Teen Climate Activist: Why Study When the World Is Ending?

Jamie Margolin, a high school senior who co-founded This Is Zero Hour and sued her home state of Washington for causing climate change, said at a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday that she and other teens are told to plan for the future but wonder why when “the world is ending.”

“It’s just really hard to grow up in a world of ‘ifs,’” said Margolin, who told the committee that, like some of the other young witnesses, she suffers from “anxiety issues.”

“I don’t think a lot of people in Congress understand the conversations that are happening every day in American high schools,” Margolin said.

Margolin said she and her peers suffer from “constant looming uncertainty” because of climate change. 

“Kids are joking, like, what is even, like, the point … the world is ending,” Margolin said. “What are we studying for? What are we doing?”

“Right now it’s like some members of government and corporations are actively pointing a gun to children’s futures, actively making it worse, actively going out of their way to support corporations and poison us and destroy our future and that is horrifying and it feels like a betrayal,” Margolin said. “It’s like a knife to the heart.”

Margolin said in her prepared testimony that her mother is an immigrant from Columbia.

“I will never get to experience that harmony and paradise on earth that she did,” Margolin said. “I know foreign affairs deals with international development, but this whole idea of development is backwards [sic].”

“We think that development means big cities and lots of money, but in reality places like where my Abuela grew up are just as rich as any American metropolis,” Margolin said. 

“I want the entirety of Congress, in fact, the whole U.S. government, to remember the fear and despair that my generation lives with every day, and I want you to hold onto it,” Margolin said in her opening remarks. “How do I even begin to convey to you what it feels like to know that within my lifetime the destruction that we have already seen from the climate crisis will only get worse?”

“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride, it should fill you with shame,” Margolin said.

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg also testified at the hearing, although she did not read an opening statement but instead presented the committee with a United Nations report on climate change. Thunberg started the Fridays for Future school walkout movement and will be a featured speaker at the United Nations at its climate summit next week.

The hearing unfolded mostly along party lines, with Republicans pointing out how it is countries like China and India that are contributing the most to pollution in the world and that the United States is a top steward of its land and resources at cutting carbon emissions.

Democrats said that climate change is the greatest threat facing the world.

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