Climate Activists Remain Committed to Transit and Transportation Equity Work following MTS Decision to Halt Elevate 2020 Initiative

San Diego – April 16, 2020 – At today’s MTS meeting, Chair Nathan Fletcher said the MTS initiative “Elevate 2020” would not proceed to the ballot in 2020. 

This is a statement from Bee Mittermiller, SanDiego350 Transportation Committee Chair:

SanDiego350 members are disappointed that the transit initiative has been put on hold given its huge potential for improving San Diego County’s transit system, reducing carbon pollution, and increasing  quality of life for residents. However, we understand the coronavirus pandemic has made this campaign impractical in this time of uncertainty.

We applaud MTS’s actions to protect its drivers and the riders who are critical workers serving the needs of our communities, and for making sure that its essential services are continuing.

We are committed to to keep working with MTS and we encourage MTS to continue their public outreach, which has been extraordinary. 

Amidst this tragic pandemic we can see best practices developing around telecommuting and active transportation. We need to build on those developments in a way to complement building out transit infrastructure. 

Toyota Tainted

Last fall, Toyota took an action that puts them squarely on the side of polluters in the battle for cleaner air. Back in October, Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and others filed a lawsuit defending California’s vehicle emissions standards against an attack by the Trump administration – a case where Toyota might be expected to stand firmly on the side of defending California’s standards. Instead, Toyota sold us out, joining the defendant in attacking our state’s standards.

Toyota talks a pretty good talk when it comes to the environment. Just check out their goals in Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, the first of which is “Reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles by 90 percent from 2010 levels.” And you could say they’ve walked the walk too, with the iconic Prius – the first mass-produced hybrid-electric car, which pioneered mass electrification of passenger cars. 

But at the end of the day, the company has traded clean-air for favor with the Trump administration.

Why focus on Toyota?

Other carmakers besides Toyota took the defendant’s side in EDF’s lawsuit. So why single out Toyota? Because they, in particular, are demonstrating hypocrisy, given their facade of sustainability. And with 14.58% of the U.S. market in the first quarter of this year, they trail only GM and Ford. In addition, Toyota actually had a hand in crafting the California emissions standards!

We must fight Toyota’s stance, tooth and nail. There’s so much at stake – clean air in our lungs, a livable planet.

Assaulting California’s auto emissions standards

The Trump administration attack had come in September 2019, in the form of a rule “blocking California – or any other state – from setting its own standards for fuel economy or greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles”. It was well known that the administration was hell-bent from day one on favoring oil industry profits over clean air. (Just check out this timeline.) In anticipation of an attack, in July 2019, four major automakers reached an agreement with California to voluntarily adhere to its stricter emissions standards, regardless of what steps the federal government took. You’d think Toyota would have been among them, but you’d be wrong. The four companies that chose to protect our planet and our health were Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW.

Origin of California’s special status

California has had the right to set its own, stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles than the federal government’s, dating back to the 1967 Air Quality Act. That’s because California already had emissions standards in place by that time to address dire pollution in Los Angeles. The 1970 Clean Air Act honored that by allowing California to continue to write its own rules – subject to applying for and being granted a waiver by the EPA.

California is treated uniquely in this, due to its particularly severe motor vehicle-related air quality issues. However, under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, any state can choose to follow California’s standards. Significantly, 13 states and the District of Columbia do so choose. Known as the “Section 177″ states, they are primarily in the northeast of the country. 

Importance of California’s special status

As goes California, so goes the rest of the country. That’s because it’s uneconomical for automakers to manufacture cars to two different emissions specifications – one for the 14 states using the California standard and another for the rest of the U.S. using the EPA standard. This makes California’s special status extremely significant in terms of controlling climate pollution and protecting the air that we breathe.

California’s standards have directly resulted in the development of major technological advances to clean vehicle emissions. As a result, in terms of smog-forming pollution, the average new car sold in California – and nationwide – is more than 99 percent cleaner than a car from the 1970s.

