It’s a Saturday. Twenty-five young San Diegans have arisen early to attend SD350.org’s Activist Training Workshop. Some animated, some earnest, all very engaged – they’re clumped in small groups talking about what they came for: to learn about climate change activism.
WHY AN ACTIVIST TRAINING WORKSHOP
Juan Ahumada, a twenty-something graduate student and teaching assistant in Communications at SDSU, is a little ahead of the game. He’s already attended an SD350 meeting, and he had this to say about it: “I expected to see more people my age.” He’d asked the local Green Party where he could volunteer. They’d directed him to SD350 as being a climate-change group on the move. Yes, he found, there’s a lot going on here, but where was his generation? Juan really nailed it again when he expressed disappointment that he was the only hispanic and the only one from South Bay.
We at SD350.org share his disappointment. I’m retired and I’ve been attending SD350 meetings for almost two years. I’m continually bewildered that attendance at our meetings reflects my demographic group more than Juan’s. After all, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll experience the effects of climate change. Not only that, California is soon to be a minority-majority state.
It looks as if these imbalances at SD350 could be about to change. Addressing the shortage of young people and minorities involved in the climate-change movement, SD350 sponsored its first Activist Training Workshop. The workshop is intended to be an outreach to the diverse generation now coming of age in our high schools, colleges, and the workforce.
On Saturday, August 16th, at the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement at Liberty Station, 25 young adults took advantage of SD350′s Activist Training Workshop. (Honestly, I’d expected to see maybe a handful, a dozen at best. What a welcome surprise to see such a response!) Representing the concerns of their generation were a variety of ethnicities not found in my generation at SD350 meetings and events. It makes me hopeful to see such a diverse group looking to become active as leaders in our community’s climate-change movement.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS FOUND AT THE WORKSHOP
The youngest workshop participant I interviewed was a high school junior, Amanda Matheson, who belongs to the Environmental Club at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley. Amanda came to our activist workshop expecting to learn how to approach people about becoming active in caring for the environment and how to present a positive message that individuals can do something. She also found value in learning how to introduce herself as an activist by creating a personal story. She’ll be well on her way to making a difference with those skills. Wouldn’t it be great if she could also pass on what she learned to her school’s Environmental Club?
Tyler Patel graduated in Environmental Engineering from UC Merced, where he learned a lot at his lab-assistant job. He’s now looking for jobs in water resources, water treatment or water distribution. In addition, he wants to do work as a volunteer in the environmental movement. Tyler finds it inspiring to attend workshops where he can interact with others who are motivated to become activists. He’s finding opportunities in San Diego, which he likes because this is where he grew up.
Leaving soon for her freshman year at UC Santa Barbara, Sarah Lengua plans to major in Earth Science. Sarah is learning from this workshop what it takes to be a true activist. She looks forward to finding opportunities to become active in the climate-change movement on her university campus. She may discover a 350.org affiliate already exists there, or possibly be instrumental in creating one.
Juan, who noted he’d been a trouble-maker and a ditcher in high school, now directs his energies towards positive action. He seeks out opportunities to use his education — especially speech and debate — for society’s benefit. He sees climate-change action as his opportunity to do this.
I hope Juan, as well as Amanda, Tyler, Sarah and twenty-one others found what they were looking for at SD350′s Activist Training Workshop. I hope they also found out something else: that we were looking for them, too.