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Young climate leaders just told a House committee to get its act together

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Melody Zhang’s fascination with the environment, “God’s creation,” began when she was a kid and uttered her first words in Chinese: 出去, which means “Go outside.”

Zhang, the climate justice campaign coordinator for Sojourners (a faith-based social justice magazine) and the co-chair for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, read this anecdote as part of her testimony in front of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on Thursday morning.

The congressional hearing wasn’t a typical one. In its first-ever hearing, the brand-new committee listened to the voices of young people who are urging policymakers to take action on climate change.

Along with Zhang, three other young leaders gave brief testimonies about their experiences with climate change: Aji Piper, one of the 21 plaintiffs in the youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States; Chris Suggs, a student activist from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Lindsay Cooper, a political analyst for the Louisiana governor’s office.

18-year-old Suggs grew up in North Carolina, which experienced severe flooding during Hurricane Florence last year. The saddest thing about recurring weather disasters, Suggs said, is that they affect the communities that have already been hit the hardest by all of society’s other problems.

“You have poor, rural communities that are completely underwater or get cut off from their access to food, hospitals, and medical supplies,” he said in his testimony. “Climate change is an extra kick to communities and populations that are already down.”

After hearing the witnesses’ stories, the committee chair, Democrat Kathy Castor of Florida, asked, “Where do you find hope and optimism in the face of such a daunting problem?”

Zhang said she is energized by the creativity and joy that young people bring to the climate movement. She pointed to last month’s Youth Climate Strike, where students at tens of thousands of schools around the world took the streets to demand that leaders act on climate change.

“This level of engagement and activism is one of the best things I have seen in my many years of beating my head against the wall on this issue,” said Representative Jared Huffman from California, a Democrat who joined the Youth Climate Strike.

While most committee members found the youth’s testimonies compelling, Gary Palmer of Alabama and some other Republican representatives expressed an, um, different viewpoint.

“The fundamental principle in addressing these issues is that you have to fundamentally define the problem,” Palmer said. “If you don’t properly define the problem, then the solutions you come up with are generally going to be off the mark.” (He also disparaged the “emphasis on anthropomorphic impact.” Last time we checked the dictionary, “anthropomorphic” means having human-like characteristics. Don’t you mean “anthropogenic,” Mr. Palmer?)

First-time representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, rebuked Palmer’s argument. “I don’t know that this committee needs to necessarily define the problem,” he said. “The scientists and experts [already] defined the problem for us.”

Since he took office three months ago, Neguse said, every meeting he’s had with young people has been about the environment. While he’s worried about the future his 7-month-year-old daughter might inherit, he was reassured by the capable young people in the room. “When my daughter is my age,” he said, “you all will be the leaders running for office, and I have no doubt that given the reality [now], we will truly make progress in this important issue.”

At the end of her testimony, Zhang made one final plea. “As political leaders, especially ones of faith, I implore you to respond faithfully and with full force to love God and neighbor by enacting just, compassionate, and transformative climate policies which rise to the challenge of the climate crisis. That is my prayer for you.”

Originally posted here – 

Young climate leaders just told a House committee to get its act together

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Students share motivations ahead of Youth Climate Strike

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Young people around the globe are gearing up for the International Youth Climate Strike on Friday, March 15. Students at tens of thousands of schools are expected to leave their classes and take the streets to demand world leaders act on climate change.

The global movement started last year when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, began a solo protest calling for climate change action by holding up handmade signs outside her country’s Parliament every Friday. Thunberg’s actions sparked the hashtag #FridaysForFuture — now a worldwide youth climate movement.

Following last month’s massive youth walkouts in Europe, the March 15 Youth Climate Strike will now bring the school-based environmental action stateside. According to the U.S. website for the strike, the students’ demands include a Green New Deal that will prioritize communities most impacted by climate change, a 100 percent renewable energy target by 2030, and comprehensive education on the impacts of climate change.

“It’s important to talk about what climate change does to marginalized communities, and what it could do to your community,” said Isra Hirsi, one of the U.S. co-leaders of the walkout who also happens to be the 16-year-old daughter of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “I think that’s a really great way to get more people involved.”

