Update: Last August, Parentology shared the following story about Jonah Gottlieb. A month later, we’d find ourselves marching alongside him in Washington, DC on behalf of climate change. We’re always checking in with Jonah to see what he’s up to, so were excited when we received the film clip below.
And now… a glimpse back at Parentology’s first article featuring Jonah Gottlieb.
Today’s youth are raising their voices to encourage climate change awareness. Even louder — their call for action. One of the youth leaders in this effort is Jonah Gottlieb, a 17-year-old environmental activist from Petaluma, California who’s both the Director of Schools for Climate Action (S4CA) and the Executive Director of the National Children’s Campaign.
It’s this latter role that will see Gottlieb come face-to-face with the 2020 presidential candidates during the Children and Youth Presidential Forum at American University on September 20. The topics being broached directly impact young people: the climate crisis, immigration, healthcare, education, LGBTQ+ rights, child welfare, economic security and the foster/adoption system.
While this might seem like a lot for the average high school student, Gottlieb is no stranger to holding people of all ages accountable for their actions. In July, he spoke on behalf of the National Children’s Campaign’s Environmental Initiative, and as part of S4CA at the Zero Hour’s Youth Climate Summit.
“I gave a presentation about how to draft a resolution, work with school boards and meet with your member of congress,” he says simply.
Recently, Gottlieb filled Parentology in on what’s happening on the climate control front and ways to make a difference both there and in other arenas where families are affected.
Pursuing S4CA’s Strategic Goals
It was S4CA where Gottlieb cut his teeth on goals like these. He joined the group after the 2017 wildfires devastated his Northern California community. S4CA’s non-partisan campaign spreads information about climate change to school boards, student councils, and other school support organizations across the country in order to drive home the importance of both climate change reform and youth involvement. The organization has worked with more than 55 school boards and 26 student councils since its inception.
The three main goals of S4CA is to, “Pass resolutions that fall on congress specifically to take action on climate change,” Gottlieb explains. “Specifically define the climate crisis as a generational justice issue that disproportionately affects our generation and subsequent generations. And lastly, prove, expand and implement policies at the local level.”
What this could look like? “Anything from implementing and improving climate curriculum, to switching to electric school buses, to compostable meals at lunch.”
Why Progress Via Adults Has Proven Slow
“Climate change has been politicized way more than it needs to be,” Gottlieb believes. “Seven out of 10 Americans believe we need to take action now on the planet. Among Republicans, it’s six out of 10.” It’s also a generational issue. As Gottlieb notes, “Among my generation, it’s closer to nine out of 10.”
Listening to the recent political debates, and one might think that climate change has been addressed. But where’s the action?
“There’s political cover for every single politician to take action on climate change now,” Gottlieb says. “Whether it’s because we’ve been taking science classes more recently or not, it really shows we know that we’re going to be affected by this more than older generations and other elected officials who are voting on this. We’re going to have to live with the consequences.”
Raising Awareness: Educating Ourselves and the Public
Events like the upcoming Children and Youth Presidential Forum shed light on issues including climate change. Even Gottlieb learned a thing or two at the This is Zero Hour: Youth Climate Summit in July. Hitting his radar: light pollution and algae blooms.
“It was eye-opening,” he says. “Even when power sources are renewable, light pollution problems remain.” Solutions are put forth at these events, as well. “We talked about technology that ensures light is only shining on the places where needed rather than up in the sky, keeping our sky and our earth as unpolluted by light as possible.”
And getting up-close to climate change’s impact didn’t start and stop with his area’s 2017 fires. “After the Youth Summit [in Miami], we went to the beach and saw algae blooms. We never really experience the effects of climate change like that until we see them in person.” It’s through these changes, Gottlieb says, we learn.
Call for Action
In a press release this week, Gottlieb stated some of his intentions for September’s Children and Youth Presidential Forum. “Young people have the most political power of any voting block, even though the majority of us cannot vote,” he said in the statement. “That’s because there are 74 million of us under the age of 18 and every single one of us knows someone who cares about them who can vote.”
He points to hypocritical actions, such as candidates pulling their kids into the spotlight for photo ops while still voting in line with the NRA, big oil, and dark money groups.
Bringing the issues even closer to home, his statement reads, “The Children and Youth Presidential Forum is a great opportunity for the 2020 presidential candidates to demonstrate their commitment to America’s young people by sharing their plans to make children’s issues a top priority and speaking with us directly about the things that most impact us and our future.”
What Gottlieb wants from us? To be inspired.
“Go out and make a difference. Take action in your community and around the country. That’s huge.”