Why youth are writing a Minnesota Law for climate justice education

By Annie Chen and Maya Hidalgo, leaders with the YEA! Network

As climate change becomes a growing issue, the number of climate education proposals has increased to meet the growing need of addressing this relevant topic in school systems. Over the past few months, Climate Generation’s YEA Network, a statewide youth organization, has worked on writing a bill for Minnesotan students by Minnesotan students.

Our bill, HF 550 and SF 666, makes it necessary to provide climate justice to both district and charter schools. It focuses on incorporating climate justice in all subject areas.

We know that climate change affects many aspects of life and therefore needs to be taught this way, connecting to all areas of the classroom. Through climate justice instruction, our bill will provide resources gathered by students, experts, and advocates for climate justice. Students will be required to learn the history of climate injustices, the effects of colonization and climate change, environmental racism, and the history of the fossil fuel industry in order to gain a better understanding of how our world is shaped today. Students will critically think about solutions to climate injustices. Additionally, students will be informed about local, national, and global campaigns to achieve climate justice and how they can become advocates.

As future leaders, we know that many future careers will be in fields related to climate justice, and our bill addresses this by informing students of these employment opportunities. Students will learn how to express their own climate story and use it to influence the movement. Climate change makes communities facing systemic oppression even more vulnerable to climate change. This is why we feel it is not only necessary to teach about climate change, but to teach climate justice. 

When we started brainstorming how our network could make an impact during the 2021 legislative session, we agreed that education is one of the most powerful tools in fighting for climate justice.

Annie Chen

Many of us joined YEA! Network without fully understanding what climate justice was. In school, we had little to no education about climate change, let alone climate justice. I remember spending a little over a week in my eighth grade Earth Science class discussing climate change, and while it wasn’t my science teacher’s fault, I remember feeling disappointed in Minnesota’s Science Standards. Earlier that year, I learned about climate change on my own through internet searches and an education platform called Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Even in preparing for our press conference, we laughed in disbelief over similar experiences with lack of climate justice education. While we went back and forth on whether to support bipartisan bills or create our own, we ultimately decided to push for our “dream” bill to pave the way for climate justice education.

As we researched similar climate justice education bills, we found SF 3949, a bill co-authored by Senator Wiger that called for school districts to have climate change instruction for all ages. Curious about this bill, we reached out to Senator Wiger, and he agreed to help us write our own. Working with Mr. Fletcher and Senator Wiger, we quickly got started on drafting our dream bill! Plans moved at a rapid pace, and many meetings later, the first draft of our bill in policy language was created.

During this time, we began our campaign to reach out to representative, senators, and student groups in districts from across Minnesota. With the help of senators like Sydney Jordan and Representative Patty Acomb co-authoring HF 550, and Senator Lindsey Port and Senator Wiger co-authoring SF 666, we celebrated the bill’s introduction into the House and the Senate! We continue our crucial campaigning process striving for our bill to be passed.

Why it’s Important

Maya Hidalgo

Climate Justice Education needs to be implemented in Minnesotan schools to provide accessible education. It has become very clear over the past few years that climate change has held a significant role in many lives. We find that providing students with a general understanding of the social, historical, economical, and scientific aspects of climate needs to be a crucial part of the education experience. As a high school student myself, I didn’t know much about climate change other than the fact that it was a very widely debated topic. Wanting to learn more, I used Google to try and deepen my knowledge of what climate change was, why it is happening, what it causes, and how to stop it. Through this process, I had to dig through hundreds of sketchy websites and misinformation to find actual scientifically-proven research.

Students should not have to go through a similar process to learn about the climate crisis. Providing accessible resources to students would allow them to grow their understanding of climate change without having to scour the internet to satisfy their curiosity.

Another reason why we decided to create this bill was to educate students on the problems that they would have to solve in the future. Climate justice education allows these students to learn more about climate and mitigate its economic and racial effects. As students are growing up and entering the workforce, current climate issues are likely to be passed down to the youth of today. Young people will be most affected by climate change, so it’s crucial for them to learn how to prepare for it.

How You Can Help

You can help Climate Generation help pass this bill by emailing your representatives and senators, and telling them that you support the HF 550/SF666.

Endorse the bill

Gaining support from Representative Davnie, Senator Chamberlain, and Representative Richardson will be crucial for getting a hearing for the bill!

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