While some of this younger generation may not yet vote, they’ve had no problem making their voices heard, especially to their governments. In the continued battle against climate change and its impact, health organizations have gone before Congress to discuss air quality and have turned to this younger generation for help.
Such was the case during the October 23 briefing that took place on Capitol Hill before the US House and the Senate. Coming together with youth activists to discuss air quality were The American Lung Association, Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) and National Children’s Campaign.
“Youth all over the world are rising up and using their voices to call for cleaner air, climate action and environmental and climate justice. We need to follow their lead,” Leyla Erk McCurdy, MPhil, CEHN said during the Congressional briefing entitled Clean Air, Climate Change and the Power of Youth.
The aim of these organizations was to bring to light the critical issue of climate change, but more specifically how climate change is affecting the air children breathe. While diminished air quality greatly impacts the entire population, it’s especially concerning for children struggling with lung disease and asthma.
Coming to the table were several youth activists involved in the global fight for climate change. Among them, Lana Weidgenant, a 21-year-old student and activist. When it came to making the topic of climate change more easy to grasp, Weidgenant said, “The youth climate movement has helped change the narrative from polar bears and ice caps to what’s happening to our communities and the air we breathe and water we drink. The stories we’re telling of how climate affects us directly, they’re tangible. They make the conversation accessible to more people.”
Parentology reached out to Weidgenant to ask why it’s vital to lend her voice. “It’s important for us to share our stories because we represent so many other young people who are being, and will be, impacted by the climate crisis.”
Weidgenant realizes she may not be in the most powerful position, but doesn’t find this intimidating. “As young people, we’re largely still in school and don’t hold positions of power for quickly impacting climate, environmental policy and action on these issues. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to work alongside us as young leaders in the youth climate movement and youth issues.”
The voice of youth advocates is being heard, with many believing the youth movement around climate change has given the cause new life.
Children’s Health Environmental Network Deputy Director, Kristie Truesdale tells Parentology, “These incredible students and youth have really galvanized and brought this conversation to the forefront.”
So what’s fueled the youth drive for climate change? As for Weidgenant, she feels the environment is critical to everything. “I realized nobody will ever be the perfect person to lead within a social movement and we can’t afford to wait for the perfect person to come along,” she says for deciding to become involved. ” Action has been delayed on climate and environmental issues for far too long, and this is the defining issue of my generation, which impacts and exacerbates all other social issues we’re passionate about.”