Teen 'Climate Justice Activist': 'Remember the Fear and Despair That My Generation Lives With Every Day'

By Susan Jones | September 19, 2019 | 8:41am EDT
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg (left) and Seattle "climate justice activist Jamie Margolin attend a Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on September 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Several young climate activists testified before the House Climate Crisis Committee and a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, urging the transformation of the U.S. economy to save their very lives.

One witness, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin, told lawmakers to "remember the fear and despair that my generation lives with every day."

Margolin complained that her generation has been "committed to planet that is collapsing." She even scorned the nation's founding: "Solving the climate crisis goes against everything that our country was unfortunately built on -- colonialism, slavery and natural resource extraction," she said. "This is why the youth are calling for a new era altogether."

 

Margolin also promised that someday she'll be a member of Congress: "By 2030, I will be old enough to run for Congress and be seated right where you are sitting right now. By then, we need to have already achieved net zero greenhouse gas emissions and be rapidly on the path to climate recovery. I cannot wait until I'm sitting in your seats."

And don't bother telling Margolin that her future looks promising: "Everyone who will walk up to me after this testimony saying that I have such a bright future ahead of me will be lying to my face," she said.

Margolin warned that "we only have a few months left in order to create the massive political shift needed to transition our world to an entirely renewable energy economy. This needs to happen within the next ten years, which is our deadline to save life as we know it."

Here is Margolin's extraordinary opening statement in full:

My name is Jamie Margolin, and I'm a 17-year-old climate justice activist from Seattle, Washington. I am missing a lot of school to be here. It's my senior year of high school. I have college application deadlines looming over me, and to be honest, I have barely even started because I'm too busy fighting to make sure that I'm actually going to have the future I'm applying to study for.

You are spending a few moments with me, but that is nothing compared to the hours that members of Congress who met with lobbyists from corporations that make billions of dollars off of the destruction of my generation's future.

I want the entirety of Congress -- in fact, the whole U.S. government -- to remember the fear and despair that my generation lives with every day, and I want you to hold onto it. How do I even begin to convey to you what it feels like to know that within my lifetime, the destruction that we've already seen from the climate crisis will only get worse. What adds insult to injury is the fact that we keep getting promised what isn't there.

On college applications, I keep getting asked, what do you want to be when you grow up? The media, pop culture, businesses, and the whole world tells me that I and my whole generation will have something to look forward to that we just don't. You're promising lies. Everyone who will walk up to me after this testimony saying that I have such a bright future ahead of me will be lying to my face.

It doesn't matter how talented we are. It doesn't matter how much work we put in, how many dreams we have. The reality is, my generation has been committed to a planet that is collapsing. The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today, pleading for a livable earth, should not fill you with pride. It should fill you with shame. Youth climate activism should not have to exist.

We are exhausted because we have tried everything. We've built organizations, organized marches, and worked on political campaigns. I sued my state government in a lawsuit called Piper versus the State of Washington, along with 12 other plaintiffs, for contributing to the climate crisis, denying my generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

The lawsuit is also arguing that the natural resources of my state are protected as a right under the Washington State Constitution. The shellfish, salmon, orcas and all of the beautiful wildlife of my Pacific Northwest home is dying due to ocean acidification caused by the climate crisis. And communities all over Seattle are suffering from the new fossil fuel infrastructure being built to lock in decades more of climate destruction into my state.

My friends and I were warned to stay inside the last two summers because our city was shrouded in a suffocating smoke from wildfires. It gave me such bad headaches for so long. And my friends with respiratory illnesses had to go to the E.R. Is this the future that we have to look forward to? Well, we, the youth,  are working as hard as we can to make sure that it isn't.

On July 21st of, 2018, after an entire year of nonstop organizing, despite being full-time high school students with a lot of homework to do, my organization Zero Hour marched on Washington, D.C., in a pouring rainstorm and in 25 cities around the world, demanding urgent climate action from you and all of our leaders. And that was only the beginning.

But by 2030, we will know if we have created the political climate that will have allowed us to salvage life on earth, or if we acted too late. By then, we must be well on the path to climate recovery. But this must start today. In fact, it should've started yesterday. By 2030, I will be old enough to run for Congress and be seated right where you guys are sitting right now. By then, we need to have already achieved net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and be rapidly on the path to climate recovery.

I can't wait until I'm sitting in your seats to change the climate crisis. You have to use the seats that you have now, because by the time I get there, it is going to be way too late.

The good news is that experts agree that there are multiple pathways to decarbonize the United States energy system, and thta doing so is both technologically and economically viable and beneficial. The most frustrating thing is that the U.S. government can't even begin to imagine the massive political shift that has to happen in order for us to solve this issue. The politics just hasn't been invented yet.

Solving the climate crisis goes against everything that our country was unfortunately built on -- colonialism, slavery, and natural resource extraction. This is why the youth are calling for a new era altogether.

As Greta (Thunberg) mentioned, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (says) that we only have a few months left in order to create the massive political shift needed to transition our world to an entirely renewable energy economy. This needs to happen within the next ten years, which is our deadline to save life as we know it.

People call my generation 'Generation Z,' as if we are the last generation. But we are not. We are refusing to be the last letter in the alphabet. I am here before the whole country today, announcing that we are instead a 'Generation GND' -- the Generation of the Green New Deal.

The only thing that will save us is a whole new era. The Green New Deal is not just about the specific plans laid out in resolutions, it's about a new chapter in American history and transforming our culture into one that celebrates, encourages and enables radical climate action. It is right here, testifying before you, that I'm proud to announce that history is being made.

You’ve heard of the Reagan era, the New Deal era -- well the youth are bringing about the era of the Green New Deal.

 

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