With the release of the film “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, the effects of Hurricane Harvey, and the breaking of the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctica, combatting climate change is more crucial than ever before. This Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to Clara Nevins, a Youth Ambassador for the Women’s March and founder of Change Climate Change. She has been vocal on the issue by attending the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) and participating in several climate protests.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Why do you think climate change is so important?
I care about having a planet for my children to grow up on and our generation to grow up on. And I think that at the rate that we’re going right now, we won’t have a planet to live in the next several hundred years. I just care about preserving life. That’s why I think climate change is so important.
What led you to become a climate change activist?
My first step into activism was with UNICEF. Through my work with them, I realized that it’s the children that I was trying to save that were at the front lines of climate change. It’s people in developing nations that are really seeing the effects right now. People in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are seeing the effects but not in the same way. It’s the people in developing countries that are suffering from droughts and food shortages. So I did research into this and realized that climate change is connected to many global issues like the refugee crisis and the Arab Spring.
It’s the leading issue for our generation. Yet, I don’t think our generation feels the urgency in the way that we should. That was my inspiration.
Why do you think the young generation has not been as involved in the conversation on climate change?
I think calling yourself an environmentalist feels very 1970s and hippie-ish, and it does not have the cool connotation that being a feminist does. I think that image is why climate change has not sparked our generation. We’re also so used to hearing “recycle” all the time, so that environmentalism always feels like a chore. In reality, it’s such an interesting movement that has science behind it and is connected to feminism and other movements in a lot of ways. If we emphasize the fact that climate change is connected to many global issues and that it needs to be our generation who’s at the table, then it can become a cool issue to get involved in.
Besides the traditional “reduce, reuse, and recycle”, how should the youth address climate change?
I was really interested in tackling climate change from the political side, so I think it’s up to young people to hold our leaders accountable for creating laws that mitigate climate change. I think anyway you can get your voices heard to policy makers, like showing up to town halls and city council, makes a huge difference. Also, letter writing can be really important.
Do you think climate change should be treated as a political issue or a scientific issue?
I think that climate change should not be a partisan issue. It’s going to take both Democrats and Republicans to agree on the science and unify on this issue. Yes, climate change has its basis in science, but in order to create the legislation that is actually going to solve the problem, it has to start with politics.
How do you think climate change has been treated as a political issue?
I think that it’s been a topic of contentious debate in an unnecessary way. You have one side that believes in one fact and another side that believes in other “facts”. It’s such a heated issue because one side really believes in government helping the people and the other side believes in limited government. I think climate change requires hands-on government to create laws to solve the problems, but the problem is the different ideologies that the two parties have.
How should the U.S. move forward on climate change now that President Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement?
I think it’s the voice of the people that matters. I feel like having enough concerned citizens get their voices out there by protesting and just not giving up hope is crucial to this fight. I believe in this country and our resilience. The arc bends towards justice, so we will come out strong on the other side of this.
How responsible is it for certain states and cities to continue to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement?
I think it’s incredibly significant. It’s a part of people standing up to the government for what they believe even when our President has complete opposition to this issue. I think that it’s super important that, on a local level, we’re standing up for what we believe in.
In the promotion of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, the production company Participant Media started the #BeInconvenient campaign to raise awareness on climate change. What do you think of the film and its campaign?
I can’t remember a time where I’ve cried harder after seeing that film. It was so powerful and it was just so inspiring how Al Gore has been preaching this issue for years and no one has listened. I thought the best scene in it was when they referenced the most criticized scene in “An Inconvenient Truth” where they said New York was going to flood, and it literally did with Hurricane Sandy. I think #BeInconvenient is such a great slogan because it’s about standing up for what you believe in and challenging the status quo.
The Larsen C Ice shelf broke last month in Antarctica and created an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg. How worried are you about this particular effect on the planet?
Ice melting leads to rising sea levels and obviously for low-lying places, like New York and Venice, Italy, I am concerned. I think that we can channel that concern into urgency and action.
Do you think other nations have acted with enough urgency on climate change?
I think Japan has been great with climate change and other countries that have mass transportation. Paris, after COP 21, has instituted incredible new biking systems and windmills. There are many regions across the world that are adopting sustainable energy. I think every single nation has room for improvement, but there are innovators like Elon Musk who are coming up with the technology that could be used all over the world.
What do you think of Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA?
I am not a fan of cutting the budget for the EPA or appointing someone who doesn’t believe in climate change to head the EPA. It’s incredibly important that the strong advocates against climate change in Congress have a huge responsibility to fight. I think at the citizen-level, we can all make our voices heard by writing to senators and representatives and sending the message that we care.
According to Pew Research, 74 percent of Americans say we “should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” Why do you think the federal government has been slow to respond to that?
I think it’s clear that their priorities are not in climate change. I know that one of the main reason that he got votes in the Rust Belt was because he promised jobs for coal miners. That is not a clean industry; it’s unsustainable. They have been slow to respond because climate change is not their platform. They don’t believe in it.
What ventures in climate change activism are you currently working on?
I have partnered with the National Resources Defense Council and I have worked on projects with them. One of them was to get a bill passed in Los Angeles to provide every building with a report card for their energy efficiency. This ensures that they are being sustainable in their energy because buildings are the number one contributors to carbon dioxide release. Another topic that I am passionate about is packaging. There is so much packaging on products that is a waste of plastic. So I might start writing letters to different companies to reduce their packaging. I am just going to keep advocating. Long live the agreement at COP 21!
In your article, “A Millennial’s Take on Climate Activism”, you said, in reference to climate change, “this issue is more ours than any single cause.” What did you mean by that?
I like to compare this time to the counterculture of the 1960s. I think because of our political climate, we are in such a similar time. Our generation is at the front lines and will create the change. We see the effects of climate change like the hurricanes, droughts, and food shortages. I think it’s up to us to solve the issue. The stakes are so much greater for us. We have to own the issue.
Photo: Clara Nevins and Friends participating in a rally for climate action. Via: The Huffington Post