Youth Leading the Way at Water Action Day and Kids Climate March

Water Action DayBy Anna LaCombe

On Wednesday April 19th, Minnesotans gathered for Water Action Lobby Day at the state capitol. Citizens from all over the state congregated in the basement of the Christ Lutheran Church as early as 8 a.m. to learn when they would be meeting with their elected officials and gather more information about the day’s events. Over 800 people had registered for the event.

The coffee urn was perpetually replenished with a fresh pot, as waves of new arrivals, many traveling by bus from greater Minnesota, poured into the basement unveiling their homemade signs from their protective rainproof casings. One woman had pasted pictures of her grandchildren on her poster—faces of those who will bear the consequences of how we deal with today’s problems.

Water Action Day 2

Sierra Club interns Anna LaCombe and Claudia Sanchez-Santoyo rally for clean water.

The day culminated in the Water Action Rally in the rotunda of the capitol. People watched from stories above the makeshift stage to unfurl banners and catch a glimpse of the speakers including Governor Mark Dayton and Winona LaDuke. Check out MinnPost for more great coverage of Water Action Day.

Youth Caucus

Before heading to the rotunda for the rally, Governor Dayton met with over 50 young people ranging from babies in strollers to recent college graduates in his office.

Many of the attendees spoke to Governor Dayton about why clean water was important to them. As one twelve year-old said, “Water is essential to life. If you are polluting it, you are polluting life.”

The young adults spoke to the environmental impacts of sulfide mining (to which Gov. Dayton said that putting a mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters is criminal), their opposition to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, and their person experiences – such as growing up in rural Iowa and learning that treated water is not the same as clean water; or gaining a deeper appreciation for clean resources after living in Chicago. When asked by a recent college graduate and Sierra Club intern if he would continue to veto legislation that would remove consumer protections for rural solar customers, the Governor reaffirmed his commitment with a fist bump.

An 18 year-old from Duluth said “I believe that it is our generation’s responsibility to protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers,” to which Gov. Dayton responded, “I felt that my generation  failed in significant respects, so I am sorry that we are passing that burden on to you. But I am inspired that you are willing to take that on.”

The elementary school students eagerly raised their hands to share their knowledge about some of the most pressing environmental issues we face. They eloquently enlightened the Governor about the deadly consequences of fertilizer runoff that contain nitrogen and phosphorus, Japan’s dire nuclear waste problem, dead zones, radioactive and plastic pollution, identifying point sources and non-point sources, the safe disposal of medications, and the health effects of drinking polluted water.

Kids Climate March

Several of the organizers of the upcoming Kids Climate March were in attendance at the meeting with Governor Dayton. I was no longer surprised that these were the same kids that have organized a march on the state capitol. According to Katie Siegner, the Communications Coordinator for Climate Generation, the organizers of the march are elementary to high school aged students from across the Twin Cities. The march is supported by MN350, Climate Generation, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and iMatter.

The Kid’s Climate March will take place on Saturday, April 22. It will start at the Science Museum and end at the capitol, along the way it will meet up, and unite with the Science March. The kid marchers are set to lead the two marches once they merge—a poignant gesture to remind us who among us are the most fervent voices demanding action on climate change. What’s more, they had planned this march since last September, pre-election, once again leading by example.

Anna LaCombe is an Energy Policy and Communications Intern at the Sierra Club North Star Chapter

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