As united as Friday’s protests will be in their call for meaningful climate action, the reasons young people have for participating are also grounded in their regions’ unique climate concerns. Grist reached out to Youth Climate Strike organizers around the country to get a sense on why they’re participating and how climate change is impacting their communities.

The following quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Image courtesy of Aditi Narayanan

Aditi Narayanan, 16 – Phoenix, AZ

I have seen the impact of climate change on my community members, such as extreme heat and lack of trees in urban, more low-income, majority-POC areas in South Phoenix. Extreme heat, lack of water, the use of solar energy, and fracking are all huge issues on the Arizona state legislature’s plate right now.

Solar energy is one I care about most, as Arizona is so capable of using solar energy, but big energy companies are disincentivizing consumers from using solar, and in turn promoting fossil fuels. [Adults here] have had mixed responses, but, disregarding some not-so-nice online comments, most have been nothing but supportive.

Chelsea Li, 18Seattle, WA

Here in North Seattle, we definitely are more concerned about the issue compared to other parts of the country. But it’s kind of ironic — we have a fairly privileged perspective. Even though we emit the most greenhouse gases with our lifestyles, we’re not the ones who are most impacted compared to people living on islands that are going to flood or need to be relocated, or climate refugees. I feel like, even though — our community, even in Seattle, does care about the issue, the amount of caring doesn’t match the amount it’s talked about.

Climate change will be brought up in classes, of course, but outside of that, no — it’s weird, to me it’s such a pressing issue! Why isn’t everyone talking about it all the time? I don’t feel like it’s talked about that much. Not only at my school, but outside of that in the greater community either.

Image courtesy of Athena Fain

Athena Fain, 15 – Seattle, WA

These past couple weeks have been spent going to a lot of club meetings, trying to spread the word [about the strike] at my school. I want the strike to be a diverse movement because marginalized people get left out of climate movement, so I’ve been going to the Black Student Union, the Human Rights Club, the Gay-Straight Alliance, and telling them about it.

For me, it’s not just me trying to protect my future, it’s trying to protect my [present]. I’ve been doing climate activism for five years. People in government and people who have power in society, they’re not taking the proper actions. I care about the environment and nature and I love the world around me but the biggest thing I care about is humans. I want us not only to be able to survive but to prosper. If we allow this to continue, that won’t be an option.

Nadja Goldberg, 15 – San Francisco, CA

(Goldberg was one of the students who gathered to ask California Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. She and the group will be marching from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to Feinstein’s office. She says students plan to put sticky notes on either the politicians’ doors or the doors of the building.)

We were there with a small group of people on a Friday, and now we are coming back with thousands. I hope.

Image courtesy of Virginia Gaffney

Virginia Gaffney, 19 – Austin, TX

Texas summers have been getting progressively warmer every year for longer than my entire lifetime. It’s getting to the point where we’re breaking 110, 115 degrees F during the day. We’re going way too long without rain so everything is evaporating, but then it gets caught in the coastal winds because Texas has a significant coastline. It’s all being pushed away. So there are areas that are getting flooded and areas that have been in a drought for a decade.

Texas covers just about every major biome. We have Hill Country, coastal plains, forest, desert, marshland. Because of that [climatic] divide and [with half the state] getting too much rain and the other no rain at all, Texas faces the unique problem of not being able to make any direct action at the legislative level so far because when you tell the Eastern half we need to do something about the drought, they say, ‘What drought?’ And when you tell the Western half of the state, ‘Hey, we need to do something about the flooding, they say, ‘What flooding.’

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Melissa Patterson, 20, Portland, OR

For some students, leaving school for one day is a very taxing ask, so there are some concerns about unexcused absences during the walkout — although, that is what makes the event so powerful. This is a global movement encouraging young people to advocate for a safe future, so in perspective, many young people are eager to miss a day of school to participate. Portland Community College has been receptive to the idea, and local high schools have also been generally cooperative in allowing us to promote the strike.

It has been challenging to get this movement the momentum it deserves in the U.S. In other countries, it has really taken off. Considering the enormous role our country plays in climate change, the success of this event and future events involved with this movement is vital to the future of young generations.