 “It’s hard to overstate how important the ability for California to set its standards has been to public health and clean air over the past 40 years,” says Don Anair, deputy director for the clean vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. And in a 2017 article, Wired Magazine’s Alex Davies called the California exemption “one of the most powerful environmental tools in the world.”

Assaulting Federal auto emissions standards

On March 31st, the Trump administration launched a second major assault on auto-emissions standards. In one of the biggest steps the administration has taken to reverse an existing environmental policy, it rolled back federal fuel economy standards established in 2012, under which new vehicle fleets would reach an average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead, that federal goal is now lowered to about 40 miles per gallon. 

This latest attack makes it even more important that we retain our state’s ambitious goals! Let’s leverage COVID-19 downtime to take action.

Hit them where it hurts

The best way to apply pressure is by affecting sales. Dealerships act as critical ‘middlemen’ for the auto industry. In late February, SD350 joined forces with Activist San Diego at a protest at a local Toyota dealership – the Larry H. Miller Toyota dealership in Lemon Grove. This was part of Activist San Diego’s Toyota Loves Trump campaign – a campaign to pressure Toyota to drop its support of the administration in the EDF lawsuit. But with most of us currently sequestered at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, we must take action now through calls, emails, letters, etc. 

What you can do

Please tell Toyota that their behavior is unacceptable by contacting them in any of the following ways: 

  1. Call one or more of the 11 San Diego Toyota dealerships.
  2. Submit a comment to Toyota corporate at Email Toyota (Choose Advertising/Marketing as the Topic on the left side.)
  3. Write to Toyota headquarters:
    Mr. Tetsuo Ogawa, CEO
    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
    P.O. Box 259001
    Plano, TX 75025-9001

Here’s a sample of what you can say:

I’m a resident of XXX, California and am writing/calling to express my outrage at Toyota’s support of the Trump administration in striking down California’s right to have stricter auto-emissions standards than the EPA’s. 

I will not consider buying a Toyota [again] until Toyota Corporation does the following, and I will encourage my family and friends to do likewise:

  1. Drop support of the Trump administration in the lawsuit brought by EDF et al in October 2019.
  2. Publicly support California’s right to have stronger auto emissions standards than the EPA’s.

Our individual actions can add up to make a big difference in protecting our state’s auto emissions standards. Thanks in advance for your action on this issue!

The MTS Initiative: A Teen’s Perspective

My name is Paloma Fallica and I’m a sophomore at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. I also volunteer for SanDiego350, and one of our top priorities at the moment is spreading the word and garnering support for the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group’s Environmental Justice priorities for the 2020 MTS transit initiative “Elevate 2020”. 

Our biggest priorities are connecting Environmental Justice communities to jobs, elevating mass transit, making public transit affordable, convenient and safe, and ensuring San Diego meets its regional climate goals. Vehicle transportation in the City of San Diego is responsible for more than half of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, and this climate crisis cannot be solved if we do not provide an alternate eco friendly mode of transportation by building a transit system. In our eyes, the measure as it stands does not achieve this, which is why we need your help. 

I advocate for the implementation of this improved version of the measure because, as a passionate teenager who isn’t old enough to drive yet and greatly values equity and climate action within our community, these improvements to the public transportation system would be a dream come true. The implementation of Youth Opportunity Passes, or no-cost transit passes, is the most significant proposal; as of now the plan is to provide these passes to anyone 18 and younger, but SDTEWG would like those aged 19-24 to be included so college students can also have access to free public transportation. This will make transit affordable for those who rely on it and encourage other young people to take transit.

Electrifying the MTS bus fleet by deploying zero-emission buses would put San Diego on the path to a fully electric bus fleet by 2030, as state law calls for, yet no funding is included in the current expenditure plan. Along with my help at SanDiego350, I am a leader of a club sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League whose focus is fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in communities. I think that including funds for anti-displacement efforts is crucial so that new transit infrastructure developments near or in vulnerable communities in transit corridors, which are designed to improve transit services for those communities that rely most on public transit, do not displace people or cause gentrification – especially near transit hubs and stations. 

