Action: The Only Choice

 This is a guest post by Kerry Brock. Kerry's HeadShotKerry Brock is a Massachusetts high school student and a youth climate leader in ACE's network, originally from Scotland. She moved to the US when she was eight years old and to Massachusetts for her freshman year of high school. During high school, she's been very involved in the climate movement and saw there was a huge gap where high schoolers could and should be working on climate justice. In response, she started a network of high schoolers who wanted to work on climate issues, called SOCAN. She is planning to launch a k-12 public school divestment campaign with ACE and Better Future Project across Massachusetts this year. She'll also be marching today in New York at the People's Climate March, the largest climate rally in world history.  The youth role in the movement for climate justice is indispensable, but too often trivialized. Many of us have been and continue to be active and vocal advocates for climate action. I was eleven years old the first time I took on the fossil fuel industry. I was nearing the end of seventh grade when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf Of Mexico, killing eleven people and leaking oil into the ocean for months. Although I didn’t fully understand the complexity of the crisis and the ways it harmed coastline communities, I knew that BP had done something indefensible. Along with a friend, I pinned flyers all over my middle school, urging our fellow students to boycott BP. I recently turned seventeen, and my techniques for fighting the fossil fuel industry have matured. I’ve turned to fossil fuel divestment to make progress on climate issues and, today, September 21st, I’ll be joining the hundreds of thousands of other concerned citizens, adults as well as youth, who will be marching to demand urgent action from world leaders gathered at the UN for an unprecedented Summit dedicated exclusively to tackling climate change. In both of these activities, the youth voice is of paramount importance. We will be well-represented in the March and have been given the privilege of leading in the vanguard under the banner “frontlines of crisis, forefront of change” in acknowledgment of both the risk climate change poses to our future and our capacity to envisage and enact a different future for ourselves. However, the youth voice has, until recently, lacked strength in the divestment movement, leading adults to overlook our involvement on climate issues.

This past summer, I worked full time on the Massachusetts State Divestment Campaign with the Better Future Project (BFP). After the first few weeks, I noticed a recurring theme: I was the only person under 18 at nearly every event I attended. When I remarked to an older woman at a workshop that I never saw anyone my age at these events, she laughed. “Most people your age just worry about themselves,” she told me. “They’ll join in later.”

I knew that what she said wasn’t true. Earlier this year, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) hosted a day-long event for high schoolers who care about climate change. Even though the event started at 8AM, more than 200 high schoolers had come from across the state to attend. They were young people that care about the planet and the people who inhabit it. They were youth who want to make a difference. So why weren’t they at divestment rallies and forums? Why weren’t they pushing back at the fossil fuel industry? Something needed to change. With this in mind, a friend and I began a group for high schoolers who want to be involved in climate activism. It started small, but over the summer we grew and eventually partnered with ACE and BFP. Our recruitment efforts show that my generation cares deeply about climate change and that concern needs to and can be channeled into action. Moreover, our efforts show that my generation has woken to the peril we face and are now realizing the power we have to heal the harm done by the generations before us. We plan to take on divestment in our public schools by seeking pension divestment endorsements from our teachers, and by doing so, spur discussions in our communities about the place the fossil fuel industry has in our lives. Climate change is not only destroying forests and oceans; it is destroying cultures, homes and families. I want to leave behind a healing planet for future generations; a planet recovering from what we have put it through, where people have access to clean food and water, where cultures can grow and flourish and where our homes and loved ones are safe. The demands of young people have been ignored for far too long, and I am tired of our futures being sold for profit. That’s why I'm joining thousands of youth at the Peoples Climate March in NYC today, September 21st, and why I will be mobilizing hundreds of my peers to march with me.  You may even see us in the front.  When we stand and march together, we can change the systems that are holding us back. We can work together to heal our planet. I will be there because I have no other choice. My future is on the line. Will you join me?

Leah Qusba

Leah joined ACE in 2009 and is currently serving as Deputy Director. She brings with her more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit sector as a relationship-builder, communicator and strategic problem solver. She manages ACE’s program, communications, media and marketing strategy.