‘Where Hope Lies’ — How Young Organizers Have Taken on the Climate Crisis
I would self-describe as a political pessimist. After the floods in Pakistan, after the heat wave in France, and after the IPCC published its latest report proclaiming “irreversible impacts” on our environment, many around me wept. I just stood there, trying to make myself feel something other than numbness, watching as the world only continued to meet my expectations. I want so badly to be my parents’ hope for the future, but I cannot fulfill that wish through optimism.
So, it might come as a surprise that I took a job as a youth climate organizer for the nonprofit Our Climate. I was met with the usual replies from adults in my life: “Wow, I would have never done something like that when I was your age,” “This is why your generation will fix things!” These comments can be answered with a nod and a smile, but there’s one question I often have trouble answering.
“So why are you doing it?”
Some days the answer seems obvious, I’m doing it because I want a just livable future. Other days, however, the answer feels like a contradiction: how can I fight for a future I don’t entirely believe is possible?
This contradiction could not be more profound in my work which centers around writing and advocating for climate legislation in the MA legislature. In the 2011 legislative session, only 5% of submitted bills passed a lower percentage than all but three other states. In the decade that followed, not enough has changed.
Last year, along with the rest of our priority bills, the Interdisciplinary Climate Education Bill, which aims to equip students with the tools to fight climate change in their communities, died in committee. That failure prompted us to only revise and resubmit the bill. Statistically speaking, the Climate Education Bill is doomed to fail again this session. Yet, we still wrote new and better language. I still spent hours on outreach for lobbying events and hours writing bill testimonies. And I, with my fellow organizers, will still be back next session to do it all over again.
In the youth climate movement, hope and hopelessness exist simultaneously. Despite an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, I still get up every day and continue to fight for our future.
This is where the hope lies.
Tying hope solely to outcomes of climate change is doomed to fail: the facts do not offer a hopeful outlook. But if you need one, look no further than your local youth environmental club to find the parts of humanity that believe in the fight, that believe if only for small moments that we can make things better.
And me? I, too, stand among them. Because the moment I saw my bill, the Interdisciplinary Climate Education Bill, filed with an actual bill number on the state legislature’s website, I knew that a part of me believed.
So, mom and dad, I can’t be your optimist, but just maybe, I still can be your hope.