I remember the first time I talked to one of my legislators during 2014 Youth Lobby Day. I was hurrying down one of the Capitol’s polished, marble halls alongside other students following Senator Kari Dziedzic. When we stopped in front of the large doors to the Senate Floor, I took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to speak about why increasing renewable energy in Minnesota was important to me. My deliberately practiced words about job creation and public health spilled out of my mouth in a jumble, but any feeling of timidness was soon replaced by exhilaration. My voice was being heard, and along with those of others, it held power.
Fast forward two years later, and I can’t wait to feel that same empowerment at 2016 Youth Lobby Day. This year, I also have the privilege of leading the Youth Summit with Governor Dayton, where other young people and I will explain our vision for an equitable implementation of the Clean Power Plan in Minnesota.
I’m confident that this will be the best Youth Lobby Day yet. The Clean Power Plan sets a limit on carbon pollution, specifically a 32% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. But it’s not only what we do that’s important; it’s how we do it. We demand that our legislators examine the Clean Power Plan through the lens of environmental justice. This means the policy must be strong for all communities across Minnesota, no matter their income-level or race. For example, it’s necessary that lawmakers reach out to underrepresented communities to include their voices in the decision-making process, just like I was able to share mine at the Capitol. In addition, trash-burning should not be included as a viable clean energy option, as it disproportionately affects the health of low-income communities near waste-burning plants.
Young people are calling on state leaders to incorporate social justice into environmental policy by advocating for a strong and just Clean Power Plan at Youth Lobby Day. I am excited to have important conversations with my legislators and influential youth across Minnesota about how we can create an environmentally just future.
Join me and other young people for this impactful day! Register for Youth Lobby Day on March 14th, 2016. Hope to see you there!