As a young kid, I used to think caring about climate change was something those “environmental” people did. I didn’t care much when people told me “the polar bear habitat is disappearing!” From my home in the Bronx, I would think to myself, what do polar bears have to do with me? My mind was focused on other things. I looked around my neighborhood and wondered why my block was filled with large homes and almost all white faces, but just a few blocks away, the streets were densely packed with people of color. I was overwhelmed by the blatant inequality right outside my doorstep. Climate change wasn’t high on my priority list.
Then, as a high school student in 2007, my dad asked if I wanted to go to the first ever Powershift with him. I wasn’t sure what Powershift was, but I decided to humor him and make the trip down to D.C. At Powershift, I heard Van Jones talk about climate change as a social justice issue and young people describe organizing their college campuses. My mind was blown. There was a whole movement of people my age deeply committed to climate justice. From that moment forward, I knew this was my movement.
Flash forward to June 2016 — now — I’m in New Hampshire, months before one of the most historic elections our country has ever faced. Not only is climate action at stake this election, but so are the immediate consequences for thousands of human lives. The rampant racism, xenophobia, and sexism that Donald Trump promotes terrifies me. What terrifies me even more is that people will watch this election season go by, thinking that there’s no way Donald Trump could win — and then he wins.
That’s why I’m here, working with 350 Action in the heat of this election season. We cannot afford to sit this one out. All the candidates, up and down the ballot, need to see that the climate justice movement has political power. They should be confronted by a young person at every single event asking how they will keep fossil fuels in the ground. Not only are we fighting against Trump, we are fighting for candidates that are committed to a rapid, just transition to clean energy. There is no magic wand that will convince these people in power that now is the time to take the climate crisis seriously. No amount of scientific evidence will get them there. It requires you, right now, to take action with us. Your voice, your questions, your disruptions, your vote. Let’s do this.
Becky Wasserman is 350 Action’s statewide organizer for New Hampshire.