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Evan Feeney’s Blog

Putting the youth voice back on the map

Evan Feeney

Posted February 5, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Green Enterprise, Solving Global Warming

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Watching the Warsaw climate negotiations unfold in October, made me feel disenfranchised as a young person fighting to reverse climate change. I felt like my voice, and more importantly, the voice of my generation was not being heard. And it got me thinking about why we young people are constantly excluded from these discussions and are rarely, if ever, asked for input, despite the fact that these are problems that will define ours and future generations, far more than it will define any previous generation.

 Civil Society Walkout.jpgCivil Society groups (significantly comprised of youth) walkout of the Warsaw climate negotiations out of frustration. Photo credit 350.org

It seems to me that we end up being excluded, in part, because we youth are not a unified bloc with a coherent message. We come from different communities and backgrounds with frames that do not always easily blend together. When it comes to sitting down with policy makers and creating a vision for the future, we need to have a well-articulated and inclusive message. That is one of the main reasons why NRDC, as a member of the Blue Green Alliance, is helping to host the Youth Climate Caucus at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference this year.

On February 9th, a diverse group of young people from across the youth justice movement (environmentalist, members of labor groups, environmental justice advocates, and college students) will meet to work to articulate a unified vision. Through roundtables, and breakouts, we will create a space to better understand the various frames and goals our communities often find ourselves working under. After gaining a better understanding of how our communities and industries intersect, we will prepare a unified message to carry with us through the main Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference.

 The theme of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference this year is “Repairing America.” The goal of the conference is to have labor and environmental groups find ways to work together to address America’s crumbling infrastructure while addressing climate change and problems of environmental justice. As a cohort, we have the most to gain by “Repairing America.” To have the most input on the discussion of “Repairing America”, we are having the Youth Climate Caucus so that we will be prepared to effectively communicate our vision for a prosperous, low-carbon future.

Having this new forum for the youth voice to be consolidated and projected has energized and invigorated me. The feeling of disenfranchisement I felt after the Warsaw negotiations has not completely gone away, but the fact that we are shifting the frame of discussion has made me hopeful.

 If you are interested in participating, please sign up for the Youth Climate Caucus at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. The Youth Climate Caucus is free, and if you attend it, you can get a big discount on your registration fee for the main GJGJ conference. I hope many of you will do just that, so everyone can hear our voices.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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