Image courtesy of Shania Hurtado

Shania Hurtado, 16 – Houston, TX

I live in Houston and recently, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated our city. It was a time when my family and my friends were in a state of fear. It was terrible. This is truly why I’m striking. It’s why I’m organizing the strike. It’s something that affects me personally and we have the power to prevent and we should do something about it.

Climate very rarely comes up in the classroom. It’s come up on occasion. Ninety-nine percent of the research I’ve done on climate change, I’ve done on my own. The school system was very lacking. If schools were involved in teaching climate change then we wouldn’t have this doubt and we wouldn’t have this negligence we have today. That’s one of the biggest parts. Education is power.

With that being said, Texas is strong. We are all so very passionate. Especially because Texas has so much oil and gas, it’s important that we acknowledge this. We really believe that we can make this change as long as our voices are united in one single front.

Gudrun Campbell. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Stark.

Gudrun Campbell, 11 – Charlottesville, VA

I’m choosing to participate because time is running out. We have 11 years to save our planet, and it’s the only planet we have. We cannot spend precious time, of which we have too little, in silence. We must fight for our futures if others will not.

The main local issues are stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline and divesting from fossil fuels. I think stopping the pipelines is important because it’s a way to combat the fossil fuel industry at a more local level and in an achievable and impactful way. The pipelines have also raised issues of environmental racism.

My parents have been pretty supportive from the start. I think I first started getting into environmental activism when my teacher showed us a video of Greta Thunberg giving a speech. She told a room full of adults that they were acting like children. When I got home I showed the video to my parents, and a few weeks later, my mom showed me an article about Alexandria Villaseñor and the school strike, and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

Sabirah Mahmud

Sabirah Mahmud, 16 – Philadelphia, PA

“It’s really important for every single student in America to have their voice heard. [There are] definitely barriers. People tell us that we can’t change climate change because we’re just kids. Of course, we know we can’t vote but we still have a voice. We still have the ability to stand up for something. We need to stand up for our right to protect our future, and I’m just baffled. It’s often very discouraging.

The strike isn’t just an opportunity to leave school or to walk out, it’s an opportunity to make change. All my life I’ve been asked, ‘What are you going to do in the future? What are you gonna do when you grow up?’ I can’t really think about the future with all this. It’s really ironic. That’s why it’s really important for this to happen, not only just Philadelphia but everywhere. Because we are the young people, the next generation and we need to take action now.”

Image courtesy of Kendall Greene

Kendall Greene, 17 – Atlanta

I’m striking for my future, for the air that I breathe, for the land that my grandparents have been living on, and for the land that my children, I hope, can live on.

I’m really passionate about food and food justice and specifically how marginalized communities are impacted by food and food scarcity and food security (and lack of food security). Just thinking about farmers in Georgia and how they recently dealt with a drought last year and the year before with peaches and pecans. I just don’t know what that looks like long term for farmers and people that rely on that mode of work, being in the South, being in Georgia. I’m really passionate about a lot of the organic farms here and locally-owned farms. I prefer to get my food from farmers markets, and I’m worried about how they’ll be impacted if climate catastrophe is on the way.

The adults in my life have been supportive [of my striking]. My mom has been really supportive. We’re about to go to a talk at a church about the morality of climate change tonight. At my school, they’ve been incredibly supportive — one of my teachers actually introduced this movement to me. I’m the leader of our sustainability group, “The Green Team,” and they’re hosting their own strike during lunch. But I want to connect the whole city of Atlanta at the Capitol.

Additional reporting by Eve Andrews,  Justine Calma, Teresa Chin, Eric Holthaus, Nathanael Johnson, Naveena Sadasivam, Zoe Sayler, Nikhil Swaminathan, and Claire Thompson.

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Students share motivations ahead of Youth Climate Strike

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Economic uncertainty already hung over the heads of Puerto Rico’s children. Then came Maria.

More than a year has passed since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, but Bethlyn Avilez and her family are still grappling with the irrevocable upheaval. Avilez lives in the central Puerto Rican municipality of Ciales with her husband and her two young boys, 9-year-old Xarquier and 4-year-old Xanier.

After the storm’s 155 mph winds and intense rainfall had torn through the island, causing a nearby bridge to collapse and a nearby river to rise, the family swam to a neighbor’s house. When the swollen river completely submerged their home, Xarquier intently watched the drastic devastation unfold from his neighbor’s window.

