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Youth Environmentalists Connecting the Dots: This is a Movement for Everyone

Guest Blogger • Apr 22, 2011

By Martha Pskowski

Today, Earth Day, wraps up a huge week in the youth environmental movement.  These are some of the events that occurred just in the last week:

  • Last Friday, youth disrupted Congress to sing songs in support of action on climate change. Nine were arrested.
  • Over the weekend 10,000 youth and students converged in Washington, DC for the Powershift conference to learn, be inspired and take action.
  • Monday, hundreds marched to the Department of the Interior headquarters to protest environmental travesties in the Gulf Coast, Appalachia, and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. 21 were arrested for occupying the lobby.
  • Wednesday, activists in Chicago scaled a massive pile of coal at the Crawford coal plant to unfurl a banner reading, “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plants.”  Six were arrested.

Youth know that the stakes are high and time is running out for meaningful action on climate change.  To combat climate change, the environmental movement is building coalitions beyond traditional partners.  While the conservation movement has had many victories, from the Clean Air Act to the creation of national parks, the challenge of climate change calls for unprecedented cross-movement collaboration.

A movement for climate justice needs to bring together those most impacted by climate change, in the U.S. and beyond our borders.  The lesson, coming from the environmental justice movement, that low-income and communities of color bear the most environmental burdens needs to be taken to heart by anyone fighting against climate change.

This is why new partnerships between environmentalists and immigrants are so important.  The ties between anti-immigrant crusaders such as John Tanton and the environmental movement must be exposed to allow the true colors of the environmental movement to shine through.

Immigrants often live in environmental justice communities which face disproportionate environmental burdens.  Building alliances with these communities will be more productive than arguing against immigration can ever be.  Climate change is an issue that transcends borders and must be addressed globally.  Any real environmentalist can see that closing our borders is not a solution.

The action Wednesday targeted a coal plant in Little Village, a predominately Latino neighborhood on Chicago’s west side.  The second banner unfurled at the site represents the growing, inclusive movement for climate justice:   “Sí al pueblo, No al carbón.”

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