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youth at the forefront



This  November 12, 2015, b riefing on young people’s action on climate change, offers hope for the future. It also points to ways that we can become involved in much-needed grassroots action to protect the future of our planet. By Madeleine Brecher & Fran Butensky, ICJW UN NY Representatives. 

The objective of this briefing was for the audience to be empowered with takeaway action against climate change. Further, the briefing aimed to equip participants with the necessary tools and awareness to take action on the ground by engaging both private and public-sector institutions. Most of the speakers were in the 18-35 age group and were totally inspirational in educating us about what youth is doing to raise awareness to this critical global issue. The UN Conference Room was packed with young students and these youth briefings continue to be among the finest that DPI organizes!


Amanda Nesheiwatis currently the Environmental Director for the Town of Secaucus, NJ and a Commissioner for the town as well as chairwoman of their Environmental Committee. Amanda is an organizer and environmental activist and is truly passionate about sustainable development and combatting climate change. She talked about how critical it is to take action at the local level to curb emissions and to effectuate change.


Dave Gonzalez is a Partner Development Manager at Skybox Imaging, a division of Google that provides satellite imagery and data analytics. He is currently focused on the use of satellite-based technology to revolutionize traditional agricultural practices and create solutions that enable users to address global climate challenges. It was so exciting to hear about Google’s investment in this area of support to create a new generation of sustainable farmers. One of the questioners asked Dave how his work will ultimately reach remote farmers in the developing world. He has confidence that Google, being the company that it is, will find ways to share their information technology to improve the efficiency, profitability and safety of organizations all around the world.

Jada Monica Drew is the Chief Executive Officer of Social Designs. She is a social justice educator, international program developer, a change agent and activist. She comes from a family of farmers and educators. She is an innovator of environmental sustainable initiatives that involve youth* power and multi-generational involvement. Her training as a Green For All Fellow inspired her to establish the So Fresh and So Green Project that provides awareness of “green” living and environmental justice for rural communities as well as green economy job training and money saving workshops. The project involves upwards of 100 elementary level school youth each year. As the CEO of Social Designs, a social justice consultant firm, Jada’s passion about the environment and youth involvement has led her to create learning spaces that empower people for social change. Children are taught “how they can go green”, about their community responsibilities, and respect for climate, water, recycling and sustainability.

*It should be noted that when Jada refers to youth, she considers the age range to encompass 10-35 years.

Kelly Matheson is the Board President of Our Children’s Trust. Her nonprofit organization advocates on behalf of youth and future generations to hold governments responsible for curbing carbon dioxide emissions by implementing science-based climate recovery plans. Ms. Matheson is an attorney who specializes in environmental human rights. In that capacity, she has worked for citizens’ rights in East Africa, Central America and the United States.

Interesting information supplied by Ms. Matheson:

·         Developed nations have more responsibility to work on climate change.

·         Meetings on climate change will be held in Paris in the next few weeks. States must work to compromise – cannot negotiate with dangers in climate change.

·         In 1965, 6 billion tons a year of carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere.

·         Today, 25% more than was predicted in 1965 will be emitted.

·         The United States became the primary contributor of fossil emissions.

·         Now we’re sitting on a climate tipping point due to decades of inaction.

·          C02 should be brought down by 200 parts per million.

·         The fossil fuel industry and the US do not want a comprehensive plan;  in her view, they want to ensure the right to their wallet above a healthy environment for today’s young people.

·         She wonders which goals they will take to the Paris meetings.

·         With the help of Our Children’s Trust, twenty-one young people filed a lawsuit against Obama and his administration alleging that the federal government has not allowed the youth of today their fundamental rights to life, liberty and property. They are asking for a comprehensive plan to protect them from the dangers of climate change and ensure them that their rights will be protected. *See the following information on Victoria Barrett.


Victoria Barrett is a youth plaintiff aligned with Our Children’s Trust. A junior at the Notre Dame School of Manhattan, Victoria has been working on human rights issues since her freshman year of high school after joining Global Kids, a youth leadership organization based in New York. Currently, she is fighting against climate change as a participant in a lawsuit against the federal government for supporting the use of fossil fuels and putting her future at risk. This is one of her proudest moments so far in fighting against climate change. She told us that she is deeply motivated by the ability of youth to prevent climate change from further damaging our planet.