“He saw his things floating — his toys, his clothes, everything,” Avilez told Grist in her native Spanish. When the family finally trekked to its home two days after the storm had passed, Xarquier grasped the full scope of the wreckage.

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“He told me all he felt was sadness — that he’d lost everything, that things weren’t the same,” Avilez added.

That sentiment hangs over the Avilez family today. A new normal has yet to arrive. Avilez estimates it took three to four months for Xarquier to return to school — and finding supplies and clothes was a struggle since many stores were either closed or inaccessible. The family is still living in Avilez’s parents house while its works on finding a new home to start from scratch.

As part of the “Maria Generation,” stories like that of Avilez’s children are not unique. Long before the hurricane, economic uncertainty had shaped the experience of Puerto Rican youth: The territory already had the highest percentage of childhood poverty in the nation, at 57 percent. (Compare that to slightly more than 15 percent nationwide.)

Now, preliminary findings from a study out this week reveal that increased economic hardship following Maria, coupled with inadequate access to health and education, is further affecting the wellbeing and development of young people.

The study involved interviews with more than 700 Puerto Rican households with children under 18 years of age between July and September of 2018. Researchers used a three-pronged approach: looking at the extent to which economics, health, and education had levied deep-seeded impacts on children.

The findings are pretty grim. Following Maria’s onslaught on the island, about a third of households surveyed had reduced incomes due to loss of employment and reduced work hours. Low-income families suffered disproportionately by this erosion of income. According to the study, they reported difficulty paying utilities, buying food, and clothing.

Children, especially impoverished youth, are struggling in Maria’s wake. The study reveals that 44 percent of minors exhibited new behaviors after the hurricane — with 23 percent of that group experiencing anxiety. Children under 5 years old went an average of 92 days without attending preschool, while children between 5 and 17 years old are estimated to have spent an average of 78 days away from school. Further, 3 out of 10 children with disabilities that require medication for treatment had difficulty obtaining it after the hurricane.

“This study shows that families with children, who were facing significant challenges before the hurricane, are facing even more bleak conditions today,” said Anitza Cox, director of analysis and social policy at Estudios Técnicos, the firm that helped administer the survey. “This type of economic insecurity is what has led to families leaving in droves over the last decade, and what will continue to drive it if comprehensive policies are not put into place immediately.”

Indeed, more than 30 percent of households surveyed indicated that they are very likely or likely to move due to Hurricane Maria. In Florida alone, 200,000 Puerto Ricans arrived within the first two months after the storm made landfall.

Avilez considered being part of the subsequent mass migration, but ultimately felt that she needed to face this newfound reality head-on.

“If I had left, I’d be running away,” she told Grist. “I wanted to be brave. And so, we started over.”

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Economic uncertainty already hung over the heads of Puerto Rico’s children. Then came Maria.

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No vote, no problem. Young people think outside the ballot box.

Zi Chua spent much of her summer vacation knocking on doors and asking New Yorkers to vote for candidates she believed would take the strongest action on climate change. When she wasn’t trying to get out the vote, she was busy holding elected officials accountable — as in early August, when she helped plan a morning sit-in at Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office.

Chua and other youth organizers hoped to pressure the New York State governor to disavow contributions to his gubernatorial re-election campaign from oil, gas, and coal interests. Cuomo had opted out of taking a pledge to refuse donations from the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists.

When police arrested eight demonstrators under the age of 25 at Cuomo’s Manhattan office, some wore T-shirts with the words “Who says youth don’t vote?” emblazoned on the back. It was a warning to politicians that the country’s youth are raising their voices.

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In past elections, however, the youth turnout has been lackluster. In 2016, fewer than 40 percent of 18 and 19 year olds nationwide voted (according to data from from the youth civic engagement initiative, YVote). For comparison, 55 percent of all eligible voters cast ballots. In the 2014, midterms, just 14 percent of these young people made it to the polls — versus slightly more than 35 percent of the entire electorate, the lowest overall turnout since World War II.

Today, young people have the potential to wield increasingly significant electoral power. When the next presidential election comes around in 2020, millennials and members of following generation, Generation Z, are expected to make up 40 percent of the U.S. population. In just the next two years, 22 million potential voters will become eligible to cast a ballot.

