December 4, 2020 By Ramona du Houx This year, from America’s shorelines battered by hurricanes, to the heartlands scorched by droughts, and to apocalyptic wildfires in the West, climate change has proven to be a destructive force — fueled by the fossil fuel industry. It has devastated livelihoods, displaced thousands, and tragically taken lives. September was the hottest on record […]
December 4, 2020
By Ramona du Houx
This year, from America’s shorelines battered by hurricanes, to the heartlands scorched by droughts, and to apocalyptic wildfires in the West, climate change has proven to be a destructive force — fueled by the fossil fuel industry. It has devastated livelihoods, displaced thousands, and tragically taken lives. September was the hottest on record globally, federal government scientists say. A new multi-agency report from leading science organizations, United in Science 2020, concluded that 2016–2020 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record. Large swathes of Siberia have seen a prolonged heatwave during the first half of 2020, with temperatures hitting over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which would have been very unlikely without anthropogenic climate change. The United Nations reported that the world suffered about 75 percent more extreme weather disasters during the last 20 years than during the previous 20 years, with economic losses increasing from $1.63 trillion to $2.97 trillion.
The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that the “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” Experts have estimated that 400,000 people die annually from climate change, and casualties multiply when considering long-term exposure to poisoned air and water.
Climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of weather-driven disasters, thereby increasing the risks to communities of color and low income. These are communities already hardest hit by systemic racism and environmental injustice. In October a study, published in Cardiovascular Research estimated that about 17 percent of deaths in North America could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution.
EVEN THOUGH THE CLIMATE CRISIS IS PROJECTED TO GET WORSE, THERE IS HOPE.
In 2018, Greta Thunberg probably didn’t have a clue that she would become the catalyst of a global climate movement. Her school strike outside the Swedish Parliament, which called for stronger action on climate change, inspired other students to engage in similar protests in their own communities. Fridays for the Future, and the Sunrise Movement began. Even Jane Fonda was moved to action after seeing Greta and millions of youth protestors, and started Fire Drill Fridays with GreenPeace. In 2018, Greta was fifteen. Since then, she’s spoken at the U.N and other international platforms.
Many young activists have logically seen the next step for them is to run for office. Equipped with a go-to spirit, passion, energy, community organizing and media experiences they are natural leaders. Climate issues have been the catalyst for many of them.
A group called Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) brought four young elected officials together on the eve of Youth Climate Action Day to collectively speak about their personal experiences fighting climate change. They are also asked President-elect Biden and Congress to enact a Climate Emergency Plan that ensures environmental justice for all. EOPA has a sign on letter asking the same, which already has over 125 elected official signatories from around the country.
“No matter how the Senate roll call turns out, President-elect Biden will need support for his clean energy economy agenda from elected officials across the country. That’s why our letter is so important,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Official to Protect America, (EOPA) / Former Maine State Representative. “Young elected officials help shape the public discourse and the policy agenda. They don’t shy away from politically charged topics — they confront them with positive change like the young elected officials that are speaking today.”
Millions of activists will take action on December 5th to motivate others to combat climate change — many of them might, one day, run for office. America was built on the actions of young elected officials.
“Young elected officials from all over the country are proposing legislation, passing laws and standing up to fight environmental injustice so we can create an inclusive clean energy economy. Young elected officials have led this country from its inception, and continue to progress our country at all levels of government,” said Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, New York. “I’m encouraged by the wave of young activists demanding climate action. There is no doubt that their momentum helped New York pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, putting us on a path to the future.”
Mayor Myrick was elected to the Ithaca Common Council in 2007 while he was a student at Cornell University. After graduation in 2009, Myrick ran for mayor of Ithaca. Upon taking office in 2012, at age 24, Myrick became the city’s youngest mayor and its first mayor of color when he was sworn into office on January 1, 2012. He also became the youngest mayor in the history of the State of New York. He was re-elected in 2015 and 2019. He’s traveled as a guest all over the world speaking about his programs and experiences.
Svante continues to lead the Young Elected Officials network (YEO) which brings young leaders together to train them and to help build their community. Alex Cornell du Houx and Dominic Frongillomet at a YEO training, and later they started Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA). Jenna Wadsworth, the youngest woman ever elected to public office in North Carolina, also attended YEO.
“I’ve been fortunate to be elected three times to serve 1.2 million people who call our capital county home and proud to have had the opportunity to run statewide as the 2020 Democratic Nominee for North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture,” said Jenna Wadsworth, Vice-Chair of the Wake County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. “Taking care of our soil and water is a key component to combating climate change. We need sustainable agricultural systems. We’re revitalizing and building stronger more resilient local food systems while prioritizing environmental education in our schools and helping farmers.”
In 2010, Jenna made history as the youngest woman ever elected to public office in the state of North Carolina when she won her race for Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor. During her time in office, she has worked to enhance engagement of landowners and farmers in conservation programs, to raise awareness of environmental education work in schools, and to increase the effectiveness of working relationships with other local Districts and state-level staff in order to better serve agricultural and water quality needs. With her leadership, the District secured its first ever conservation easement and entered into a Market Based Conservation Initiative (MBCI) program with the U.S. Marine Corps and the NAVY. The MBCI program preserves open space and restricts development under a vital military flight path. Jenna is the Co-Founder and former Co-Director of the nonprofit New Leaders Council – North Carolina.
Jenna grew up on a farm, like Maine State Senator Chloe Maxmin did. Chloe went from rural Maine to Harvard where she became a climate activist over the Keystone XL pipeline. After returning home she ran and won the first-ever Democratic legislative seat in a district that had voted Republican by a 16-point margin over the past three elections. While Maxmin is the youngest woman to have served in the Maine State House, she’s respected by people of all ages. The Maine Council on Aging made then Rep. Maxmin Legislator of the Year in 2020 for her work helping seniors during the pandemic. She’s now in the Maine State Senate having won an election against the Senate Republican Minority Leader Dana Dow, notably it was the biggest upset this election season in the state.
“I fight for my rural community and values, regardless of Party or background. Our work is built on listening and mutual respect,” said Maine State Senator Chloe Maxmin. “We’re at a moment where we can either let our divisions tear us apart or bring us together. With the climate spiraling out of control we have to work together for all our futures.”
Wisconsin State Representative Greta Neubauer started her activism in high school organizing students for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Neubauer organized in the youth climate movement for a number of years, co-founding and going on to serve as the Director of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network. In 2018, Neubauer ran to represent her home district in the State Assembly and won. In 2019, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers appointed Neubauer to the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change. She has recently been appointed to the Wisconsin Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee.
“Young climate activists continue to push and support us to take steps towards a clean energy economy at the state level, but states can only do so much on our own,” said Wisconsin State Representative Greta Neubauer. “Having a President who understands the existential threat of climate change is critical, but he’ll need the support of young climate activists and elected officials from every state in order to make the changes we need.”
A recent poll from Climate Nexus, George Mason University and Yale University found that 82 percent of registered voters say achieving 100 percent clean power should be the primary goal of U.S. energy policy.
“With President-elect Biden we have the chance to attack the climate crisis, invest in green 21st century jobs and embrace the clean energy revolution our country, our young people are crying out for,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director of Elected Official to Protect America, (EOPA) / Former New York Councilmember.
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