Emily is Our Climate's Washington Field Coordinator. She manages Washington's Fellowship and Field Representative programs with youth across the state from ages 13-25.
This month, wildfires have been ravaging the entire west coast. I live in Seattle where we have had some of the worst air quality in the world over the last week. I’ve seen the immense impact of these fires not only in my personal life, but also in the lives of my colleagues and community. These fires have been a dangerous and costly physical manifestation of climate change.
Personally, I haven’t been able to leave my apartment for five days. Seattlites have been told that the air quality is so bad that it is dangerous to be outside for even a few minutes. I happen to live in a church where we serve meals to people experiencing homelessness. On average, we have 150 attendees each day, many of whom are unable to escape the poor air quality due to our city and state’s failure to provide shelters. Many of them are experiencing health problems that amplify the impact of poor air quality.
How are those in power unable to provide basic shelter and other resources for survival to our most vulnerable neighbors when Seattle is home to the world’s largest, richest corporations? How can the world’s first trillionaire live in our state while one of the worst homelessness crisis’ in the country remains unsolved and unvalued by our elected officials?
The impact the wildfires have outside of Seattle is tangible too. Our Climate youth leaders have shared their experiences from across the state over the last few weeks. Some of the fires started in rural areas near central Washington where a few of our youth leaders live. These fires ravaged agricultural communities our youth are a part of. It’s timely that we met with the legislators who represent this community just weeks ago. It’s a shame that their response when we asked them to act boldly on climate was, “we still aren’t sure that climate change even exists.”
For me, the last few weeks drive home the dire need for youth to turn out for the upcoming election this November to make sure we have elected leaders who understand the urgency and intersections of climate change. Youth face so many different crises: a pandemic, raging wildfires, racial and economic injustice to name a few.
We need lawmakers who understand that these crises are related and will use the upcoming legislative session to pass bold, comprehensive policies to ensure our right to a livable future. That’s why we’ve been meeting with elected officials and asking them to use this legislative session to fix our upside down tax code (Washington has one of the most regressive tax codes in the country) by passing progressive revenue sources so we can finally invest in our communities and the transition to a clean energy economy.
Historic youth voter turnout this November is a necessary first step in making sure the politicians who make decisions that will impact our right to a livable future will make them well. Young people know that we have no time for climate denying politicians in our government, so let’s get out and act like it on November 3rd (or earlier if you can vote by mail)!
Photo from Sean O'Neil's Flickr