Youth and Climate Justice

Published on June 8th, 2019 | by GrowWNYAdmin

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WNY Youth Climate Action Summit 2019

The 3rd annual Western New York Youth Climate Action Summit took place at Buffalo State College last Saturday, June 1st, with over 140 high school students throughout the region in attendance. After an incredible year of youth climate activism around the world, the YCA Summit is an essential event for young people of WNY to learn and connect with other like-minded students who understand the severity of the climate crisis and who want to take immediate action in response to human caused climate change.

The WNY Environmental Alliance Youth & Climate Justice Fellows were invited back by the NYS Master Teachers YCA Summit Committee to facilitate a workshop entitled “Advocating to Authority” for the second year. Youth Fellows opened the event with a panel discussion, where they responded to questions regarding their work in climate justice and some of their successes and challenges as youth advocates. In their afternoon workshop, Youth Fellows trained 25 student participants on how to develop an effective “elevator pitch” or brief speech in order to confidently communicate to authority figures when seeking support on a climate issue they care about. Other workshop topics included climate policy and carbon pricing, food waste, advocacy through art, developing your own climate resolution, how to use data as an advocacy tool and many more.

In addition to the workshops, three keynote speakers were invited to speak to the students throughout the day to address different perspectives on climate change. David Arquette from the Haundenosaunee Environmental Task Force welcomed everyone with a Thanksgiving address to honor and give gratitude to all things, living and non-living, on our Mother Earth. This ritual of the Haundenosaunee people connected the students to the sacred relationship between the Natives and the land. Professor of geography from Buffalo State College in the Department of Geography and Planning, Dr. Stephen Vermette, was invited to give an overview of how our weather patterns give insight to the level of climate resiliency here in Buffalo and throughout the WNY region. Lastly, an inspiring young lady from the youth-led movement Zero Hour, Elsa Mengistu, who is the Director of Partnerships for the organization, came to speak to the students about her work and took the time to listen to the audience and how they work for the climate in their own communities.

Students were engaged not only in the workshops and by guest speakers, but also given the opportunity to create their own climate action plans for their town, community or school. This activity not only allows space for agency around specific issues they want to address, but also real-world experience in developing a program, resolution or plan to carry out after the event is over. The students now have additional resources and a network of support available to them to help execute their action plan.

We are grateful the WNY Environmental Alliance Youth & Climate Justice Fellows have participated again in this year’s WNY Youth Climate Action Summit and hopefully serve as inspiration for the young climate leaders of our region. Thank you again to the NYS Master Teachers who organize this unique and inspiring event and we look forward to the YCA Summit in 2020!  

Below are comments from some of the Youth Fellows about their summit: experience:

“I had a fun experience at the YCA summit. I did it three times now and it’s always a pleasure to learn about issues of climate change, network with other youth around the WNY area and also learn from each other. As a youth fellow I contributed by sharing my knowledge with other youth at the YCA summit and it felt great!” – Ingabire Adam

“This year was the 3rd WNY YCA Summit I have attended, and 2 out of the 3 I have had the opportunity to run workshops. I have gained so much experience in facilitating and networking, and I have been inspired to do more. It was amazing to see all of the youth leaders working for the same passion. Organized events like these are so important for this movement and I am extremely thankful for this summit where my interest in advocacy sprouted.” – Skylar Moffett

“My experience at the YCA Summit was really great. The workshop I was in taught me a lot about the climate and how we are affecting it. Seeing other youth learn and teaching about ways I fight climate change influenced me the most. It made me think that we still have hope.” -Nina Adam

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