Becoming a Youth Climate Activist

by Elsie Sabel, one of several young activists who presented their work at the WWFOR Fall Retreat

I’m part of the Thurston Youth Climate Coalition; an organization of high school and college-age climate activists in Thurston County. I started my activist ways in 2019, when I skipped school to attend a global climate strike at the Capitol. After that, I became part of the leadership of my school’s climate club in 2020. Being on zoom, we couldn’t do much in-person, but we organized letter writing campaigns and attended virtual city council meetings. In 2022, Greta Thunberg called for another global climate strike. I was excited to attend my cities strike, but as the day drew closer, I wasn’t hearing anything about it. So, I got together a group of friends and together, we organized it. The day came with over 100 people attending. Not bad for a group of rookies. After that, we decided to form the Thurston Youth Climate Coalition. We saw our local governments agreeing to enact change, and then dragging their feet, saying they were “working on it”. So, we staged die-ins at local city council meetings and met with the environmental coordinators of each city. Since then, my perspective has shifted a bit. I believe that the environmental coordinators are doing the best they can, but they’re working with empty pockets. They’re only given enough money for small, performative gestures. Living in such a liberal area we have plenty of sympathizers, but if we go up a little more on the government chain, we find people are largely desensitized to our cause. I’ve heard of the need for national as well as local change. But what happens locally depends on the next rung up. I say, we need the middle guys to help out the little guys. We need more state funding if local climate mitigation and adaptation will ever succeed.