNYEA in 2017 secured a grant from the Overbrook Foundation to run a year-long youth engagement campaign to reach youth across the city with the intent of institutionalizing a structure for continued youth engagement. This was led by Rebekah Williams, Youth Education Coordinator at MAP who has worked so effectively with youth around food issues, including the impact of climate justice on accessibility and viability of food systems. The MAP program has already engaged many young people in climate justice matters by enabling them to attend national events such as the March for Climate in DC this past year. The WNYEA Initiative has provided opportunity for Buffalo youth to attend the UPROSE’s 6th Climate Justice Youth Summit in New York City this summer and work alongside leaders and peers from the Climate Justice Alliance, the Center for Earth Ethics, Million Hoodies, and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. In 2017, the youth participated in the UB Humanities Festival: Environments, where they led and moderated a session featuring the performance of a segment of Ujima Theater’s Free Fred Brown followed by a panel discussion on youth voices in the local climate justice movement. You can learn more about this session by reading feedback from our youth here and watching part of it here.

We believe that young people have the energy, motivation, and passion to not only keep the environment at the top of our regional agenda, but move it forward even further by engaging in community advocacy, driving community participation, and helping to develop creative and innovative solutions to issues new and old. Our intention is to create a structure for continual engagement of young people and their mentors through a select fellowship program, and also through educational opportunities for many young people around climate justice matters. The 2018-19 application for the fellowship is open now for youth ages 16-25 who are currently working with a host organization, community or school group with an environmental, social justice or advocacy mission.  We hope you will join us!! For more information on this initiative and to learn about the opportunities for you, your organization or youth to join, please contact Emily Dyett at emily.dyett@growwny.org.


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