Early on a cold Monday morning, in the midst of final exams and holiday bustle, five Our Climate youth leaders skipped school and carpooled to Capitol Hill Seattle to attend an exclusive event hosted by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.  This event, which was by invitation only, served as an opportunity for Governor Inslee to formally announce his Climate Policy Agenda for the 2024 Legislative Session.  Joining him as speakers on the podium were House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon, Senator Joe Nguyen, Representative Beth Doglio, and other community stakeholders including a member of the Snohomish Tribe and a local public school bus driver. 

We were some of the youngest in attendance, and one of the only organizations that was fully represented by women.  It is an intimidating feeling being surrounded by groups of older men who tower over you as they stand, and this event was no exception.  But as the clock hit 9 AM we settled into the community center’s bleachers, crowded between two state representatives, and watched as Governor Inslee entered the room.  As he made his way to the podium he stopped in front of us to shake our hands and listened as we introduced ourselves.  “Stay back after this is over, I want to talk to you more” he said.  Then, he turned around to face the slew of news cameras, reporters and public officials, and began his official speech.  He spoke about the need to protect children from air pollution by transitioning away from diesel school buses towards fully electric ones, as well as, providing free public transportation for youth in communities across the state.  In addition, he discussed policies that will phase out methane gas; connect the states cap-and-invest program to those in California and Quebec; and hold oil and gas industries accountable for unfair gas price gouging that often affects working class Washingtonians.  For more information on Governor Inslee’s policies, see his official statement.

During the transition of podium speakers, we chatted with Representative David Hackney, who was sitting beside us.  He told us about his experience representing Washington’s 11th Legislative District, which sits between three major freeways and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  The 11th legislative district is the most polluted district in the entire state.  And due to historic redlining, the district has a large population of BIPOC and low-income Washingtonians who often bear the brunt of climate crisis issues.  Because of his experiences living and representing this area, he is a big advocate for climate justice policies that reduce unhealthy air pollution.  While climate justice was the main topic of discussion with Rep Hackney, he also chatted with Our Climate youth leaders about their areas of study in school, and raved to us about the amazing sandwiches he had recently at a speaking event he attended at the University of Washington.  We made plans to work with him in the future and include him in our upcoming youth lobby day.  “Sitting and talking with Representative Hackney in a chill way made me realize that government officials are just people like us,” said Our Climate Field Representative Hannah McKinley.  “It makes me less nervous to meet with them in the future.”

As the event came to a close, attendees flocked to Governor Inslee with the hope of having a conversation and taking a quick picture.  We waited by the podium and soon enough, just as he promised, he made his way over to us to talk.  “Can I have your contact information?” He asked.  “I want to work with you all on future climate business.”  I scribbled down my email as his Legislative Assistant handed me a business card.  We snapped a picture with him inside and then made our way towards the fully electric school bus that was waiting out front.  We chatted with him a bit more about our work, toured the bus, and took another photo.  “We’ll be in touch” he says as he leaves.

The six of us stood in disbelief after it was all over.  Out of all the people and organizations represented in the room that morning, the State Governor had singled us out and asked us to work with him further.  We had started the morning as a group of intimidated young women, and left feeling honored and recognized for the important perspectives that young women like us bring to the climate justice movement.  

When asked how she felt about the experience, Our Climate Fellow Mugdha Chiplunkar said it best.  “When I got the message that we had been invited to the announcement of Governor Inslee’s climate agenda, I felt so many emotions.  But excitement came out on top.  It’s not very often that young people like me get to be in spaces where action is being taken on our futures, so an opportunity like this meant the world to me.  We met so many amazing and influential people at the event. It gave me so much hope and served as a reminder for all of the work there still is to do.”

Published On: December 13th, 2023 / Categories: Blog /