We Have Felt the Effects of Climate Change, And We're Speaking Up for the Next Generation

Despite the tragic events of November 13th, we were more committed than ever to go to Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) and we are honored to advocate for what, along with our fellow youth leaders, we have been so passionate about. For over two years, we've been participating in the climate activist program at Global Kids (GK), a non-profit educational organization. Along with our fellow "GK Leaders," we've worked with NYC Council Members Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards, peers and mentors to help pass comprehensive climate change education in New York City schools. Through this collaborative process, NYC Council Member Constantinides introduced the New York City Council Resolution 0375-201 calling for climate change education in all New York City schools. It's been challenging to make this happen, but we are convinced that it is vitally necessary to help future generations to comprehend the dangers of climate change and to find ways to solve this problem.

Digna with fellow Global Kids student Kazi Ateea publicizing their climate change education campaign on Earth Day 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo Credit: Global Kids

The effects of climate climate change have personally affected both of us. I (Digna), live in Brooklyn, NY, but I was born in Honduras, an impoverished nation adjacent to El Salvador. The well-being of many Hondurans depends on growing crops. As a result of increasing temperature these crops demand more water, water that is not available. Global weather patterns makes Honduras a very vulnerable country and that makes me very concerned.

My family and I (Brianna) recently had to move to the Bronx, NY because of rising rents in Brooklyn. The Bronx has one of the highest asthma rates in the country because of the pollution emitting factories, energy-inefficient old apartment buildings and lack of green spaces. It feels unfair that people living in lower-income communities are subjected to poor environmental conditions and that's why I want all youth to be educated on the effects of climate change and how they can make a difference in their communities.

Right before we got to Paris, we went to Italy, meeting with Global Kids' partners in Sustainaware, a multinational project that focuses on the inclusion of the youth voice in sustainability matters. We shared our work on climate education in NYC and learned about what our partners from Slovenia, Argentina, Nigeria and India are doing to make their communities more sustainable and environmentally friendly. We took this collective knowledge with us to Paris.

In attending COP21 in Paris, we want to make sure our voices are heard and that the leaders of countries attending the conference know what is important to us and to our fellow youth leaders. After years of nations meeting but never coming to an actual solution to lower emissions and reduce the rate and impact of climate change, we are counting on the fact that this time nations have an action plan. We are committed to doing our part to not only represent the youth of Global Kids and the world but to also hold every leader who attends this conference accountable and to ensure that they take the necessary steps to halt the alarming and potentially catastrophic rate of climate change, and secure our future on a safe, sustainable and resilient planet.

Brianna Johnson and Digna Rosales at a COP21 event on the first day of the conference.
Photo Credit: Global Kids

This post is part of a "Youth Voices" series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on college or high school activists committed to combating climate change, and is part of HuffPost's What"s Working editorial initiative. To view the entire series, visit here.