Youth Speak: On the National Youth Climate Exchange

NYCE Climate Fellows on the last day of the retreat in Pennsylvania.

“I am a climate activist”: NYCE youth Climate Fellows on the last day of the retreat in Pennsylvania.

For the last six months, three Grow Dat alums have worked as Policy Interns with the National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE) organized by Global Kids. The NYCE culminated in a 3-day retreat outside of Washington, DC with youth activists convening from New York, DC, West Virginia and New Orleans. Attending the retreat was a powerful experience for all involved. Here youth report back back their experience and the connections they are making between sustainable agriculture, New Orleans and climate instability.

2013-04-05 14.06.57 copyI’m Joshua and I go to De La Salle high school in New Orleans, Louisiana. This spring I was hired to work with Global Kids and Grow Dat to help with the growing problem of our world’s eco systems falling apart. I joined Grow Dat to learn more about our eco system. I wanted to learn how to grow plants sustainably, and I knew that Grow Dat would teach us how how sustainable agriculture differs from industrially-grown food. I wanted to get involved with National Youth Climate Exchange because I believe in what they are working for: climate justice. I wanted to do my part to help with the NYCE mission and to learn more about our planet and the people who try and save it. After joining NYCE, I was inspired by all the youth who came from different places and the stories they shared. I was also inspired by the many enviornmental activists we learned about – their stories about how they risk and sacrifice so much to help their homes and the planet. I was also very surprised to hear about the tragic story of how coal mining is destroying the mountains and societies around them. I was un-aware of how coal let into the air and water supplies can cause many diseases to spread through communities, and that no one is doing much to prevent it.

The knowledge I acquired at the NYCE has helped me understand how important it is that we farm without pesticides at Grow Dat. Not only do pesticides affect our food and the people who eat them, but they can destroy the environment slowly over time as they infect the water and plants that animals need to survive. If we want to keep farming using clean methods then we also need to keep the environment clean. The climate greatly affects how our food grows. If the warmer seasons end faster or are too long it can cause foods to die before we can harvest them and limit what foods we can grow in New Orleans. We rely on the earth to grow our food and by destroying it we destroy our food supply and the quality of the food.
Going the NYCE showed me how I can help keep my town and its people healthy and aware of the problems. We can work together as a city to keep our food clean and healthy.

Amber Hi my name is Amber and I am a senior at New Orleans Science and Mathematics High School in New Orleans. I work at the Grow Dat Youth Farm where I will be an Intern again this fall. I got involved with the National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE), because I wanted to know more about what was going on around the country climate-wise. I was never aware of the problems that other places were facing –  like mountain top removal – so when I learned about it I was very surprised. I never thought about how serious some of our enviornmental problems are. At the retreat I learned a lot but the thing that I took with me was that we as youth have a very powerful voice and all we have to do is use it to make what we want happen. Climate change is important to our work at Grow Dat because we use organic methods to grow vegetables. We do this so that we don’t damage the only land that we have. By us growing food for communities in New Orleans, there are less ‘food miles’: the food is fresher and it doesn’t have to travel a lot of miles to get to the consumer. Local food reduces the use of fossil fuels for transportation.
It was amazing to work with youth from many different cities. I hope that we can meet again one day to talk about the progress that we are making in our communties.

Kamau I am Kamau and I am a Junior at Warren Easton High School. I worked at Grow Dat last year as a Crew Member. I am currently on staff at Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools and I sit on the Restorative Justice Committee. I am also the founder of Be a Helping Hand Foundation. I am currently working on music with my sister.
I had a very great time at The National Youth Climate Exchange (NYCE) retreat. Climate connects with agriculture in millions of different ways. Climate change alters weather patterns which has great effect on how we grow our crops or if we can grow the same crops at all. Below is the statement I wrote after attending the retreat which I shared with my school Principal, employers, environmental mentor and others.

“On April 4 – 7, I went to Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. We The National Youth Climate Exchange or NYCE, learned about climate change. We learned about environmental problems in New Orleans and also problems elsewhere such mountain top removal. I met many youth activists, such as Londan, Herminia, Leslie, Makayla, Elmu, Redwan, and Samri. Many of those names don’t sound American: the NYCE is a diverse group of activists coming from Honduras, Mexico, Africa and Bangladesh, although we all now live in America. I also worked with New Orleans’ very own Amber and Joshua.

We shared personal stories about dealing with climate change.One climate story that really stood out to me was told by two teenagers from West Virginia who are activists with Build-It-Up West Virginia. Their story was about mountain top removal, which is the process of exploding mountains to mine out coal. Many West Virginians have well water, which comes from a well underground rather than city water. The well water where they live is contaminated with chemicals from mountain top removal. Many of these chemicals have caused people to develop cancer, asthma, and other breathing problems. Many of the people affected are kids. The chemicals are not only in the well water, they are also in the air. The mountains in their areas are disappearing: in their community there is only one mountain left. The youth also shared about their emotional struggle. They have been abused and have recieved death threats – because they want to make a difference. One of the girls shared that she was told that she was going to be killed if she went against coal mining again. They are only 15 and 18 years old.
The next story that caught my attention was from a 14 year old from Bangladesh who now lives in New York. He said that there was a huge river behind his house. Everyday he saw the river being filled with concrete. Eventually a city grew on the banks of the river. He said that once the city was finished, it sunk right back into the river. When it sunk it had killed many people, and now there is nothing left but dirty land.
Now I’m going to share our story. Because of the changes in climate from human wrong-doings, the Louisiana coast loses 1 acre of land every hour. That’s 24 acres of land lost each day. (This is about the size of 24 football fields.) In our eyes levees are a good thing, but that’s for protection against flooding. Levees also stop sediment from coming in to build new land. Sediment is moved from the Mississippi River out into the Gulf. New Orleans is a ‘bowl community’ meaning water will collect in the city if the levees break and we flood again. It is possible New Orleans would not recover. Solutions to these problems can be elevating homes, using solar energy, installing green roofs and etc. Doing these things will not only reduce carbon emissions but will also create better living.”