By: Hridesh Singh
September 20th, 2019 will go down as perhaps the most important day for the current climate movement. Nearly seven million people of all ages from across the globe protested in solidarity in the Global Climate Strikes against the continued societal inaction on the climate crisis. Not only was it one of the largest mass mobilizations of people for environmental action in history, demonstrating to world leaders the international political will for climate justice, but it also served as a pivotal catalyst for the genesis of our organization.
For the Global Climate Strikes, Liam, Lindsay and I traveled with four other youth activists from the Rochester area to attend the strike in New York City. Huddled with over 250,000 individuals from all walks of life in Battery Park, we lost our collective minds when Greta Thunberg took the stage and gave a stirring speech on the urgency of addressing the climate crisis with calls to action for youth and policymakers alike.
We all felt so inspired and awe-struck by not only Greta, but by the hundreds of thousands of others who demonstrated with us. It fueled us not only to work even harder planning our local strike the next week that drew nearly a thousand Rochesterians, but to take our organizing to a new level.
A few months prior, New York State passed the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires our state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while also emphasizing the need to ensure environmental justice for frontline communities. With this in mind, we felt it was the opportune time to push for other state-level climate policies and hence, Liam, Lindsay and I co-founded the New York Youth Climate Leaders, a policy-driven coalition of youth organizations from across the state.
We spent nearly eight hours the day of our launch poring over our policy platform, social media platforms and rudimentary Wix site on my mom’s dining room table. For the most part, we really didn’t have a clue when it came to forming our own organization sans adults. None of us were policy experts, nor web designers, and collectively we were absolutely TERRIBLE at social media (Facebook thought we were bots when we first started our NY²CL account), and yet somehow we officially launched our organization last November.
Since that day, we’ve grown from three random high schoolers in Rochester, NY with way too much time on their hands to a diverse coalition of over 55 youth organizations from every corner of the Empire State, from Buffalo to Long Island, all dedicated to fighting for climate justice for our state.
Although we’re all still learning on the fly (to be honest, I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time), our commitment towards creating a livable future for our planet remains unwavering, and drives all our work. As American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
Hridesh Singh is a current high school senior in Rochester, NY and serves as the Executive Director for the New York Youth Climate Leaders.