Youth Perspective: Bay Area Fellows Deliver Powerful Message at PCM

Bay Area Fellows at PCM Rally in Mountain View, CA

On October 14, 2015, the People’s Climate Movement (PCM) brought together climate activists around the U.S. to stand together and demand action on climate change. In the Bay Area, the PCM provided an opportunity for ACE Action Fellows to take center stage at two different events and share the youth perspective.

Less solar means an increased reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy generation, bringing more pollution and negative health impacts to frontline communities near power plants.

San Francisco, CA
The first event was in San Francisco at the Vote Solar rally, where hundreds of people gathered at the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) to protest a tax increase the corporation wants to impose on customers with solar roofs. PG&E’s tax proposal would make renewable energy more expensive and less accessible for many of its customers. Communities of low income and color, also known as frontline communities, are often living in highly polluted areas. Less solar means an increased reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy generation, bringing more pollution and negative health impacts to frontline communities near power plants.

Ana SinghACE Action Fellow Ana Singh was invited to take the podium and share her perspective on PG&E’s plan. With multiple reasons to stand up against the plan, Action Fellow Ana Singh, a junior from San Jose Mission High School, spoke about putting the importance of people before profit: “PG&E is not looking to protect the environment or my future. Rather, it’s looking to protect itself. The fact is that PG&E makes money off of new power plants and other utility infrastructure. When people choose to go solar, PG&E loses that money. This company is putting its profits over the interests of its clients and the environment, and it’s our responsibility to stand up against that.”

As Ana and I drove an hour south to join the Silicon Valley PCM rally in Mountain View, Ana reflected with pride on her opportunity to speak and how empowering it felt to be cheered by a crowd of people she had never met before.

Mountain View, CA
In Silicon Valley, technology companies have a great power and responsibility to help usher in a green and socially just future. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google allow us to access and share information at a rapid pace, giving young people an almost unlimited capacity to explore knowledge and create new tools. However, the incredible growth of these technology companies has created an acute problem in the Bay Area.

Kian Martin speaking at PCM rally in Mountain View, CAWith an influx of technology employees moving into the Silicon Valley, the cost of living has skyrocketed, displacing many vulnerable communities. Kian Martin, an Action Fellow and senior at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose, took the stage at the Silicon Valley PCM rally and challenged technology companies to be more accountable to Bay Area communities. “My hometown of San Jose has seen an 8% increase in rent every year, largely due to high tech,” Martin told the crowd. “As a queer, mixed race person, I am statistically far more vulnerable to unemployment than my straight, white peers…I’m very aware that youth have no place at the table in the conversations being had and decisions being made about climate. I am here today to challenge that idea–to suggest that not only should youth be taken seriously in organizing and decision making, but we must be included in order to achieve real climate justice.”

"Not only should youth be taken seriously in organizing and decision making, but we must be included in order to achieve real climate justice."

– Action Fellow Kian Martin

While it is commendable that technology companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are pledging $140 billion in clean energy investments, financial commitments are not enough. Silicon Valley companies need to lead when it comes to climate action and this means including all voices. ”We need tech companies to make space for frontline communities and organizers to voice their concerns and needs. We need [technology companies] to look past their own best interest and bring attention to the work that’s been done by marginalized people for decades, “ Martin concluded.

Young people like Ana and Kian are challenging corporate America to not only take steps to address climate change, but to support and collaborate with frontline communities to create a just future for everyone. ACE is proud to support young climate leaders across the country as they speak up for their future.

Zena Zendejas

Zena joined ACE in 2014 and ran ACE's Action Fellow Program Manager for the Peninsula/South Bay Region until leaving the organization in 2016. Zena believes that youth are the leaders the world needs today and works to ensure the growth of their confidence in expressing their experiences and understanding the social implications behind them.