By Elliott Askari-Rabe
March 19, 2019
On March 6, students and adults alike gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol for the Youth Climate Justice Summit. The event is held yearly, and is organized by Climate Generation, a Minneapolis based climate advocacy group. The event was sponsored by numerous other climate groups, including iMatter, Yea MN, MN Interfaith Power & Light, and Powershift NY.
Every year, people of all ages meet at the capitol for this event. The day consisted of civic training, talking with policy makers, and connecting with other climate advocats. Participants also joined in youth-led workshops on different topics, including advocacy and legislation.
The day closed with a panel of different state officials, including Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley and MN House representative Frank Hornstein, and leaders from different advocacy groups.
MN Can’t Wait, a youth advocacy group, made its first ever appearance at the summit this year. The young coalition was formed after members of other advocacy groups, including iMatter, which operates on a national level, sensed a need for an organized local movement.
“Our goal is to change the conversation,” says founding member of MN Can’t Wait and South student Sophia Faacks. “Right now, politicians are doing what is politically possible, what makes them look good. You set a low goal, you accomplish it, and ‘yay, I did what I said I’d do.’ We need to do what’s necessary and it sounds crazy, net zero emissions by 2030. That sounds ridiculous. But it shouldn’t, because it’s what needs to happen.”
The group has made a large push behind the recent MN Green New Deal, modeled on Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s national resolution. However unlike the proposals in Washington, the MN Green New Deal is tangible legislation that is currently being worked on in the MN State House.
“You can’t deny that the future affects young people the most,” Faacks continued.
This might explain why youth have taken the reins of the climate movement, more so than in any other issue it seems. Recent reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have told us that the point of no return for climate intervention lies a little more than a decade away.
While frustration over lax action by representatives grows, young people, who have otherwise been barred from electoral politics, have started to organize movements, as a way to influence politics. Many feel that lawmakers have not done enough to address the climate situation.
“I think now our asks are a lot [more serious] than what people are expecting them to be,” says Lia Harel, a senior from Hopkins High School. “We’re really putting people on the spot and saying your seat in office is at stake based on how you’ll approach this issue, because we’ll have the power to vote very soon, and we can vote you out of office.”
As the group expands, they want to start representing a wider group of Minnesotans, including greater and rural Minnesota. By focusing on the intersectionality of climate change with other issues, they hope to appeal to larger groups, including those whose jobs might not be in the green sector, such as mining and foresting.
“One of the main focuses of Minnesota Can’t Wait is to recognize that climate change doesn’t just impact our natural resources and nature,” said Harel. “It impacts our public health, our infrastructure, our job security. All of these different issues that many people don’t really connect with climate change. They’re very much connected with issues surrounding climate change. When we recognize that addressing climate change is also addressing many other social injustices, that’s how we build a bigger movement, and a movement that people can get behind to create a better future for everyone.”
As the MN Green New Deal continues to be refined, MN Can’t Wait wants to continue spreading the word and advocating for climate action. The future of the legislation itself faces many hurdles, but they hope that their call for immediate, large-scale climate action cuts through.