15-year-olds to shouldn’t have to spend Martin Luther King Day- a precious day off school- lobbying for climate change policy.
But because my leaders were apparently okay with handing my generation a cooked-planet, I found myself spending my vacation day at my state capital from morning till night, lobbying my butt off.
MLK day morning, I piled into a car with members of the climate action organization, Plant for The Planet USA and its’ founder, Michael Foster. For those in the climate activism world, and to me, Michael was a hero. He and several others had physically shut off oil pipelines as an act of protest to the fossil fuel industry. Michael’s court date was coming up, but none of us wanted to think about it.
It drove me crazy how the powerful people who were stealing my future from me and my entire generation, wrecking our earth and everything sacred for money, were free and well, while Michael, a man who was fighting to save my generation and all future generations, faced jail time.
I was depressed, and scared, but I bottled it up on the car ride to the capital. Depressed because of Trump's looming inauguration, only a few days away, and scared because, I'd never lobbied in my life before, other than the few times I tried calling senator's from other states about Trump's cabinet picks.
After an hour and a half of driving, we arrived at the capital. It was freezing, to the point that my fingers were numb, but adrenaline kept me going. As soon as I set foot at the capital, I was overwhelmed.
First off, MLK day was a big (or shall I say, YUGE) lobby day for Olympia. The PTA was having a big rally, and our group had trouble weeding our way through the crowd of angry teachers with signs about not getting enough funding.
I barely had any time to take it all in: right after we arrived, we scurried through the capital building for our first meeting with a representative that Michael had scheduled beforehand. It was with State Senator Dino Rossi.
Ready or not I thought as I waited nervously outside his office with a few other members of Plant for The Planet, Here I come. Rossi’s office was incredibly fancy: mahogany desk (or at least I think it was) pictures everywhere, huge comfy leather chairs.
“Well.” He said, “How can I help you?”
I stared at the politician blankly for a second, my heart hammering against my chest. Rep. Rossi turned to a Plant for The Planet member who couldn’t have been older than 9, and she just clung to her mother, smiling that embarrassed I don’t know what to say smile kids have when adults try to get them to talk. There was an awkward silence until I remembered the talking points Michael has prepped our group with.
“I have a constitutional right to Washington’s essential resources, air and water...” Once I started talking, I was on a role.
I rattled off about the importance of using current climate science for passing bills, and about how I was worried for my future because of climate change.
Unless you count the town hall with Chelsea Clinton I raised my voice at when I was an intern for Hillary’s campaign, it was my very first time speaking with a representative.
And the experience was not pleasant.
Dino Rossi interrupted me constantly, and tried to fill up our scheduled 10 minutes with pointless small talk so he wouldn’t have to hear me talk. At one point, he steered the conversation to his wife at home...don’t even try to ask me what that had to do with climate change.
In the middle of talking about my constitutional rights, Dino Rossi pointed in the direction of where the PTA was having a rally and interrupted me saying,
“You know, they want money too!”
I blinked, not knowing what to say. I wasn’t asking for money. I was just asking for him to acknowledge science.
He eventually started guilting me about even caring about the environment and my future at all.
He pulled out a pamphlet about teen homelessness and told me,
“The money going into climate change could be helping these poor teens.”
What about all the money going into the milirary, and fossil fuels, and making the rich richer! I wanted to yell, but I couldn’t bring myself too, Why aren’t you complaining about that money?
His claim was so absurd I just stared at him in disbelief thinking, What an asshole, as I tried to remember my talking points points.
I walked out of Dino Rossi’s office office feeling defeated... but the day had only just begun.
My group ended up spending the rest of the MLK day running up and down the capital, lobbying representative after representative to sign onto bill they ended up refusing to even give a vote to a few weeks later.
The government is supposed to protect it’s youth.
We aren’t aloud to vote because we’re supposed to trust our elders to make our decisions for us. But right now, our elders are recklessly turning the earth into a hell-scape, and my generation will pay the price for it.
Youth have to get on our hands and knees and beg our leaders to at least give us a shot at a livable future.
We’re suing our leaders, calling and visiting their offices, writing them letters, demonstrating, essentially throwing away our childhoods for our cause....and as a reward, our leaders stab us in the back, refusing to even vote on our bills. Discouraging us from even speaking up in the first place.
This recklessness and short sightedness of today’s leaders has to stop.
Youth should NOT have to throw away our childhoods and devote our lives to convincing our leaders to let us breath clean air, drink potable water, and live on a planet that sustains human life.