The Kids Might Save Us All: I've been fighting to save the planet for my son's generation. N

Last Friday, my six-year-old son and I met up with fellow NOVA Climate activists (and a lot of other people dedicated to caring for our planet) outside the U.S. Capitol building. As we added our voices to the International Youth Climate Strike, I felt lucky to live a short metro ride from our nation's capitol. There were 2000 strikes all over the country and the world — 2000 in one day, think about that. But it felt pretty special to be chanting "Our water. Our air. Our planet. Our future," right outside the building where our nation's laws are made.

Demanding climate action now.

Demanding a good future for my son and all these amazing kids who are paying attention. Who understand that the world is facing a crisis, who are disappointed in the grownups for failing to act, and who have to decided to take matters into their hands. Kids all over the world who refused to go school on Friday because good grades and SAT scores won't matter if we continue to rely on fossil fuels and therefore ruin the climate.

My six year-old at the 2019 Youth Climate Strike

I became involved in climate advocacy when I realized how dramatically my son’s life would be affected by climate change if we do nothing.

He was three years old when I started to imagine what his world would be like when he graduates from school, when he gets his first job, when he wants to start a family, and when he’s ready to retire. In different ways, the impacts of climate change will affect all of these moments.

Climate change will disproportionately affect my kid’s generation, and all future generations. And that terrifies me.

NOVA Climate member Bobby Monacella's teenage daughter teams up with like-minded kids and teens to fight for their right to a safe and healthy future.

I want my little boy to inherit a beautiful, healthy world — not just to grow up in, but also to grow old in. There are a lot of other issues I care about, but if we don’t address climate change, and soon, the rest won’t matter.

At first I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do with my outrage and my worries. But I was lucky enough to meet like-minded individuals who were already fighting for a healthy planet and a hopeful future for humanity. Together we founded NOVA Climate and organized our first annual Mother's Day Climate Rally in Northern Virginia. (Join us on May 5, 2019 for our third annual rally, once again taking place at the Fairfax City Hall Amphitheater!)

Many if not all climate activists share my motivation: We want to save the planet for our children, and our children’s children, and all future generations. But here’s the thing: The children might end up saving us all.

We partnered with student activists at George Mason University to rally college students on the Fairfax, Virginia campus. It was amazing to see these young people connect with their peers and to watch them educate fellow students about the danger of pipelines and the need for renewable energy.

Children, teens, and young adults are becoming influential leaders in the climate movement. We might be fighting for them. But now they’re fighting for themselves.

On Friday March 15, 2019, the International Youth Climate Strike drew an estimated 1.4 million young people (and adult supporters) in 123 countries across the world. This was not an isolated incident. Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who was nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize, began protesting, alone, outside the Swedish Parliament last year and later launched the Fridays for Future movement, inspiring teens all over the world to strike. To demand climate action and climate justice.

These kids are saying that the adults have failed them. They have no choice but to act. And if they have to skip school to get our attention, so be it.

The Washington DC/Maryland Climate Strike was one of about 2000 youth strikes around the world, all taking place Friday March 15, 2019

Speaking at Friday's rally in Stockholm, Greta called climate change an "existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced, and still it has been ignored for decades by those that have known about it. And you know who you are, you that have ignored this and are most guilty of this."

These strikes are amazing and draw attention to the global crisis. But the wonderful thing is that Greta is not a lone wolf. She is one of many prominent young activists around the world who are increasingly influential in the climate movement. They aren’t just marching — they’re affecting the political process in countless ways. Just as the March for Our Lives and other youth organizations have become a big deal in the larger gun control movement, youth climate organizations have a huge voice and ambitious reach in the climate movement as a whole.

For 13 years, YOUNGO, an international network of youth organizations, has had an official voice at U.N. climate conferences and hosted an annual “Conference of Youth.”

The Sunrise Movement, the primary activist group leading the call for a Green New Deal, was founded by 20-somethings seeking to organize young people all over the country.

Co-founder Varshini Prakash sums up their determination and optimism: “My nightmares are full of starving children and land that is too sick to bear food,” she said. “But my dreams are also full of a rising tide of people who see the world for what it is, people who see the greed and selfishness of wealthy men, of fossil-fuel billionaires who plunder our earth for profit.”

NOVA Climate member Bobby Monacella and her teenage daughter participating in a Sunrise Movement protest in Washington, D.C.

Zero Hour, a group that organized the Youth Climate March in D.C. and sister marches around the country last July, is led by teenagers. It was founded by Jamie Margolin when she was just 16. Now 17, she’s one of the most influential climate activists in the country.

These young people aren’t just taking to the streets. They’re also taking on the legal system.

In Juliana v. United States, youth plaintiffs aged 11 to 20 are suing the U.S. government for failing to protect public resources — that is, the planet we all share — and therefore violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Their lawsuit has inspired similar legal action at the state level, in all 50 states.

My kid making some noise at the Youth Climate Strike, March 15, 2019

When my son is a teenager, I hope that he’s as politically and socially engaged as these young activists. I can’t think of better role models for him. I want my kid to care desperately about his future, to speak up loudly and frequently, to act deliberately, to work hard, and to create a better reality.

I look forward to working alongside him.

[This blog post is adapted from my op-ed of the same name, originally published by OtherWords.org and republished here because of their generous republication policy.]

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