Earth Day of my senior year will always be a memorable day for me. My name is Leah Havlicek and I attend a really unique and amazing public high school in Apple Valley- The School of Environmental Studies (SES) or more widely known as the Zoo School. From the help of Natalie Cook, the coordinator of Youth Environmental activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN), I got a group of students from my school to attend a meeting with Governor Dayton and a rally for the Renewable Energy Standards increase and the Omnibus Bill at the capitol on April 22nd, 2014. The bills include priorities for Minnesota to have 50% renewable energy sources by 2030 and to have sustainability standards for Minnesota. They included improving energy efficiency opportunities for our schools and simplifying regulations governing design of systems to generate clean energy from renewable resources.
Before the rally over 50 youth from high schools and colleges in Minnesota met with Governor Dayton. He was clearly interested in what we had to say. When we asked him about increasing Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard he shied away from committing support, but at the same time he said that benchmarks were important. I think with more time we can bring him to our side. We also asked him about civic engagement, environmental justice and equity in a renewable energy future. While I didn’t lead any of the questions, it was clear to me that youth in Minnesota are knowledgeable and ready to be leaders in Minnesota.
The atmosphere during the rally was contagious. As each speaker like Will Steger came up to the podium to demand cleaner energy and more sustainable green jobs, everyone in the crowd would cheer and whistle. Enthusiastic high school students, college students, elderly people, little kids, YEA! MN members, and people from all over Minnesota came to the rally.
The very last speech was a really remarkable senior from South High School, a member of YEA! MN and an intern at the Sierra Club. Her speech was really moving; it got everyone riled up and cheering. She said, “I’m pissed that I have to fight for clean water, clean air, and for my environmental health.” I realized then why the grandparents, activists, students, and general Minnesotan people were in the Capitol that Earth Day. It was more for us then it was for those with power. Being surrounded by so many others who believe and have the exact same values you have is one of the most empowering experiences. It encourages us to be optimistic because although we know things might not change for years or even decades, there will always be those fighting. You will know that you are not the only one out there who wants a healthier planet for our kids, our grandkids, and for many generations to come. That crowd of individuals will always be there in the back of my mind, cheering me on, telling me to fight another day.
At the conclusion of the rally, YEA! MN sang our remake of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus outside. The lyrics were quite cleverly written to encourage clean energy. This is the strangest thing I have ever done at the Capitol, but completely worth it. We drew a huge crowd who came to see us playing guitar, drums, and singing our hearts out on the Capitol’s steps.