Update: We are halfway to our goal of sending young, frontline activists to Paris for the COP21 Climate Summit. It's critical that these communities are front and center during the Paris talks to push for an international response to humanity's greatest challenge. Click here to help send young activists from frontline communities to Paris.
Last week, members like you responded in a big way when I asked to send student activists from frontline communities to the Paris COP21 Climate Summit later this month. I had the opportunity to speak with some of these activists and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Hearing their stories and words about enduring the impacts of climate fueled storms and toxic pollution was inspiring, and I want you to hear them.
There's Joy Semien, who is getting her master's degree at Texas Southern University, but grew up in a community in Louisiana that continues to recover from climate fueled storms and experience health impacts from exposure to industrial facilities. There is Kaylen Patterson from Morehouse College who already runs a community based environmental justice group in western Atlanta, and wants to bring the voices of his neighborhood to the halls of the UN talks in Paris. And there's Alexis Walker from Dillard University who believes that a global agreement to stop climate chaos is essential for the simple reason of saving lives.
Activist Terry Odendahl recently compounded the important role young folks play. "It's clear that if we want change, we need not to only watch and listen to young people, but also embrace and support them to help create the change our planet needs," Odendahl said. "If the leaders at COP21 in Paris don't get this message, they are simply missing the boat."1 That's why we are partnering with the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice to bring HBCU students who represent frontline communities of color to Paris. But don't take my word or Terry's words for why it's so important we get these students to Paris. Click the image below to listen to these stories yourself and then please give whatever you can to the cause.
Preeminent Environmental Justice scholar, Dr. Robert Bullard, who will accompany the students with us to Paris, made an excellent case for why students from HBCUs must be front and center at the COP21: "More than 80 percent of HBCUs are found in the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic regions of the United States -- regions of the country where intense hurricanes, drought, heatwaves, flooding and other climate-sensitive hazards are commonplace. Many southern communities where HBCUs are located and where they draw the vast majority of their students are at ground zero in the fight for climate justice."2
I couldn't agree more with Dr. Bullard and many others who agree that the participation of young activists is essential to pushing for an effective global climate agreement. It would be such a shame if they're unable to represent their communities and build a larger global strategy for frontline climate resistance.
I his new book, What We're Fighting For Now Is Each Other, author Wen Stephenson wrote, "We must acknowledge the fact that without immediate action at all levels to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize our economies - requiring a society-wide mobilization and a thus-far unseen degree of global cooperation, leading to the effective end of the fossil fuel industry as we know it - the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable."3 I am sure that Stephenson would agree that this type of action requires the participation of students like Joy, Walen and Alexis at COP21.
These students want to go to Paris to work. They've already arranged a meeting with Bill McKibben and other delegates to help develop a global strategy to address climate disruption. But they won't be able to attend this meeting or COP21 without your help. Please click here to chip in whatever you can to ensure the frontlines are front and center in Paris.
Thanks for all you do,
Anthony for Environmental Action
1. Odendahl, Terry. Young People Hold the Key to Mobiizing Climate Action. EcoWatch. October 26, 2015.
2. Dr. Robert Bullard: Why HBCUs Must Lead on Climate Justice
3. Stephenson, Wen. What We're Fighting For Right Now Is Each Other. Beacon Press. 2015.