Youth Will Fix The Climate-Change Crisis Or Die Trying, Says Activist

Kendall Kieras

On October 8, 2018, one day before my 16th birthday, the UN released a climate report. It detailed that our society had 12 years to combat climate change to below 1.5 degrees of Earth warming before the effects become irreversible. Those 12 years are now 11. My 16th birthday, a milestone meant to represent an exciting new time of life, twisted into something much more sinister; a ticking time bomb set to explode in less than double my lifespan.

For youth, the climate crisis acts as constant background noise, undercutting our everyday lives with existential fear. When met with a bad grade or a difficult future decision, my peers joke about how "we're all going to die of climate change anyway." The shiny, bright, future promised to us from a young age slips away with every moment of inaction. Activism isn't just a pastime anymore — it's our only hope for survival.

Times of trauma forge youth uprising, proved time and time again through revolutionary groups such as March for Our Lives, Fridays for Future, and the Youth Climate Strikes. These are the exact conditions which created Zero Hour, the minority youth-lead climate justice group of which I’m a part.

The shiny, bright, future promised to us from a young age slips away with every moment of inaction. Activism isn't just a pastime anymore — it's our only hope for survival.

Zero Hour was born of climate anxiety. Most of the young people on Zero Hour's team had little to no prior organizing experience, yet launched themselves into positions equating to a full-time internship doing unpaid, glory-free work. Zero Hour would never have existed if we weren’t terrified.

Zero Hour’s Youth Climate Summit, which will take place from July 12 to 14 in Miami, is a space to turn our fear into power. The Youth Climate Summit will not be your typical conference. By hosting this event in Miami, a city due to be underwater because of sea-level rise, Zero Hour is bringing the climate conversation to the frontlines, where people will be the most affected. Our summit, and our mission in the climate crisis, centers around minority youth, giving power and voice to those most affected.

This is not a crisis we created. This crisis is a choice that was made for us 50 years ago by people who valued profit over human life. However, it will be a crisis we fix, because there is no other alternative. The youth are rising, and we won’t stop until we win, or die trying.

If you want to join the revolution, you can join us in Miami from July 12 to 14. Make your voice heard in your local community, urge your legislators to declare a climate crisis, and above all, claim your power. We won’t solve the crisis through complacency. The crisis can only be solved with a raised voice, a call to power, and a sparked revolution.

Kendall Kieras is a 16-year-old environmental and LGBTQ+ activist from Seattle. They currently serve as a core communications team member for Zero Hour National, and the executive director of Zero Hour Seattle. They are also a performing singer-songwriter and poet, and truly believe in the power of stories to change the world.

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