On February 19th, we drove down to Olympia to participate in the Climate Lobby Day event held by 350 Seattle and Youth Lead the Way. There I got the chance to join the youth from across the Washington state for their speech, march and the meeting with Miss Cindy Chen, the Executive Legislative Assistant to Speaker Frank Chopp, to express our thoughts and concerns related to the climate issues.
Although that was on President’s Day, there were still many other lobbyists groups there on Washington State Capitol Campus. When we arrived in the morning, other participants, mostly youths and their parents had already gathered on the big stairs in front of the Legislative Building, holding different posters and slogans crafted by themselves, and were listening to the inspiring speeches from several youth leaders. They talked about their own understandings of the urgent climate change problem, their former experiences of “fighting” for environmental justice and even recomposed a song for this. Later, we joined the march around the building, calling for shutting down the fossil fuels and keeping the carbon underground. And then we gathered on a lawn, sharing everyone’s insights, and held a ceremony of redwood tree gifting to the Capitol Campus. The weather that day was frizzing, but never was our passion. I was literally shocked by this series of events, not only because this type of activity is almost impossible in my country, but also youths’ self-awareness of their responsibility and legislation engagements in policy, which is super inspiring for me.
After lunch was the lobbying time. Before the meeting, two youth leaders gave us a short orientation about the lobbying tips, which was informative for me. Then we were divided into two teams to meet with different legislators separately. In our meeting with Executive Legislative Assistant Miss Cindy Chen, firstly we had the children stated their own concerns and proposed the Act for Our Future Pledge, which is the purpose of this event. In the pledge that we wanted the legislators to sign for the sake of the environment, we came up with these three: (1) Immediately halt all new fossil fuel infrastructure in our state; (2) Commit Washington state to an economy running on 100% renewables by 2028; (3) Address the need to plant 1 billion trees in WA to sequester CO2. Then each of us talked about our own thoughts based on the understanding of the pledge and the related bills. For the first part, I expressed my feelings about climate change from the perspective of landscape architecture students, that for now, more and more focus in our profession has been laid on the design for climate change adaptation which addresses the resiliency of the natural system, such as stormwater management. However, with the actions above, instead of fixing the problems, we could actually prevent these problems from occurring. And from a broader view, these actions could bring other benefits for the regional economy and social development. For example in order to shift to 100% renewable energy, building wind power stations along the Washington coast could be a solution, and at the same time, creating more job opportunities for the market. And for the latter part, I expressed my support for the carbon tax bills, which related to cutting down the CO2 emissions in an economical way, acting as an addition to halting fossil fuel infrastructure and planting trees. I suggested the tax rate could depend on the carbon tax contents in each energy and therefore providing diverse alternatives, as I stated in the former posts. Due to the limited time for the group talk, Miss. Chen took notes of our ideas and said they would be conveyed to Speaker Chopp.
The journey of fighting for environmental rights never ends. I received continuous emails from Youth Lead the Way to follow up the event. In the email that I got on March 9th, it is said that due to the lasting efforts of the 350 Seattle organization and the youth activists around the state, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. Rep. Gael Tarleton, and Rep. Nicole Macri had sent signed copies of the pledge. I was so excited to see the results from the voices and advocacy of youth, and I hope and believe there will be more support from other legislators and representatives!
This was an amazing and new experience for me that I have never thought I would kind of take part in a social progress like this. Thanks to Youth Lead the Way which showed me the power of our new generation, that we have to be brave and bold to fight for our rights and for the environments. They create great opportunities for youth to foster the sense of responsibility and participate in the policy-making process. One suggestion is that if they could get more support from some professionals such as cooperating with other organizations such as CarbonWashington, their voices could be even more powerful. And also thanks to the event that although the legislative and economic system here is totally different from my country, this event made me realize the bottom-up power and the role of American democracy during the political process. We should be actively engaged in the system, and by expressing our concerns and thoughts to the legislators, we could make the changes happen and push the system forward and benefit all as much as possible.