As the new Policy Director for Generation Climate, I’m excited to track and support environmental justice policy at all levels of government for students in the Young Environmental Activists Network (YEA!).
I joined the Climate Generation Foundation in March of this year—in the middle of the Minnesota state legislature. Capitols are a unique experience to navigate—a lot of hearings and decisions are made at the last minute, so I didn’t really have any real expectations this year, especially since the state has its first triple-double in the DFL in nine years. With Democrats controlling Governance, the State House, and the Senate (one seat) I was curious to see how much we could accomplish, especially since not much passed last year due to the Senate being under different leadership than the House. However, I knew that the voices of the communities on the front lines of the worst impact of climate change needed to be front and center. Prior to joining Generation Climate, I was working on the Homeless Youth Act amendment, and later had the pleasure of joining the fight for the Climate Justice Education Bill (HF2297/SF476) mandated by the YEA! Students co-authored.
While the climate justice education bill did not pass this year, it was heard in the lower house education policy committee, where it was met with support from representatives of the German Football Association. As written, the bill will bring conversations about climate justice into our state’s classrooms. Yes! Students commissioned bill language and I saw their passion during their testimony before the Education Policy Committee. For them, talking about climate justice and the climate crisis will not only ease anxiety around it, but also help find solutions for a sustainable future.
Being new to environmental sanitation spaces, I am grateful to YEA! Students and community coalitions to teach me about state and local initiatives happening near me. The Cumulative Effects Bill (HF3146/SF3211) has been a multi-year struggle for community access to regulatory powers. In other words, it gives vulnerable communities that have disproportionately suffered the worst forms of pollution the power to accept or deny new and existing permits for facilities that wish to build in their neighborhoods. The bill passed both the House and Senate after years of serious community organizing by the Black, Indigenous, and Colored (BIPOC) communities hardest hit by this bill and air pollution.
While I believe in celebrating the victories we have achieved in this legislative session, it is also important to recognize how much work remains to be done. It has been great to see the progress communities have made as a result of this latest session, however we must continue to hold them accountable once these laws are passed and implementation begins. If a bill is implemented and does not reflect the needs of the community, it will do almost nothing to protect them and give them access to the resources they need.
Policy implementation often does not involve a great deal of community participation and leadership, unless it is fought tirelessly for, so it will be important to track the progress of these bills as they become law.
I want to pay my respects and thanks to a number of community members who helped organize others and led the fights we witnessed at the Capitol. As someone who supports and watches over me, I was both amazed and amazed, so I know the work that has been done has been no easy. Even as more members of the BIPOC community are elected to office, having a BIPOC in the Capitol is pretty scary — but I hope more of us continue to show up. I hope we will continue to put pressure on our elected leaders and hold them accountable.
Moving forward, I’m excited to begin planning our climate justice education bill to get to the finish line in the next legislative session. I look forward to creating political education opportunities in an effort to organize more youth around state and local policy, and more community-led initiatives that fight for environmental justice in BIPOC communities. One of the powerful tools used to help pass legislation this year has been storytelling from the community and I’m excited to do the same with other climate justice activists at the UN’s SB (subsidiary bodies) conference in Bonn, Germany! Expanding my knowledge about policy and regulation, from a more global perspective, will be a fruitful experience to help build solidarity and continue to drive climate justice in Minnesota down the road to success.
Minnesota has taken several amazing steps in addressing our climate crisis, and we’re just getting started!
B. is Policy Director for Climate Generation. They are from the Minneapolis Southsider and a first generation graduate of the University of Minnesota. BB has many years of experience in community organizing and policy work and is excited to bring their expertise in voting rights and housing advocacy to climate justice work for the climate generation. They believe in investing in our young leaders to build a better future and sustain the movement and focused youth voices in previous campaigns. B. Participant in the Wilder Foundation’s Community Equality Program, a nine-month political leadership group-based learning journey for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community leaders and change-makers.