New transit infrastructure developments are expected to take place near or through those to ensure that vulnerable communities near transit corridors are not displaced communities to improve transit services for those communities that rely on public transit more than others.  However, those corridor developments will displace the people who live along those developments and also cause gentrification especially near transit hubs and stations. 

We would also like to see funding earmarked for transit in both the Purple line (proposed) and Blue line (existing) corridors in the expenditure plan to be used for planning, engineering and construction. Ultimately the goal is for these rail lines to connect the region from Tijuana to Kearny Mesa, and serve over 57,000 people. Increased frequency of transit as well as 24-hour service would reduce overcrowding and make stops safer by reducing wait time, making public transit a more viable and appealing option for many. 

Another important addition to the plan is the provision of clean, accessible bathrooms at all major transit stations during their windows of service; this would alleviate worry for transit riders who spend a large portion of time traveling and provide people a place to wash their hands after using public transportation. 

Finally, the inclusion of taxi drivers in the Mobility on Demand process is necessary on the ballot measure as they are a crucial part of transportation and their voices are relevant and meaningful to the process of developing MoD strategies. 

In short, the implementation of SDTEWG’s Environmental Justice priorities would make public transit more equitable and greatly reduce the carbon footprint of San Diego. I hope my letter has persuaded you to become an advocate for the improvement of the MTS Elevate 2020 Ballot Measure. 

Thank you,

Paloma Fallica

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month, Elaine Maltz

Elaine Maltz is the co-leader of State Legislation Committee of the Public Policy Team.

SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Elaine Maltz: I joined SD350 in 2012 when I was working on the Obama campaign and have been pretty active ever since. I’ve volunteered for several activities since joining but finding out about state legislation is the most interesting. I am the original chair of the Legislative Committee. It has only existed for 3 years and has been a constant process of learning and I’m grateful to Joyce and Masada for my on-the-job training. 

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

EM: My friends have told me I’m caring, compassionate and hard-working. They’ve also told me to keep on volunteering for SD350 and they call me to find out what’s happening.

SD350: What success has the legislative team had? 

EM: Anytime one of the bills we have endorsed passes, we consider that a success. This has happened quite often, like SB 100, which commited California to achieving 100% clean energy by 2045. In order to get the results we want, we meet with our state legislators and their staff to promote the bills. We also collaborate with other groups across the state in their efforts to push the legislation.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

EM: I have been an “activist” since I was in high school. I attribute that to my parents. Politics was always part of our family discussion.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you? EM:  My main interest is my extended family. I visit them as much as I can. My grandchildren are seven, eight, and nine which makes them eternally fascinating. I love gardening: the plants, the birds and bees, the wind, sun and rain. I garden at least an hour every day possible. I also enjoy reading and participating in discussions at the two book groups to which I belong.

Cultivating the Youth Leadership Movement

By: Jennifer Phelps, Youth Climate Leadership Program Leader

On Jan. 25th, SanDiego350 launched its kick-off for the Climate Youth Leaders pilot program 2020. Now more than ever, youth are at the frontlines, taking a powerful stand to ensure a sustainable future. Young people have organized some of the most successful climate strikes and environmental movements in the past year, and their numbers are growing. SanDiego350 has created a program to empower youth and harness this energy. The program is geared to train young people on how to organize actions, advocate, and motivate others to join them! 

Goals include:

  • Empower young people to take action on climate
  • Foster leadership skills
  • Provide education on the intersection of social justice and environmental justice issues
  • Create a community of like-minded youth for support and inspiration

This pilot program pairs students with experienced climate activist “coaches,” who will share their expertise throughout the six month program. Clubs also receive the newly published Fight Like a Climate Activist: Handbook and D.I.Y. Roadmap to Environmental Clubs on Campus (produced by SD350), a customized step-by-step guide to mobilize their club to take meaningful and powerful actions. The Handbook features youth leaders in the movement, as inspiration and guidance (“hot tips!”). Designed to offer flexibility, students are encouraged to personalize their approach, depending upon their specific club agenda. 

