Grace Yang is a 15 year old student from Lexington High School, an Our Climate Field Representative and a Coordinator for Fridays For Future Massachusetts. She recently testified before the MA state house committee currently holding back key climate legislation.
The youth climate movement claims that movements build power from the ground up. But to make good on that claim, we must direct our attention, resources and power to the root of our movement–local politics. We must break the hierarchy that dominates so many adult-led groups, and realize that local action is at least as important as national action.
I recently experienced firsthand the unique power of local action. On Jan 14th of this year, I sat before the microphone in a hot, crowded hearing room in my own State House before a powerful committee of lawmakers. I testified with Our Climate directly to these legislators on the public record, pressuring them to save my future by passing bill H.2810, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions, out of their committee. Opportunities like this for youth to build and exercise power, may be rare and inaccessible at the national level, but they abound close to home.
As I gear up for the 50th Earth Day, I’ve been redirecting my Fridays for Future Massachusetts node toward the politics they can impact the most. Watching my team learn and grow is the best feeling in the world. Starting projects and initiatives with them fills me with hope. It’s hard to estimate how much change something has effected, but I’m seeing a tangible shift in my own community.
Not only does this work feel satisfying, but it is getting real results. The chair of the committee recognized me from local organizing I had done last year and I was able to follow up with him at future events. These up-close and personal interactions are getting results. Not only have we built a personal relationship that is helping to win him over, but we are developing a track-record to which we can hold him accountable in the future. I met with my state representative at Our Climate’s largest ever lobby day on Jan 29th, and left feeling empowered and excited to keep building the movement in my community.
Sometimes, organizing on the national level reminds me of the politicians and world leaders I mock – how we talk and talk and talk about climate change but take action way too slowly. Sometimes, I feel like my endless conference calls yield nothing.
On the other hand, local organizing feels incredibly empowering. More importantly, it feels useful. Like I’m making a tangible difference. Organizers on the national level should see themselves as a support system for their activists on the ground, not as executives to boss them around. And I hope that, within our organizations, we can learn to reallocate our attention and resources to honor what the word “grassroots” really means.
CAIR-WA’s work and rapid response is an excellent reminder to support local organizations working to promote justice and equity in our communities. You can donate to CAIR-WA here.
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