Tony is a fellow with Our Climate. He was was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska and relocated to Spokane, WA this year. Growing up so close to forests, glaciers, and mountains, he has seen first hand what we stand to lose in this climate fight. After experiencing extreme wildfires, learning of coastal degradation leading to permanent Indigenous relocation, and receding glacial activity this past summer, he recognized the need to play a more active role in the solution.
On January 24th, 2020, youth from all over Washington convened in Olympia for Youth Climate Lobby Day, bringing with them one simple interest: a livable future. I know that our interests are worthy, and that our presence in the legislature is necessary. Youth must be represented anytime climate or environmental policy is being voted on, because it’s our future at stake. Even with that in mind though, I was still unsure what sort of impact our lobbying would have on legislators. Would they respond with swift action, or just praise us and say, “You’re the future”?
I was representing the 3rd legislative district of Spokane, a blue district with a good scorecard when it comes to the planet. Our first meeting was with Representative Marcus Reccelli. We sat down, introduced ourselves and started talking about our bills of priority. First one up was HB 2829, a bill that gives Gov. Inslee the authority to declare a climate emergency. After a few words about the bill, Rep. Reccelli says, “Oh, I need to cosponsor that one”, and pulls out his laptop to add his name to the bill. We all looked at each other in shock thinking, “is climate action that easy?” Well, apparently it is, you just need a few kids to remind you.
Now, of course not all meetings were that cozy, and we were sometimes met with resistance. That interaction, to me, was the perfect example of the power youth lobbying can have. We went into that meeting as rookie lobbyists, with minimal policy experience, and left feeling accomplished. I don’t always know what sort of swift climate action is needed, but I know it looks something like that. The climate crisis is bigger than one meeting, one legislator, and one political party though. So, the challenge now is to get legislators like Rep. Recelli to reach across the aisle and rally his colleagues. The youth? We’ll be here to remind them.