Upcoming events include: Climate Youth Leaders Summit on April 4 (full-day training, speakers, and interactive exercises), supporting students to hold effective Climate Strikes (April 22), and a celebration dinner in June to conclude the program. 

Contact Jennifer Phelps to get involved.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Max Lebovitz

Max is a monthly meeting coordinator and part of the Member Engagement Team.

SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Max Lebovitz: My fiancé was at a women’s march and signed up for the SD350 newsletter. Knowing that I was looking for volunteer opportunities, she forwarded an email to me that referenced a few open positions at the org. I got in touch with Masada and am now volunteering as the monthly meeting coordinator and as part of the Member Engagement Team (MET). I’ve been working with the organization for half a year. 

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

ML: Motivated, Diligent, Fun.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

ML: I’m well aware of the privilege and advantage I’ve had in my life coming from an educated and supportive family. I’ve been fortunate to earn my higher education, build an incredible network of friends and associates, and work for great companies. That said, I’m also well aware of the catastrophic damage our species is engendering on our world, and I feel that it’s my obligation to use my knowledge and resources to do what I can to mitigate the effects of climate change to ensure future generations can experience the world as our generation has, rather than cleaning up our mess.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you? 

ML: I spend a lot of time outdoors: in the ocean, on a mountain, camping and wherever else I can feel connected to nature. I enjoy yoga and training Aikido. I’m also a sports fanatic from Los Angeles: Go Lakers, Go Dodgers, Go Kings, Go Rams. And I went to Colorado, Boulder, for my bachelor degree (Go Buffs!). Other than that, I’m a big family guy, love to read, and to travel as much as I can; especially down to Mexico.

Candidate Forum – 53rd Congressional District

The event — hosted by San Diego 350, the Sunrise Movement San Diego and six other organizations — gave candidates the opportunity to engage with more than 100 residents and pitch their ideas for reducing the use of fossil fuels, promoting green jobs, and bringing environmental justice to underserved communities.”

There were several areas in which all five candidates were in agreement, such as refusing to accept campaign contributions from fossil-fuel industries and corporate PACs, strengthening environmental protections and supporting the Green New Deal, a wide-ranging resolution aimed at wiping out greenhouse emissions by 2030 while creating new jobs.

However, candidates varied when it came to offering concrete proposals for how they would tackle climate change and other environmental issues.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Toshi Ishihara

Toshi is a SD350 board member and co-chair of the Transportation Committee.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Toshi Ishihara: I participated in the climate march that was organized by SD350 in Sept. 2018. Back then, I just stopped working as a manager at a high tech company because I was so concerned with Climate Change that I could not ignore the inner calling deep in my heart. I became a member of the Public Policy Team in Nov 2018 and since then, I have been an active member of PPT and its transportation committee. I just became a board member this month!

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

TI: Caring, Empowering and Empathetic.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

TI: Since I was a little kid, I was against any sort of discrimination based on race, gender, etc. I became interested in technology when I was in high school, and started studying about renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, and tidal. I wanted to pursue a PhD in renewable energy because I was concerned with the negative impacts on our environment and future by humans’ unstoppable desire for more  energy and electricity. But, back then, the government did not support research on renewable energy and because I needed financial support to pursue a PhD, I changed my focus from renewable energy to Optics and Lasers. However, I was unable to continue ignoring the desire deep down in my heart and I decided to give up my lucrative high tech manager career and spend the rest of my life to help fight Climate Change.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you?

TI:  I gave up my own career and financial security to work to help this world remain livable and enjoyable for future generations and all living species. 

Young People are Turning our Climate Grief into Hope

Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers. (photo links to license).

