While the image of a youth activist usually connects directly to an image of the inimitable Greta Thunberg, there are very young, very serious youth activists working in the US. Meet four of them, all from the climate change organization Zero Hour.
Zero Hour has been on the front lines in climate change protest, doing everything from organizing student-run chapters nationally to planning and executing last summer’s This Is Zero Hour: The Youth Climate Summit. Held in Miami, Florida in July 2019, the summit trained over 350 people in climate justice activism.
Here are some of the faces and voices behind this powerful, youth-driven organization.
Andrea Manning, Executive Music Director
According to Andrea, the main issue facing the planet is much larger than climate change. “All of the issues are so interconnected that it would honestly be a disservice to point to just one issue as the most pressing,” Manning explained to Parentology.
Zero Hour’s Getting to the Roots Digital Campaign (especially fitting during this time of isolation and distancing), explores a different issue every week, ranging from racism to capitalism to Islamophobia. “this is so important because there are pressing matters happening at every intersection of life and identity that need to be addressed as we speak, “ Manning says.
Because young would-be activists currently have time, but not mobility, on their hands, Manning has suggestions to get them involved.
“I think we’re all immobilized by the current pandemic and as someone who has done most of their organizing virtually for the past few years, I would definitely say the first step is to figure out the issue you’re interested in addressing.”
Manning adds, “From there, find organizations large and small that address your issue. Then cold email, DM [direct message], or chat with someone who is a part of it and see how you can get involved. The whole world is shifting digital, so there is definitely going to be a space for you somewhere and with the stay-at-home orders, you’ll have no choice but to organize online.”
Khristen Hamilton, Volunteer Management Director
Hamilton has been with Zero Hour about two years. “I first got involved when I worked on the logistics team for our Youth Climate Summit. Since then we have been doing a lot of things including strikes, summits and webinars for our networks,” she tells Parentology.
The current pandemic has Hamilton musing on the connections and comparisons between the COVID-19 epidemic and the climate crisis. “I absolutely see parallels between the climate crisis and the pandemic. COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting black and brown communities more. The coronavirus is affecting disabled communities, the working class and POC [persons of color] more. We see the same thing with the climate crisis where POC, the working class, and people that are disabled are being affected the most from climate change.”
Ultimately, Hamilton would like to see climate change mobilization that’s on par with the pandemic response. “The country has done a lot to try and stop this global health pandemic, but they haven’t addressed the climate crisis with the same urgency.” Why she says this is necessary in relation to the climate crisis, “It will take lives if we do nothing.”
Encouraging other youth to share their voices, Hamilton recommends starting by acting locally. “…it’s better to start organizing locally and try to influence local elections and do local organizing with sister chapters as much as you can.”
Natalie Sweet, Communications Director
Sweet oversees and manages Zero Hour’s external appearance, from press releases to social media channels. She’s in charge of inspiring other young people to go out and get involved, and she’s amazed at the impact.
“I’ve learned Zero Hour has the immense power to educate people on the climate crisis and mobilize the youth behind a cause,” Sweet tells Parentology. “Through our presentations at events such as the Youth Climate March, we educate others on systems of oppression that caused the climate crisis to begin with and how to fight them.“
Currently, Zero Hour and Sweet are hard at work on #Vote4OurFuture, which informs adults about issues that directly impact youth. “For young activists, I strongly encourage you all to get involved with youth organizations such as Zero Hour. As the leaders of the next generation, we have a unique motivation and opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world.”
Nadia Nazar, Co-Executive Director and Art Director
Nazar was just 15 when she became an activist. Now 16, she’s an old hand, having planned and pulled off the Youth Summit last summer in Miami. She led an Artful Activism Workshop at the Summit, saying “I always look at art as a visual tool to bring people together — it’s an easy way to get a message across.”
Climate change is particularly relevant right now, Nazar says. “It’s not just about the environment, it’s about so much more than the environment. It regards healthcare, it regards access to clean air and clean water, it regards immigration and mass migration.”
Nazar’s message for activists stuck at home: “Stay hopeful! I know it can be really frustrating sometimes. Turn your frustration into motivation…one person can do so much.”
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