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Youth leaders rally for action on climate

 

February 5, 2020

Courtesy Photo

Former Niwot High student Marlow Baines appeared at the Youth Climate Summit in Boulder on Feb. 1

Youth leaders came together last weekend in Boulder for a summit on climate change, with a broad call to action on climate, social justice, and inclusivity.

The Youth Summit on Climate Change at the Boulder Public Library, held on Saturday, Feb. 1, was organized by Sumanje Chigwenembe, a student at Boulder High School who serves on the City of Boulder's Youth Opportunities Advisory Board (YOAB). Dozens of students attended the event, which included foundation setting speeches as well as workshop sessions.

Headlining speaker Marlow Baines, a former Niwot High School student and current senior at Shining Mountain Waldorf School, delivered an emotional and impassioned speech that began with an original poem and the story of her own ancestry and privilege.

Baines said she spoke about her background and her role as a young white woman in this movement because "we cannot talk about climate change and climate justice without talking about social justice."

She went on to say that one of her responsibilities is "to create space for those who may not have it." The topic of inclusivity was strong throughout her speech, where she emphasized that the climate movement needs to listen to and respect all voices.

"It's not just the environment--that our air is being affected, our water is being affected--but it's affecting communities," Baines said, and she emphasized that the communities affected are more likely to be marginalized members of our society.

The inclusive approach extended to working together and within current government systems to enact change.

Event organizer Chigwenembe said "Growing up in a city with this much activism around climate change really inspired me, and being appointed to the Youth Opportunities Advisory Board of the City of Boulder really gave me the opportunity to get in contact with city staff who were working on this."

As a member of YOAB, Chigwenembe is responsible for coming up with ideas on how to engage youth to learn more about the City of Boulder's efforts on climate change, and to encourage creative youth-based ideas on how to enact change from within the local government.

Chigwenembe said "We planned this summit to inform and get youth input on the climate crisis, specifically on the [City of Boulder's] Climate Mobilization Action Plan (CMAP), which is a plan that takes a more aggressive approach to climate change in five areas: land use, ecosystems, circular materials economy, renewable energy, and financial systems."

Breakout sessions for youth attendees addressed the first three of these topics, using collaborative techniques to come up with solutions.

Emily Long

Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse speaking at the Youth Summit on Climate Change at the Boulder Library, Feb. 1, 2020.

Congressman Joe Neguse, who represents the 2nd District in Colorado and is the first Eritrean-American elected to the United States Congress, gave an opening speech calling climate change "the defining issue of our time."

In an interview, Neguse said, "In Colorado, we've experienced the impacts of climate change in a very visceral way," and that "It's inspiring that this next generation is so willing to take up the mantle" of tackling climate change, which he called an "existential crisis."

"We all should be very heartened at the fact that there is this group of young people who clearly care about doing that."

Neguse spoke directly to the student activists in his speech, saying, "Your generation, I believe, will be the generation that solves some of these problems that we face as a society."

The local youth climate activists are working "to create a world that is just, equitable, and regenerative," according to Baines. "We will seek justice, listening with hearts and minds wide open."

 

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