 

By Peter Sloan

The first week of winter quarter, I was sitting with Erica Ferrer, a doctoral student in Marine Biology at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, in Muir Woods Coffee House. We had met to talk about the dire situation facing life on planet Earth and what we, as graduate students at UC San Diego, could possibly do about it.

Predictably, I heard myself going off on one of my well-rehearsed climate rants. 25 percent of ocean species directly rely on tropical reefs. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 Special Report indicates up to 90 percent of reefs will die at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. We’re headed for 4 degreesby 2100. And so on.

I finished, a bit bluntly, “The oceans are gonna die. In our lifetime. How do people at Scripps feel about that?”

I regretted my aggressive tone as I heard Erica’s voice twist in her reply.

“It’s devastating…”

There were tears in her eyes but she didn’t look away.

“…to watch what you study die.”

“But,” the young scientist was quick to clarify, “not everything in the ocean is going to die. Not everything on land is going to die. Species will move poleward. And some ecosystems will do better than we expect. We call them bright spots.

“Besides,” Erica continued, “as a professor at Scripps told me, when a doctor is talking to a dying patient’s family, they don’t deliver an obituary. They make a plan for care.”

It’s 2019, and the climate conversation has changed.

Young people coming into our political own today recognize that the political elites of previous generations wasted their opportunity to prevent catastrophic global warming, leaving us forever picking up the pieces of a breaking world. But we also know it’s never too late to impact the future.

Young people, especially young women, are leading the climate movement on every front.

Gen-Z’ers are walking out of school on both sides of the Atlantic, led by figures like Greta Thunberg in Sweden, Anna Taylor in the United Kingdom, and Alexandria Villasenor in the United States.

The plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, all under 21 years old at the time of the filing, continue to press their case against the federal government for failing to protect them from catastrophic climate change.

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14th District), the working-class millennial, socialist of color, and youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, has introduced legislation advancing the Green New Deal, a plan to fully phase out fossil fuels from the United States economy by 2030. The plan pulls public support as high as 80 percent and has become an overnight litmus test for 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. Crucial to Ocasio-Cortez’s breakthrough in Congress has been outside pressure from the grassroots, millennial-led Sunrise Movement.

Coming of age under neoliberal capitalism, an ideology that boasts the dubious accomplishments of driving historic inequality and utterly degrading the living world, Millennials and Generation Z have listened to a young lifetime of empty talk about “our children’s future.” But now our voices are leading the conversation. The future has arrived. We are the children.

In Muir Woods that morning, Erica and I mostly talked about our feelings. It hasn’t been easy lately. I told her I was angry. She told me she was bitter. I told her I was depressed. She told me she was too.

We took time to make space for our grief, our fear, even our despair. But we also talked about hope, and how it’s different from optimism.

“Hope,” writes Rebecca Solnit, “is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. … Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”

These days, that spaciousness of uncertainty is so wide, it can feel overwhelming. Events of the coming decade will determine the climate future for countless generations to come. When every minute matters that much, the question of what to do each day feels very heavy.

The only thing that lifts that weight for me is remembering that I’m not alone. On climate, none of us have to do everything, but we all can do more than nothing.

That’s why, as Graduate Student Association (GSA) representatives, Erica and I have founded a GSA Climate Action and Policy Committee, or GSA-CAP (as in, “cap emissions”), which any UCSD graduate student can join. Our mission is to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible.

Undergraduates who want to act on climate can plug into the California Public Interest Research Group’s legislative campaign to decarbonize transportation statewide.

Off campus, San Diego 350 has initiated a nonviolent direct action campaign to “Raise the Alarm” and pressure elected officials to champion the Green New Deal. You can learn more and help plan the actions by attending the kickoff event this Saturday, February 23, in La Jolla.

Every day, more people find their place in the climate movement. Every day, more people find that we can do more than nothing. Every day, more people ask themselves, what can we do next, that we haven’t tried before?

Erica and I finished our coffees and headed over to Scripps. I apologized to my friend as we walked towards the shore.