Members of Sunrise Movement, a youth-led group dedicated to getting fossil fuel money out of politics, hold a sit-in at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office.


Justine Calma

Chua, who is 20, most likely won’t be one of those voters. The college sophomore grew up in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and moved to Boston to attend Wellesley College. But she’s among a growing youth movement that cares so much about the climate that it’s working to influence elections. And even if individual members can’t vote themselves, they want those who can to know how their actions will impact the world that youth will inherit.

Take 19-year-old Christian Acevedo, who was born and raised in Miami. He credits his increased passion to take on climate change this election season to Hurricane Maria, which ravaged his father’s native Puerto Rico almost exactly one year ago this month. He recently pledged to become a climate voter through an initiative led by Generation Progress, the youth-engagement effort of the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, and the climate-focused multimedia campaign The Years Project.

“It was like someone lit a fire under me, and I just really wanted to get out there and be engaged,” Acevedo said.

While a handful of young activists occupied the lobby of the skyscraper where Andrew Cuomo’s office is located, Zi Chua rallied dozens of others gathered outside. The youthful crowd carried signs that bore slogans like, “Lose our trust, lose our vote.”

The protesters had begun gathering at 10:30 that morning at the Midtown building. After an hour of chanting slogans like, “Whose side are you on?” Chua began to worry about the group’s ability to keep its energy up — especially with its peers risking being arrested inside.

A young activist is arrested and removed from Governor Cuomo’s New York City office during an August sit-in.  Justine Calma

“I think everyone is getting tired,” she told me. “They need to keep it up because they’re still sitting in, and we need to support them.”

Fewer than 10 minutes later, police began arresting the activists inside as Chua and others encouraged the crowd outside to raise their voices. As the demonstration came to an end, those who organized the event invited participants to join them the following day to phone bank for Cuomo’s rival in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Cynthia Nixon. (Six weeks later, Cuomo would fend off Nixon’s challenge.)

Chua and the demonstrators that August morning are members of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led effort to organize against politicians backed by big oil in the hopes of electing leaders it believes will stand up for the planet and the people most impacted by climate change. Throughout the summer and fall, Sunrise placed 70 fellows from across the country in key voting districts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, New York, and Minnesota. During its “Sunrise Semester,” fellows have been charged with waging what the group calls a “massive youth intervention in the 2018 midterm elections.”

Sunrise isn’t the only youth-led group pushing for a green wave this election season. Rachel Lee is a 15-year-old high school sophomore from the New York City suburb of Closter, New Jersey. She heads up the New York chapter of Zero Hour. The group organized youth climate marches across the United States this summer, and Lee has been tasked with keeping the movement going through this upcoming school year.

Ahead of Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco earlier this month, Lee schlepped into the city on a school night to help lead a march on climate intervention, green jobs, and bringing awareness to environmental injustice.

“With homework, project assignments, and stuff like that, it’s hard to find time,” Lee said, adding she had a history essay due at midnight. But she was more concerned about the future of the planet.

“Priorities,” she said jokingly. “If you’re passionate enough about climate change then you’ll do anything to come here.”

Nationwide, Zero Hour chapters are calling for the divestment of public and private funds from fossil fuels and big agriculture, a transition to 100 percent renewable energy 2040 (that doesn’t leave vulnerable communities behind), and a complete halt to the development of all new pipeline projects and oil and gas infrastructure. Lee and New York Zero Hour members are also hoping to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would accelerate the state’s commitment to ditching dirty energy.

Sylvana Widman is another high schooler hoping young people can push that legislation through the New York State Assembly this winter. The 16-year-old is the chair of another student organization, the Youth Progressive Policy Group, which lobbies the state’s legislative body. Its primary focus is supporting a bill to lower the legal voting age to 17, and the group is already working on a voter registration drive and setting up booths in high schools to get young voters engaged.

Thanks largely to Widman’s leadership, the group also decided to take on environmental issues. It’s gearing up to fight for the Climate and Community Protection Act this winter. When it comes to balancing high school and changing the world one election at a time, Widman told Grist, “It’s kind of overwhelming but, you know, climate justice doesn’t stop for anyone.”

