A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Local Youth Join the Climate Justice Cause

by Aaron Luborsky (age 14), edited by Rachel Marco-Havens   

Across the globe, a youth movement is on the rise to raise awareness about the way our lifestyle is impacting the earth and its ability to sustain us, with the mission to bring about Climate Justice—the defining issue of our time. We are at a tipping point, and while it is almost impossible to reverse the decline we have set in motion, we can decrease the rate at which we consume and create waste. 
Earth Guardians is an intergenerational, youth-led Climate Justice organization. As youth director of the New York chapter, I recently attended a Woodstock Transition monthly meeting to become more familiar with their work. We are interested in collaborating with solution-driven individuals and grassroots organizations to bring about positive change in our community and beyond. 

Transition Towns is a worldwide movement, with membership and involvement in over 2,000 locations. The organization describes itself as a grassroots initiative helping communities come together in search of solutions to the challenges that we all face today, including the depletion of our most precious resources, climate change, and economic instability.  
Earth Guardians NY members work on their Climate Victory
Garden in Woodstock, NY at Mountainview Studio.
It was inspirational for me to attend such a community-minded, solution-oriented meeting where everyone was encouraged to share their feelings, good or bad, and where ideas were welcomed without prejudice. Woodstock Transition meets the first Thursday of every month, upstairs at the Woodstock Library, to explore new ways to create a positive future and help to build a productive, sustainable community.

The Earth Guardians mission and that of the Transition movement have a lot in common—both  are dedicated to the reduction of our carbon footprint; both seek creative working relationships with other grassroots organizations and individuals, to strengthen the work of protecting public health and safety and a sustainable way of life; and both organizations are growing rapidly.  

Tying us closer together, EGNY Co-Director and Artist in Residence Jennifer Zackin was in the initiating group of Woodstock Transition, and Polly Howells, an active member of Woodstock Transition and board member of Bioneers, has joined the EGNY Board of Advisors. 

Earth Guardians is led out of Boulder, by 15-year-old Indigenous Change Agent Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who began voicing his concerns about the state of the environment when he was six years old. His most recent action was to join 20 other youth activists in filing a lawsuit against the federal government for continuing to push the fossil fuel industry forward, despite the knowledge that it would threaten the future of generations to come. More and more actions like this are sure to be taken as the youth-led environmental justice movement grows. 

My own involvement with this movement began at 8 years old (I’m now 14), when a handful of other kids and I had the empowering experience of personally delivering a petition to Governor Cuomo’s Office, calling for a ban on fracking. Now, Earth Guardians NY is working to help spread the word about securing the recent ban. 

My journey with Earth Guardians started last winter, after seeing a screening of Tapped, highlighting the big water business practice of depleting watersheds to sell municipal water back to us for literally thousands of times the cost at the tap. Motivated to do more and to make a difference, I contacted KingstonCitizens.org Event Committee Chair Rachel Marco-Havens, who was working closely with Aidan Ferris, then SUNY Environmental Club president, to raise awareness about Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal to tap 1.75 million gallons of water from a lake in my community. Inspired by my request and the rising movement of young activists, an Earth Guardians chapter was formed in Woodstock, just before Niagara pulled its bid for our water—an unprecedented win for Hudson Valley’s public and environmental safety.  

We have been growing since then and are educating ourselves and others about climate change, the threat of local gas infrastructure pipelines, decommissioning Indian Point nuclear power plant, and seeking ways to take solution-focused action. We are making art, presenting in schools, planting trees, studying carbon sequestering plants in planning for a Climate Victory Garden, and working closely with Earth Guardians Headquarters to support the initiatives of other Earth Guardian Crews as they pop up across the globe. 

Currently, EGNY meets every Thursday at 5pm upstairs at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock. We are working toward obtaining a Productivity & Outreach Center in town, which will provide space for intergenerational collaboration between young people and mentors in the fields of their interest. 
There are many ways for Woodstock’s Earth Guardians to engage with Transition activities and we are excited that WNYT sees the potential for youth involvement. With this kind of support young people have a better chance of believing that our voices are being heard.