How Can Adults Help the Youth Climate Movement Save Our Kids’ Future?

If you're wondering how to be an "Adult Ally" to youth activists, come out to our Mother's Day Climate Rally on Sunday May 5, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia! Kristin Hogue will speak about about parenting a young climate activist. Her thirteen-year-old daughter Alexandria Villaseñor is our rally's headline speaker. She'll share her experiences of protesting outside the U.N. headquarters and becoming a principal organizer of the international youth climate strike movement.

This morning my 16-year old daughter Katie was lamenting over breakfast that there was still a month and a half left in the school year. Then she immediately followed up this very typical kid statement with a not so typical one: “And on top of that, there are only 135 months until the planet passes the point of no return for runaway global warming.”

That was a heavy end to our breakfast conversation. And while maybe not typical for a teenager, it’s not atypical in our house. Katie is involved in the youth climate group Sunrise Movement, and is part of the DC organizing team for US Youth Climate Strike, which helped mobilize 1.6 million kids around the world in climate school strikes on March 15, 2019. She’s worried about her future, as well as that of her sister and all her friends.

DC YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE -- MARCH 15, 2019

So how can we adults help? Believe me, I know it’s overwhelming to contemplate that when they’re adults, our kids might end up in a world of even more constant and fierce super storms, flooding, fires, food scarcity, disease and extinctions. They know that if things don’t change, bringing their own kids into this world is probably not a good idea. And if you don’t believe that’s true, I have no time to argue – just google the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report.

This definitive report is one of the reasons the youth climate movement has gained so much momentum recently. It has added urgency to the message of their leader, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who began her school strike last September. Since then she has spoken to the delegation at COP 24, met the Pope, and addressed the British Parliament, saying, “We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back."

She’s got something to say to us regular grown-ups, too. She recently told the New York Times, “It is annoying when people say, ‘Young people, you will save the world.’ I think it would be helpful if you could help us just a little bit.” So there you go – Greta has spoken, and we need to get involved no matter how overwhelmed we may feel.

GRETA THUNBERG INSPIRED MANY OF THE YOUTH ACTIVISTS FEATURED IN THIS TIME MAGAZINE VIDEO ABOUT THE YOUTH CLIMATE MOVEMENT. AT THE TOP RIGHT IS OUR 2019 MOTHER'S DAY RALLY KEYNOTE SPEAKER, ALEXANDRIA VILLASEÑOR! HEAR HER SPEAK: SUNDAY MAY 5, 2019 AT VETERANS AMPHITHEATER OUTSIDE FAIRFAX CITY HALL.

As an adult who’s been spending all her time not spent taking care of her family working on climate issues, I hear that loud and clear. I think a lot about how to be the best adult ally I can be. I only have so many hours in a day, I have limited skills and resources, and I want to be careful to listen to Katie and not step on her toes or tell I think I have any answers for her. I just want to be supportive as she simultaneously does homework and mentors Sunrise Town Hall organizers and conducts conference calls. Part of that is bringing her dinner to her room while she’s on her calls, but part of it is also showing up when I can and supporting Sunrise and all the youth climate organizations in their endeavors. Luckily, Sunrise has guidelines for adult allies, so we have some great guidance from them about how we can best get involved. I think the main thing is to ask how we can help and respect their moral authority and leadership.

But enough about my own inner struggles -- my main point is that anyone who wants to be an adult ally should come to the Mother’s Day Climate Rally. It’s the biggest gathering of climate groups in Northern Virginia each year, and there is no other event like it. It’s where you can find out how to be an adult ally in a way that fits what you can do. Anyone who wants to help in any capacity can find their niche by visiting the table of each of the 21 co-sponsor groups and learning what each one does and seeing what speaks to you.