That sense of working towards something bigger than themselves is what weaves each young leader’s actions into a movement that legislators will have to reckon with this fall. It’s what motivated Chua with Sunrise Semester to spend three hours each day attempting to reach up to 100 voters in roughly 70 homes within her assigned “turf.”

Zi Chua (center) and other members of Sunrise Movement rally protesters outside Andrew Cuomo’s office in August.


Justine Calma

It’s not glamorous work. Sometimes she had doors slammed in her face. “You woke me up for this?” she recalls one resident telling her.

But she was determined to get voters thinking about the impact they can have on the planet where we all live.

That’s why she feels she has a stake in this election, too. As the the second-biggest carbon emitter, the U.S. is currently behind only China in contributing toward our warming climate. And the rising global temperatures that Americans are helping to fuel are threatening access to food and clean water in Chua’s home country of Malaysia.

“Their individual decisions as voters affect the rest of the world,” Chua said. “I’m part of the rest of the world.”

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No vote, no problem. Young people think outside the ballot box.

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Meet the young refugee behind Zero Hour’s climate platform

Standing on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a rainy Saturday morning, 20-year-old Kibiriti Majuto tells me there’s something he doesn’t understand. He gestures to the U.S. Capitol building looming tall in the distance, and asks: If the vast majority of scientists believe in climate change, then why is the government not taking action?

Behind him, a crowd of young people wear shirts with slogans like “Choose a cooler world” and hold up hand-drawn signs that read “Youth for climate action now.” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an indigenous hip-hop artist, raps in the background, “Fight for the cause, die for the dream.”

When the group begins to march, Majuto’s near the front. Megaphone in hand, rain pouring down, he leads a chant, shouting, “What time is it?” The crowd, headed toward the Capitol, yells back, “Zero Hour!”

This is the Zero Hour climate march, a movement led by POC youth.

Majuto is the main author of the Zero Hour platform, the core set of the marchers’ demands. Hundreds of people — many of them young — braved the weather to attend the national march, while others gathered for sister marches all around the country. These Gen-Zers want action on climate change, and they want it now.

Founded by 16-year-old Jamie Margolin last summer, Zero Hour has been picking up steam, sorting out march logistics, and getting big-name environmental partners on board– all while trying to get their schoolwork done.

On the eve of the march, I spoke with Majuto about his experiences as a youth climate organizer. He’s part of Earth Guardians, an international group of young climate activists who Margolin reached out to for help. Six months ago, he stepped up.

Majuto is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His family fled to escape conflict, first for South Africa. He eventually found himself in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he attends Piedmont Virginia Community College.

He came to the U.S. in 2012, flying over the Statue of Liberty into JFK airport. In some ways, America was as he imagined. What he didn’t expect to see was so much poverty. He recalls a trip to Baltimore, about a year after he moved to the U.S., where he was shocked to see a lot of poor people, many of them black. This didn’t fit with his utopian image of America. “What went wrong?” he thought to himself.

To answer that question, Majuto read up on American history. His takeaway: The U.S. tends to address the needs of middle-class families, not people in poverty. That’s an issue he’s trying to address in the Zero Hour platform. He asks, “Who’s the most impacted? How do we start at the bottom and go up?”

The platform demands include the sort of things you’d expect: slashing greenhouse gas emissions, investing in mass transit, transitioning from fossil fuels, and fining polluters. But, per the bottom-up framework, Zero Hour goes much further.

For instance, just having a good mass transit system isn’t enough: The group says it needs to be accessible for people with disabilities. The transition away from fossil fuels needs to incorporate racial justice and workers rights. As for those pollution fines? They say some of the cash should go toward helping communities adapt to a warming world.

To talk about climate change, they believe, you need to address systems of oppression too.

“We experience climate change differently based on our class, race, and gender,” Majuto tells me. “Those that are well-off have a tendency to live where they can breathe fresh air and don’t have to worry about a pipeline and fossil fuel infrastructure being built in their communities.”

While adults might laud these efforts, the young people doing the work are actually kinda pissed. Adults have dropped the ball on climate change, Majuto says: “It’s not my job, or other young people’s in Zero Hour, to tell politicians who are literally civil servants it’s their job to be doing all this work.”

