“We’re replacing 65-year-olds with 25-year-olds. The 25-year-olds—some of whom were just here—have a very different view on climate change than the 65-year-olds, and they want us to reduce emissions,” Worthington said. “And all these kids… want to work for a company that’s green, clean and cool. And if that isn’t us, they’re going to go work for someone else. And that somebody else wants to steal our business.”

Young Americans are marching over climate change.

Zanagee Artis and his colleagues at Zero Hour are raising money to organize a march in Washington, DC on July 21. Like their counterparts working against against gun violence, their group sprung up almost overnight, formed after a chance encounter at a summer program at Princeton University last year. That’s where Artis met Jamie Margolin, a high-school sophomore from Seattle, Washington and head of Zero Hour.

In the months that followed that first meeting, Margolin, Artis and their peers recruited students from across the country to join their group, meeting by video conference after school and during lunch breaks to lay out their strategy. At the July march, they will call on lawmakers to move the United States to nearly 100% renewable energy by 2028, and urge politicians to decline donations from groups associated with the fossil fuel industry.

Zanagee Artis.
Zanagee Artis.
Image: Suzanne Artis

“We really want to focus on finding youth from front-line communities who want to speak out and tell their stories,” Artis said. “We don’t want to make it about partisanship, but rather an issue that is going to affect everyone.”

Other youth activists have taken a similar tack, mobilizing young Americans, for whom climate change is a personal issue, to put pressure on lawmakers and lobbyists. The Sunrise Movement, a pioneering youth-led climate advocacy group, for example, has held sit-ins on Capitol Hill, interrupted meetings of oil lobbyists, and planted time capsules noting which elected officials have pledged to uphold the Paris Agreement and which have not.

“We are building a movement across the country and are ready to kick out politicians who put fossil fuel lobbyists above our futures, no matter their political party,” said William Lawrence, a volunteer with Sunrise Michigan. Sunrise Movement is currently training hundreds of volunteers across the country to rally voters in the 2018 midterm elections.

Young Americans are suing over climate change.

Perhaps the most notable example of youth activism is the 21 young Americans who are suing against the federal government for doing too little to stop climate change. The Trump administration has tried to block the case, but, so far, it has been unsuccessful. Experts say the case has a strong legal grounding. Like the plaintiffs in cases such as Brown vs Board of Education and Roe vs Wade, the children behind this lawsuit claim that lawmakers have infringed on their constitutional rights.

“This intergenerational injustice violates the rights of young people and future generations to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and property, without due process of law,” said Sophie Kivlehan, one of the plaintiffs. “The courts must step in to help us.”

Plaintiffs in the federal climate lawsuit, March 9, 2016.
Plaintiffs in the federal climate lawsuit, March 9, 2016.
Image: AMW

Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit supporting the lawsuit, is bringing similar suits against Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and, most recently, Washington. Earlier this year, 13 young Washingtonians, including Zero Hour founder Jamie Margolin, filed suit against the state for failing to address the carbon crisis. The youth lawsuits make broad claims about climate change and the role of government, and judges are taking them seriously.

“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society,” wrote US District Judge Ann Aiken in an opinion and order that cited Obergefell vs Hodges, the Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage. “Just as marriage is the foundation of the family, a stable climate system is quite literally the foundation of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

Climate denial is waning, but not fast enough.

The fact that young Americans are so worried about climate change offers some hope for the future. Children today will eventually grow up to replace their parents and grandparents, and the country will come around on climate. “It’s generational,” Bill Nye the Science Guy told the Los Angeles Times. “So we’re just going to have to wait for those people to ‘age out.’ ‘Age out’ is a euphemism for ‘die.’ But it’ll happen, I guarantee you—that’ll happen.”

The problem is that will almost certainly not happen fast enough. The Paris Agreement set out a goal of keeping warming to under 2 degrees celsius. At the current rate of emissions, humanity will blow past that target in around 20 years, giving way to storms, droughts, floods and heat waves unseen in the history of human civilization. Climate change demands nothing short of the total transformation of the global energy system in just a few short decades. There is no time left to spare.

Jamie Margolin.
Jamie Margolin.
Image: Matt Mrozinski

“Our movement is called Zero Hour to emphasize the sense of urgency my generation lives with every day,” Margolin wrote in an essay for Refinery29. “It was an emergency 30 years ago. It’s Zero Hour to act on climate change.”

The simple fact is that to keep climate change in check, young people must persuade their parents and grandparents of the gravity of the problem. And, more importantly, their parents and grandparents must take them seriously. They must pay attention to the anxieties and ambitions of young people—not out of obligation, but out of respect.

“We’re going to be growing up with this,” Artis said. “If we continue to pollute the Earth, then there is no livable future for anyone.”

This post originally appeared on Nexus Media.

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