“I’m sorry, Erica, for the way I was talking to you earlier. You don’t need some guy outside your field ranting at you about how bad things are. I think I just act that way because—”

She finished my sentence for me: “Because you’re hurt.”

I paused and let her words resonate. “I am hurt. And I don’t see that pain acknowledged by a single one of our institutions. It’s 2019 and global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising! It feels like our entire culture is one big act of denial of the things I care about most. It makes me want to scream.”

Erica nodded patiently. “To feel gaslit is a dangerous thing,” she said.

Millennials and Generation Z care too much to stay politically silenced on climate any longer. We are waging the fight of our lives—a fight for the future of life on planet Earth—in our schools and workplaces, in the courts, in the media, in the institutions, in the streets, and in the halls of power. There are tears in our eyes, but we aren’t looking away. We are turning our grief into hope. Our strength, solidarity, and moral authority in this fight are grounded in our shared sense of loss. And that is why I believe that we will win.

Peter Sloan is a PhD student in music and a staff writer for The Triton. This piece is the third part of a series titled Fire Season, which publishes once or twice per quarter. Peter can be contacted at psloan@ucsd.edu.

This piece was first published at The Triton, an independent news source at UC San Diego. Follow The Triton on Twitter and Facebook.  Here’s the original link

Young San Diegans Speak Out About Climate Change

By Stephanie Corkran of SanDiego350, and these six young people of San Diego who were interviewed.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from the children” is a quote attributed to the iconic environmentalist David Brower. Isn’t it time that we listen to what the children have to say? After all, they will be the ones who will inherit an overheated planet with extreme weather events, including intense storms, floods, droughts, and sea level rise.

The big question is: Will the children will have their say in court? Juliana v. U.S. is a constitutional climate lawsuit filed by 21 youths, ages 11 to 22. Since climate change is the overarching issue of our times (and perhaps of all time for our species), Juliana v. U.S. may well become the “trial of the century”.

The Trump administration, along with the fossil fuel companies, have attempted various legal tactics to kill the lawsuit and repeatedly failed. On July 30, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of allowing the case to be heard. The trial was scheduled to start today, October 29th, however, ten days before the Supreme issued a temporary stay in response to a second petition by the government.

The children’s lawsuit asserts that the U.S. government, through its affirmative actions in creating a national energy system that causes climate change, is depriving the youngest generation of the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. In addition, the government has a duty to protect essential public trust resources for future generations.

If successful, the children’s lawsuit would compel our government to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The scale of societal change needed necessitates that our government provides the infrastructure and funding to facilitate a rapid transition to a fossil-free economy.

What Young San Diegans Have to Say About Climate Change

As a volunteer for SanDiego350, I interviewed six young people to discover their views about climate change and the court case. I spoke with Meg, a 23-year-old college student from Rancho Penasquitos and El, a 17-year-old high school student from El Cajon. I also spoke with four younger children: Alex and Max from Escondido (both 12 years), Avery (11 years) from El Cajon, and Danica (10 years) from PB.

For readability, I have grouped their responses under each question I asked of them. Some of their responses were very similar;  these ones I have paraphrased and identified as a  “Consensus” response.

 What do you think of when you hear the words “climate change”?

Consensus: The environment and the weather. How people are polluting by burning oil and the earth is getting hotter.

“That it is getting hotter and the animals are dying, like polar bears dying due to melting ice. I am very sad about the polar bears and the Amazon.” (Alex)

“I think of the plants and animals being harmed by climate change; humans are being selfish.” (El)

 Do you think we (the government /adults) are doing enough to fight climate change?

“No one is doing enough, not even those who believe in climate change.  Not everyone is an activist or needs to be, but everyone needs to do something. Earth Day is not enough.” (El)

“Even worse we are going backward- reforms put in place were wiped out so that more coal and oil could be used.” (Alex)

“I do think of all the people that are trying to help, like my mom who volunteers for SanDiego350. So the lower ranks of people yes, but those in power no.” (Max)

If not – why do you think this is? What are the obstacles?

