At the beginning of the year, NYRA’s Board of Directors met in Washington, DC to decide what strategy the organization should focus on. We decided that one of our focal strategies should be riding the wave of youth activism that’s happening to bring youth rights to the center of the movement.

To that end we have joined the Youth Climate Strike coalition with the goal of convincing them to incorporate youth rights into their policies and actions. Our plan is to educate the coalition about the intersections between climate change and youth oppression so that they can help us pass pro-youth policies and make the idea of youth rights a part of the national conversation.

For example, many organizations in the coalition have already endorsed lowering the voting age to 16, but it is not a central part of their platform. Their strategy still relies on convincing older voters and the politicians they elected to stop destroying the planet, which will not work because they are not the ones who will live to see the damage they have done. We plan on showing the Climate Strike Coalition that no meaningful climate legislation can be passed until the voting age is lowered or even abolished.

Similarly, a common narrative in the climate strike movement is that youth should be in school, and that they are damaging their education by having to strike for their future. But a day of striking is much more valuable as an educational experience than a day in school. By striking, young people are directing their own education and could use it to build a better alternative to the school system. In 2015, students in São Paulo, Brazil discovered how powerful self-directed learning can be when they occupied their schools for a month during a strike.  They organized their own classes, workshops, community meetings, sports events and musical performances, and began handling routine maintenance on the buildings they had taken over. They used the occupation as a way to express their dissatisfaction with the school system in general as they created an ideal social and academic environment for themselves. Instead of saying they wished they were in school, we plan on convincing climate activists to embrace the strike as an end in itself.

Let us know if you would like to help us teach the climate activist community about youth rights. This is such as exciting time youth rights and I can’t wait for what’s next!