For the past month, high school students have been showing up at meetings of the regional government Metro, which is preparing to present voters with a massive transportation bond in 2020. The ballot measure could dictate how residents move around the city for decades to come.
The students' message: Diverting even a dollar to building highways is climate denial.
The students are part of Sunrise Movement PDX, an activist group seeking to slow climate change. Maddie Maschger, a local coordinator, says Portland's branch formed just four months ago and has already grown to 300 members—mostly people in their 20s, high schoolers and middle schoolers.
On Sunday, June 16, Sunrise Movement will host a town hall meeting on the Green New Deal with U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Here is some of the most compelling testimony from youth activists at the May 29 meeting.
Melina Yuen, age 13:
Imagine if you were 13 years old, and instead of planning sleepovers, you were meeting with legislators in Salem, organizing environmental justice walkouts and writing testimonies. I will be 24 years old when my climate fate is sealed. My classmates won't have a future after age 24. So we are here today, begging you to give us that future.
Grace Campbell, age 16:
Watching the climate crisis unfold without turning away means hearing the phrase "sooner than scientists thought" over and over and over. We know that by the time this measure is on the ballot, the 12 years we have to solve the crisis will have become 10—and every day that we do nothing, the problem gets worse. The truth is, investing in fossil fuel infrastructure in 2019 is climate denial.
We have to choose in this moment between despair and tactical optimism. That is why we're here today. If we tell people this fight is over, that there is no hope—we are lying to them. But the action begins here, in this room.
Victoria Clark, age 17:
Our leaders should be taking bold action. The longer you stall, the more you show the youth and frontline communities that we don't matter. I will be old enough to vote in 2020. My peers and I are terrified of climate change, and it will dictate virtually every aspect of how we vote down the ballot.
We are here begging for our future. We are here begging to even have one at all.