But they’re organizing and marching anyway, because they feel like there’s no other choice. Majuto says that he and his peers are simply trying to ensure that they can grow up and live as human beings.

“If we keep destroying our planet,” he explains, “we might not even have a future.”

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Meet the young refugee behind Zero Hour’s climate platform

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FEMA had a totally inadequate plan for dealing with Hurricane Maria.

Rick Scott, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2011, hasn’t done much to protect his state against the effects of climate change — even though it’s being threatened by sea-level rise.

On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself. The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

18-year-old Delaney Reynolds, a member of this year’s Grist 50 list, helped launch the lawsuit. She’s been a climate activist since the age of 14, when she started a youth-oriented activism nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project. “No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have a vote, you have a voice in your government,” she says.

Reynolds and the other seven plaintiffs are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system.

This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States. Juliana v. United States, which was filed by 21 young plaintiffs in Oregon in 2015, just got confirmed for a trial date in October this year.

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FEMA had a totally inadequate plan for dealing with Hurricane Maria.

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Teens are marching for justice around the world. Next up: Climate change.

Producing artificial snow used to be a desperate move taken by ski areas within striking distance of surfing beaches. Now, the practice is commonplace, even high in the Rocky Mountains and the Alps.

As a headline in Powder Magazine read last year, “Like It or Not, Snowmaking Is the Future.”

Utah’s Alta ski area has doubled its snowmaking capacity in the last decade. To make sure all those big machines and water pipes don’t detract too much from the scenery, they’re painted to blend in with the background, according to a dispatch from Wired. At Snowbird, also in Utah, each snow gun has its own weather station, allowing the machines to start, stop, and adjust water flow all on their own.

California’s Squaw Valley spent $10 million on machines that automatically change their water pressure and amount several times a second. Heavenly Ski Resort, at Lake Tahoe, can cover 3,500 acres with fake snow.

All these machines run on electricity, which comes from the still-mostly-fossil-fueled grid. That means making fake snow increases the rate of The Great Melt, which in turn creates demand for … more snow machines. There’s a self-perpetuating cycle of job security for these snow-bots: Is this the way Skynet becomes self-aware?

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Teens are marching for justice around the world. Next up: Climate change.

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Donald Trump Sure Does Love Autocrats

Mother Jones

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After the Cold War ended, US presidents largely stopped hosting visits from authoritarian leaders. But as in so many other things, Donald Trump yearns for the world of his youth, when the world’s bastards all got the royal treatment from the White House as long as they were our bastards. Here, as compiled by Jack Hasler and Yonatan Lupu, are the autocrat-hosting records of the past five presidents:

In only his first three months, Trump has already made good progress in returning to the realpolitik of the Cold War. Can he keep this up? Check back in three months and we’ll see how he’s doing.

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Donald Trump Sure Does Love Autocrats

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Immigration and Crime: A Mini Data Dive

Mother Jones

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This post is longish and doesn’t really have much payoff at the end. It’s just something that turned into a bit of snark hunt, so I figured I’d document it. You have been warned.

It starts with a column by Mona Chalabi, the Guardian’s “data editor,” which claims to outline her research on the question of whether illegal immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. It’s faintly ridiculous and I’m a little annoyed by it, but then I come to this:

I find a study by Bianca E Bersani. I look her up — she’s a associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, her study finds that about 17% of all first-generation immigrants who are age 16 have committed a crime in the past 12 months….But wait. Is that number high or low? I decide to find out how often native-born people in the US commit crimes. Luckily, her study has that too. It’s higher: about 25% of all native-born people in the US who are 16 have committed a crime in the past 12 months.

That seems kind of high, doesn’t it? Then again, “committed a crime” could encompass things like smoking a joint or stealing a box of paper clips from school, so who knows? The data comes from a paper called “A Game of Catch-Up? The Offending Experience of Second-Generation Immigrants,” so I check it out. But there’s nothing there. The paper has nothing whatsoever to say about either 16-year-olds or first-generation immigrants. What’s going on? Here’s the chart Chalabi presents:

This is a little odd. It suggests that 25 percent of 16-year-olds have committed a crime in the past year, but only 20% of 17-year-olds. That doesn’t jibe with what I know about crime rates. And the source is Pew Research. So let’s go look at the Pew article. It’s a lengthy description of Bersani’s article, and it includes this chart:

This is odd again. It’s the same chart, all right, and the author spends a lot of time describing “A Game of Catch-Up?” But as I mentioned above, that article contains nothing like this at all. What’s more, it appeared in Crime and Delinquency, but the chart is sourced to Justice Quarterly.