You know, so much has changed since our 2018 Mother’s Day Climate Rally. The youth climate movement that we highlighted at last year’s rally has now become the major force in solving the climate crisis. These kids have flooded the halls of congress, been constantly covered by the national news media, marched in the streets of cities around the world, and skipped school on Fridays across the globe to let the adults know we’re failing them. What was just beginning in 2017 and 2018 has now become a major national news story and is influencing politicians and grassroots movements around the world. It's been very effective too. In fact today, the U.K. became the first-ever country to declare a climate emergency, just one week after Thunberg's address to Parliament.

Greta, who was inspired by Zero Hour’s 17-year-old Jamie Margolin to begin the Friday School Strikes, has now become arguably the most powerful leader of any age for the climate crisis and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. So many lines from her speeches stick with you, but one of the ones that I can’t forget is, “When we start to act hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope -- look for action. Then the hope will come.”

Our 2019 Mother’s Day Rally keynote speaker, 13-year old Alexandria Villaseñor, was inspired by Greta to start her own Friday school strike right outside of the United Nations. She’s now on Week 20 of her strike, and meanwhile co-organized the US Youth Climate Strike, is starting her own non-profit called Earth Uprising, has been covered by the Washington Post, National Geographic and Teen Vogue, and is featured in Rolling Stone magazine this month. Whew, talk about girl power. Her new non-profit is all about building coalitions and letting adults know how they can help.

So come to the rally and learn how you can become an adult ally. You’ll also have fun hanging out on your picnic blanket, listening to social justice indie rock music by M4TR, and hearing from incredible speakers like Alexandria and our own VA Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, who will let us know about the progress on the Virginia Green New Deal and what’s being done in our state to ensure climate justice for everyone. There are also kids’ activities, face painting and other fun things for kids to do, so bring the whole family. Can’t wait to see you there – I’m looking forward to growing our pack of adult allies so we can help our kids save their future together.

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About the Mother’s Day Climate Rally: Mother’s Day has its origins in the Mother’s Day Proclamation, written in 1870 by abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In the wake of the civil war, Howe sought to mobilize mothers around the world to protect future generations of children by outlawing war. The Mother’s Day Climate Rally renews the holiday’s activist spirit by mobilizing people to act on the most pressing issue of our time, climate change.

The Third Annual Mother’s Day Rally will be the largest gathering of climate and social justice groups in Northern Virginia in 2019. Co-sponsors include: 350 Alexandria; 350 Fairfax; 350 Loudoun; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Climate Reality Project—NOVA chapter; Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions; Food & Water Watch; Greater Prince William Climate Action Network; Green Muslims; Herndon-Reston Indivisible; Moms Clean Air Force; Mothers Out Front; Network NOVA; NOVA Climate; Our Revolution—Alexandria; Our Revolution—Arlington; Our Revolution—Northern Virginia; Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter; Sierra Club – Great Falls Group; Sunrise Movement; Virginia Student Environmental Coalition—GMU chapter.

Sunday, May 5, 2019, 2pm – 3:30 pm. Rain or shine! Rain location listed on NOVAclimate.org. Shine location: Veterans Amphitheater, 10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax, VA 22030. For more info, please visit NOVAclimate.org, or get directions, details and RSVP here.

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Learn more about the Youth Climate Movement:

Video from some of Greta Thunberg’s best speeches: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/greta-speeches

Earth Uprising: https://www.earthuprising.org/

Fridays For Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Sunrise Movement: https://www.sunrisemovement.org/

US Climate Strike: https://www.youthclimatestrikeus.org/

Zero Hour: http://thisiszerohour.org/

Another important part of being an adult ally is being informed and up to speed on the latest climate science. And, yes, it's really complicated and confusing.

If you want to learn more, get some of the intricacies of climate change explained in a way that makes sense to a lay person, and get a better sense about why we need to ACT NOW--Check out this video from YouTuber and novelist Hank Green.

If you don't know who Hank Green is, your teenager probably does. He and his brother (YA author John Green) have created lots of stuff online including Crash Course and the Vlog Brothers. Hank has a science background and has made several other videos about climate change, which you can find on YouTube.

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