A Conversation with Congressman Grijalva and Young “Environmental Justice Warrior”

04/28/2017 03:33 pm ET

Ahead of the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) took the time to ask Victoria Barrett – one of twenty-one young Americans suing the United States government over climate change – about her experience working on the frontlines of the climate justice movement and to get her thoughts on President Trump’s climate policies.

Victoria lives in White Plains, New York and is currently a senior at the Notre Dame School of Manhattan. She is a climate change and human rights activist, and has participated in the ACE Action Fellowship since her sophomore year. She's also a plaintiff in the current Our Children's Trust climate change lawsuit against the federal government for their role in failing to protect the rights of young people in pursuit of life, liberty and property. Congressman Grijalva recently took the time to ask Victoria about how she became an environmental activist at such a young age, get her thoughts on the Trump Administrations environmental policies and to hear about her plans for the future.

Congressman Grijalva: How did you become a climate change activist?

Victoria: In my freshman year of high school I was looking to explore new opportunities in order to expand my horizons. I decided to join an after school program called Global Kids, where I learned about human rights and the implications of climate change on human rights. In the program we identified ways in which climate change unjustly affected certain groups of New Yorkers and I began to draw my own connections between, young people, climate, and social justice. From there, I became involved with Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) and served as an Action Fellow in their year-long advocacy training program. That program brought me to Paris for COP 21, the United Nations to speak in honor of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, and more.

Congressman Grijalva: You’ve been described as an “environmental justice warrior.” What does this mean to you?

Victoria: I just use the love I have for this planet and the people on it and I put it in action. To be a "warrior" not only do you have to fight back against powers that you see as detrimental, but you also have to stand side by side with your peers to protect what you love.

Congressman Grijalva: You are one of 21 young Americans suing the United States government over climate change. What prompted you to take legal action?

Victoria: Young people in the United States don't have tangible input on our country's elected officials and governmental actions. The average lawmaker in the United States is above 60 years old and as a young person I wanted to establish some type of ownership over my future. Youth have entrusted others to safeguard our future, and still we see it melting away. Filing a lawsuit and forcing those in power to face the harsh facts of climate change was a way for me as a young person to establish my power and autonomy.

Congressman Grijalva: If President Trump called you and asked you for advice on climate policy, what would you tell him?

Victoria: To do the opposite of everything he's done.

Congressman Grijalva: Do you have advice for youth who want to make a difference in their communities, but don’t know where to start?

Victoria: Take what you love and turn it into action. Any skill that you have, any hobby that's important to you, anything that you love can be used to further the movement. When people act out of love, that's when things really begin to change.

Congressman Grijalva: When you’re not in school or leading the fight on climate change, what do you do for fun?

Victoria: I mostly spend my time exploring the streets of New York City with my friends. I also work at the Brooklyn Museum and spend a lot of time looking at art around the city.

Congressman Grijalva: Where do you see yourself in 15 years?

Victoria: In 15 years I hope to work in public policy. I see myself in D.C. taking part in the complex decision making processes that run our country and affect our planet.

Congressman Grijalva: Victoria, I personally want to thank you for being a strong leader in the environmental movement. You’re an inspiration to me and to everyone who hears about the important work you’re doing to make our planet safe and habitable today and for future generations. Continue to make your voice heard, be an inspiration to others, and to stand up for what you believe in. We’re in this fight together.

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