So now it’s off to Justice Quarterly. It turns out that everyone is describing the wrong article. I wonder if any of them actually read it? The correct article is “An Examination of First and Second Generation Immigrant Offending Trajectories,” also by Bianca Bersani. Fine. What does that article say? Here is Bersani’s chart, colorized for your viewing enjoyment:

It appears that everyone has been copying the chart properly. For what it’s worth, though, I’d make a few comments:

This data is for all immigrants. Donald Trump’s focus is solely on illegal immigrant crime.

Bersani’s data is from 1997-2005. That’s pretty old. Crime and arrest rates of juveniles have gone down more than 50 percent since then, and the population of illegal immigrants has gone up more than 50 percent since then. I don’t know if that changes the relative values in this chart, but it would certainly change the absolute values.

The data comes from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which uses a very large oversample of Hispanic and black youth. Bersani appears to be using the full sample, and since Hispanic and black adolescents commit crimes at higher rates than whites, it means the numbers for native-born Americans are exaggerated. At a guess, the real figures are 2-3 percentage points lower.

The NLSY97 data includes six types of crime that were included in Bersani’s study: (1) damaging property, (2 and 3) stealing less or more than $50, (4) other property crimes, (5) assault/serious fighting, and (6) selling drugs. By far the biggest contributors were property damage and petty theft, with fighting in third place and the others far behind. Auto theft and using a gun to steal (not included in Bersani’s study) were minuscule:
Since the vast majority of the crimes in this study are minor—and we can assume that serious violent crime is even less prevalent—it’s not clear how much this tells us. I don’t think anyone cares much whether immigrant teenagers steal six packs of beer at a greater rate than native-born Americans. We mainly care about more serious violent crimes: robbery, rape, murder, and aggravated assault. Those aren’t addressed at all.

I’d add that Bersani didn’t just add up all the crimes committed by various groups. Her methodology is pretty impenetrable to anyone who’s not an expert:

I use group-based trajectory modeling…identifies clusters of individuals who display similar behavioral trajectories over a period of time…Nagin and Land’s (1993) semiparametric group-based modeling approach…estimated using a zero-inflated Poisson form of a group-based trajectory model:

where ln(kjit) is the natural logarithm of the number of total crimes for persons i in group j at each age t. The equation specified above follows a quadratic function of age (age and age2)….

I have no idea what this means or whether it’s appropriate, but I’m a little skeptical about a model that suggests that 17- and 18-year-olds commit crimes at lower rates than 16-year-olds. Most crime data I’ve seen shows the opposite. Then again, most crime data doesn’t include extremely minor crimes like shoplifting and property destruction. It’s possible that adolescents age out of that stuff pretty early.

Long story short, I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this study. The data is old; it’s not limited to illegal immigrants; it looks only at adolescents; the crimes under consideration are pretty minor; and the methodology is probably OK, but who knows? Put it all together, and I’d say it doesn’t tell us too much one way or the other about the serious crime rate of illegal immigrants as a whole.

I have yet to see a study that persuasively suggests a higher crime rate for immigrants than for anyone else. Let’s face it: if there’s anything we native-born Americans excel at, it’s crime. That said, the Guardian’s data editor should have known better. There are tons of studies out there that try to estimate the relative crime rates of native-born Americans compared to undocumented immigrants, and cherry picking this particular one makes no sense. It does provide a rough data point suggesting that crime rates of immigrants aren’t any different from the rest of the population, but it’s nowhere near the best study out there. Citing this one and calling it a day is a real disservice.

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Immigration and Crime: A Mini Data Dive

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In Hudson Valley Schools, a Program Spreads Learning Through Gardening

An enterprising young woman skips college to create a program nurturing a love of gardening and fresh food in Hudson Valley children. This article is from:   In Hudson Valley Schools, a Program Spreads Learning Through Gardening ; ; ;

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In Hudson Valley Schools, a Program Spreads Learning Through Gardening

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