"The best way to get [businesspeople and politicians] to care about the climate crisis is to remind them of the biodiversity crisis."
Alexandria Villaseñor made the room go still with this simple answer.
It encompasses two major truths of the This is Zero Hour Miami youth summit:
The blood spilled through climate change crisis is on the hands of powerful people, like politicians and businesspeople, who choose to continue to see it as some far-off phenomenon. On the flip side, those most affected by the climate crisis are those who historically have less political and economic power, including nature, indigenous people, people of colour, women and other minority gender groups, and youth.
Young people are stepping up, hand in hand with people who identify with these historically disadvantaged groups, to break down silos and share their stories in unique and relatable ways, reclaiming the power that was taken from us.
One of the most powerful things about our young generation is our empathy. Our ability to care for not only ourselves and our families, but also our communities, our countries, and individuals across our planet. The Zero Hour conference, through hashtags, videos, and online messaging, made it clear that the internet and social media are incredible tools that we are already using to better understand the stories of people who live very differently from us.
Through the Zero Hour summit, I heard the stories of people from far-off countries - I heard about how Greta Thunberg, an unlikely face of the climate change movement, is bringing together people young and old from across the globe to see climate change for what it really is: a crisis which will swallow up our entire generation if we don't make drastic changes to our everyday and future plans right now.
I also heard stories from individuals like Jaysa Meller, who lives ten minutes from my hometown. Her story helped me put into perspective the way environmental injustice affects people every day, from communities deprived of biodiversity and clean air to neighborhoods ripped apart by natural disasters.
The This is Zero Hour Miami youth summit on climate change came just days after the city of New York announced that it would develop a climate preparedness plan - largely due to the efforts of Alexandria and young people who marched and protested across NYC, the United Nations headquarters, and the world.
Here she was, holding a microphone, sat onstage with some of the most influential women in the fight against climate change. And her insights were some of the most powerful
As the people who inherit this planet from our parents and grandparents who unknowingly polluted it, we have the biggest reason to fight back. Our stories, backed by the collective strength of our empathy for the stories around us, are fuelling a movement that will surpass any environmental movement of the past.
Even if you couldn't make it to the Zero Hour summit, it will be available to you online, in true spirit of the inclusivity embodied by our youth movement. Listen to these stories. Feel these stories like they're your own. Stay inspired. Share your truth.
Win back our planet.
Emma Thornton is a Coordination Associate with Youth4Nature. She is a recent graduate of Northeastern University with expertise in sustainability and environmental justice. Emma is based in Boston, USA.