By Tanya Kasyanchuk, Cordova High School senior
I started volunteering with 350 Sacramento in January of this year. Right away, we decided that we would try to build a youth team to get more younger people aware and involved in the fight for climate justice. After a few meetings, we organized a Climate Cafe Pizza Party, with the objective to bring awareness to high schools students and hopefully get them to join us in future events and efforts. We had quite a few signups for the event, so I was pretty excited going into the event. I arrived early to help set up and fell in love with the venue–it was this beautiful, artistic, open space. I couldn’t wait to get started. As people started trailing in, it was soon evident that not all of the people who had signed up were coming. The group was considerably smaller, and I couldn’t help but to feel a little bit discouraged. After the initial presentation about climate change and its effects, there was this atmosphere of helplessness in the room. As we broke into smaller discussion groups, the mood started to slowly transform into a more positive one–especially when we were talking about what commitments we were willing to make to our community to help accelerate climate action. At the end, we brought it back together with the whole group and shared our ideas. Sitting there on the floor, I remember suddenly feeling very hopeful. I thought back to how I had felt discouraged at the beginning of the event because of the turnout. Then I thought about Greta Thunberg, and how discouraged she must have felt on the first day of her strike, sitting all alone outside of the Swedish Parliament. And I thought about how big her movement is now. It made me realize that this was just our beginning. I looked around the circle, and realized I was surrounded by so many wonderful young people that cared enough to show up. And in that moment, I knew we were going to do something incredible together.
When I reached out to 350 Sacramento in January, I knew I wouldn’t be able to work with them for very long since I’m leaving to college in a few months. My goal was to reach out and help them as much as possible in the little time I have left in Sacramento, whether that was through doing basic volunteer work or helping start up a new group. My ideal next step would be to help launch a statewide California Green New Deal campaign, with the help of local and state partners. I think getting the youth of California involved in this campaign is crucial to its success. There are already a lot of students involved in the climate strikes, and I think getting them to push for a California GND would be the most effective next step in climate action.