Consensus: For the people in our government climate change is not the priority. Our government and the world are dominated by corporations. People worldwide are causing climate change but only a small group of people are trying to change it. They cannot do it alone.

 “People get a lot of money from oil; they are not caring about the world but instead how much money they get from selling stuff that pollutes. This worries me.” (Danica)

Human nature and the fact we are driven by greed is a problem.” (Max)

What are some of the things you think we should be doing to fight climate change?

Consensus: Bring back reforms that were reversed and rejoin the Paris Climate Accords.

We need to teach climate change in schools at a young age. Educate.

“Try different angles to get the message out like posting videos on youtube, because a lot of people watch youtube.” (Max)

“Reduce plastic use by using reusable water bottles and have more water refilling stations.  Research the brands you are buying to use your purchasing power to effect change.” (Meg)

“Stop selling oil! Create something that replaces oil that does not pollute (electric vehicles, plant-based biofuel, solar, wind).” (Danica)

Are there things that you are personally doing to address climate change? 

Consensus: My career will be focussed on fighting climate change. I speak the truth to other kids and try to get them involved. When I hear people are misinformed I educate them.

“I told my mom we should not buy plastic, instead we should buy glass containers or use refillable containers for shampoo, etc.” (Danica)

I attend climate marches and rallies. I volunteer with SanDiego350 (Avery has volunteered since she was 7 years old).

What do you want to tell the judge hearing the children’s court case?

“Changing policies are the only way to save the planet and other nations are way ahead of us.” (Meg)

“Try to make people take better care of the earth.” (Avery)

“If the government tells you they are doing enough for climate change tell them to prove it, make them give evidence.” (Danica)

“Please – just look at the facts.” (Max)

Do you feel your rights are being violated by climate change inaction?

“Yes my rights are being violated, as we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction on this planet.  My generation will be the most affected by climate change and we don’t want continued fossil fuel extraction.” (Meg) 

“You are violating my rights because the planet will be worse for me after you die. We need to do this before civilization collapses. I and my family will have to live with this.” (Alex)

“The purpose of government is to protect and serve the people. They are not doing this when they ignore climate change.” (El)

What do you want to tell the kids/plaintiffs who filed this case?

Consensus: You’re my heroes. Thank you for standing up for my rights. In a time when many are apathetic, what you are doing is very powerful.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

“People should get educated. I try whenever possible to spread the message at school” (Meg)

“Government should find climate scientists to guide policy and make sure the public is informed. This needs to be a front and center issue.” (El)

“We need to pass laws to plant trees whenever one is cut down, because they give us air.”  (Alex)

Listen to the Children

The young people who participated in these interviews are well versed in the climate change catastrophe and how it is impacting our planet. They expressed feelings of worry and sadness about their future. As Meg stated, “To be blunt – climate change is the destruction of the earth. This is happening now and nothing is being done about it.”

As an individual, every decision you make going forward needs to further the chance of a livable planet for our grandchildren. On November 6th, we will have the opportunity to vote for leaders who respect the overwhelming evidence of climate science, are willing to use their political capital to transition the country to clean energy and a sustainable future, and to do so at warp speed. Let us heed Avery’s warning: “Humans are causing their own extinction. Do something about it before it is too late!” 

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on October 29, 2018.

About the Author:

Stephanie Corkran, MA, is an anthropologist who works in research at UCSD and a volunteer of SanDiego350. As a Coast Guard veteran, she previously enforced environmental law and responded to oil and hazardous material spills, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She supports a vision of social justice that considers the needs of all life, human and non-human.

 About the Interview Process:

The interviews (by phone or in person) were not transcribed verbatim but main themes were captured. For the younger interviewees there was some communication to ensure I understood what they meant to convey. Sometimes I suggested language substitutions that they agreed to, but the concepts are theirs alone.  I attempted to group related responses together to improve readability.

Note from Meg:

Meg recommends the following books to read: Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward Wilson, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein.