People who Give us hope: Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strikers

photo by Chris Cassell, Pro Bono Photo

Youth Climate Strike was born out of an international school walk out of 1.4 million students on March 15, 2019. This movement – entirely led by high school students – is bringing awareness of the urgency of climate change and advocating for change at the national, state, and local level.

With 90 young activists organizing in our community, the local Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike chapter is a force to be reckoned with. They have an impressive platform of issues ranging from the Green New Deal and public banking to public transportation and the protection of local biodiversity. They advocate through striking, educational initiatives, op-eds, and coalitions. Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike are also the newest members of the coalitions Green Foothills is leading to Protect Coyote Valley and Protect Juristac. We are thrilled to have them as partners in this work.

The Youth Climate Strikers are striking a chord within their generation and have something to teach all of us. Below is an interview with the organization’s local leaders, three young women who are making a real difference: Helen Deng (Archbishop Mitty High School, class of 2021), Jamie Minden (Saint Francis High School, class of 2021), and Lexi Crilley (Los Altos High School, class of 2020).

What motivates you?

Helen: I’m motivated by a combination of both righteous anger and radical hope. Anger at the fossil fuels and corruption that has stolen our future, but also hope for humanity and our power when we come together. Thinking of the people and places that I love, we know that a better future is possible — and everything we do is a step towards getting us there.

Jamie

Jamie: Fear is what drives me to work, but hope is what makes this work worthwhile. I am scared that these next couple of years are our last chance to save life on earth as we know it. The reality is that humans caused this crisis, and I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now and realize that I could have done something but I didn’t. 

We have the technology, money, and resources to easily solve this crisis. All that is needed is a shift in political and public will. People’s minds are already changing and the coronavirus has shown the public what an emergency response to an existential threat actually looks like. Support for the Green New Deal has risen 15% in the past three months, which will bring millions of clean energy jobs. We are going to have to fight hard but for every person who joins, we are that much closer to a victory. I’m not paid, but I think that I have the most rewarding job in the world. 

Lexi: I choose to be motivated by hope rather than fear. Hope is, quite literally, my middle name, and I deeply believe that positivity is more empowering than anything else. I constantly strive to maintain an optimistic perspective. It’s definitely not easy – the climate crisis is absolutely terrifying, and it’s impossible not to be furious with the world sometimes. But you can’t achieve what you can’t dream, so I envision the best possible outcome and vow to do whatever it takes to make it a reality. 

How can young people get involved?

Lexi

Lexi: You can become an organizer with Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike by signing up on our website, or at the link posted on our instagram, facebook, and twitter profiles (@svclimatestrike). We currently have 9 teams: Logistics, Outreach, Policy, Advocacy, Creative, Social Media, Finance, Chapter Development, and Press/Marketing. We always welcome more engaged youth, and it doesn’t have to be a major time commitment,

How can adults be supportive?  

Jamie: We are incredibly impactful because we are youth-led. When our organization enters the City Council chambers or takes to the streets, people really pay attention. But we are all high schoolers and we can’t do everything. Our strike last September would have been a total flop if not for the amazing adult volunteers who helped us get equipment, insurance, legal advice, permits- the list goes on. Adults have been in this game far longer than we have, and you have some really great life experience to share with us. So follow the same directions as the youth! Go to our website and get involved in our programs. Get on our mailing list and attend our meetings. Join our teams as mentors, or reach out to us directly to offer your assistance. We welcome your support- we can’t do this without you. 

How do you think Green Foothills mission of open space protection intersects with Youth Climate Strike demands?

Helen

Helen: As youth climate strikers fighting for the natural environment and sacred sites, the Green Foothills mission of open space protection absolutely spoke to us. The strong coalition of organizations they build to fight to protect lands such as Coyote Valley from development for the benefit of all is an integral part of climate justice and the work we do. After all, the livable future we are so desperately fighting for absolutely needs beautiful nature spaces, providing habitats for a bevy of wild organisms and creatures as well as where humans can explore and connect with nature. Withall of the massive changes upturning our world, open space keeps us grounded in the love we have for nature, our planet, and our people.

As a growing movement of youth activists who are passionate about the planet, these young people give all of us at Green Foothills hope. We are fortunate to have such an active base of young people organizing in our community for the planet and are very happy to work with Youth Climate Strike on natural resource protection locally and to support these young grassroots activists. To learn more about Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike, you can visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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