Episode 3: Youth Climate Action Now: Sasha Kracauer and Ollie Perrault
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Amrita Acharya 0:00 Welcome to climate change at home, a podcast series produced by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Greenfield Recorder, and Athol Daily News. I am your host, Amrita Acharya. And on this podcast, we will look at the impacts of climate change and those active in the fight against it in the Pioneer Valley. Climate change at home is sponsored by Whelan insurance, providing protection to Pioneer Valley families and businesses since 1961. Today, I am speaking with Sasha Krakauer and Ollie Perot, the leaders of Youth Climate Action Now a Western Massachusetts based movement driven group, with the goal to empower other young people to add their voices to the fight against the climate crisis. Sasha and Ollie's approach is through intersectional, creative, nonviolent direct action. I met with them both to discuss how they involve other students to combat climate change, and why it's so important for today's youth to have climate action at the forefront of their education.
Sasha Krakauer 1:07 My name is Sasha Krakauer and I am a senior at Northfield, Mount Hermon. I am part of the Youth Climate Leadership Program, and Youth Climate action now. And I'm also an eagle leader in image.
Ollie Perot 1:18 And I'm Ollie, I am the director and founder of Youth Climate action now. I am 15 years old, and I've been a part of a couple of different local youth led organizations for the past four years.
Amrita Acharya 1:31 Can you guys tell me a bit about how Youth Climate Action Now began?
Ollie Perot 1:35 Yeah, definitely. So originally, we were just a group of like a couple of students. We started out, we started looking for connections in our community are in like October of last year. So it's almost been a full year since.
Amrita Acharya 1:51 So it's pretty recent. Yeah,
Ollie Perot 1:52 definitely. Yeah, we really just, we started with this goal of creating a safe space for other young people. And we wanted to create sort of like a network for people to be loud, and to let others know that we are angry, and that our anger is really important. And that we can use our anger to spark social change. And so we reached out to climate action now in October. And that was sort of like the starting point for us. We really built the network from the ground up, we needed a little bit of a help from the adults in our community to get started. But then we really wanted to ensure that this network was for youth by youth. And so our goal throughout this entire process has been like creating the space for young people, and specifically reaching as many young people as we possibly can.
Amrita Acharya 2:49 And how did the two of you get connected?
Amrita Acharya 2:52 That was through mass Audubon? Yeah,
Sasha Krakauer 2:54 the Y CLP. I actually attended a Western Mass Youth Climate Summit in 2019. And I saw all these speaking there. And I thought, wow, this is amazing that someone around my age is speaking at a climate convention, and especially speaking so eloquently about the matter. So I was like, You know what, I really want to join the Y CLP. I really want to be involved in the climate summits. And that's basically how it started.
Amrita Acharya 3:19 And can you both talk about why CLP stands for and what it is?
Sasha Krakauer 3:23 Yeah, so the Youth Climate Leadership Program is basically it's a youth led program, but it's also we're connected with mass Audubon, in East Hampton, as well as the Hitchcock center in Amherst, and we are a statewide network. We're the Western Mass branch, where we host Regional Youth climate summits, but once a year, this year, it's going to be in October.
Amrita Acharya 3:48 Cool. Yeah. Do you have a date for that? October 3? Yeah, nice. That's pretty soon. And what is sort of the agenda.
Ollie Perot 3:56 So a big part of why Kans mission as well is to sort of get the word out that we are prioritizing environmental justice as our number one issue moving forward. And we really want to make it clear that that is our mission. When we're calling for a system change. We have two specific priorities in mind. And the first is making sure young people are the leading the conversation. And the second is making sure we are advocating for not only the protection of our planet, but also all of our people, because we really want to recognize that this is first and foremost a human rights issue. So the theme of the summit is environmental justice with a specific focus on intersectionality. And the way we are kind of highlighting intersectionality in our work is through a couple of different partnerships with local organizations. And those partnerships in coop include with ye can and an organization called Generation ratify, which is a gender equality group. And then out now from Springfield is a like a queer committee. 3d building group for young people. And then we are also partnering with Sunrise Amherst.
Amrita Acharya 5:04 Cool. That's really awesome. Um, how does one attend?
Ollie Perot 5:09 Oh, that's a really good question. So we are inviting school teams. Basically how the summit operates is, we invite a couple local schools to send what we call a changemaker team of five to 10 students to learn about environmental justice and engage in some really in depth conversations around intersectionality. And then they each walk away with a Climate Action Project, they're going to take away from the summit and implement into their schools and communities. So if we have young people from local schools that get in touch with us, we ask them to put together a team and then attend the summit, as one of those Changemaker teams,
Sasha Krakauer 5:49 and other schools can reach out to us it's a high school based Summit, though. But any schools are open to, you know, reaching out to us and so that we can really help them create their group, whether it's just from the groundwork, or if they already have an idea or a vision of what they want to do. But we're first and foremost, first and foremost here to support them, and be mentors to them through their climate action plans.
Amrita Acharya 6:11 Could you tell me a bit about some of the projects you see people might do or like what you envision for that?
Sasha Krakauer 6:20 Yeah, I actually, um, so when I attended the summit, I was not only a well, summit planner, but I was also a leader of my own schools group. So I created a group from NMH, to come to the summit. And we decided to create something called Climate Action Week. So we made last year it was enemy, just first annual Climate Action Week, where we had a lot of climate action, challenges. Like we also had a river cleanup, and nature walks all sorts of things. And in addition, we had a morning of required workshops that everyone had to attend all he was a speaker at the workshop that we created. And it was all about taking local action and knowing what groups that you can be a part of,
Amrita Acharya 7:04 I want to go back a little bit, I just want to know a bit about how each of you first got involved with climate change work and decided you wanted to take sort of this more activist role outside of being a student.
Ollie Perot 7:16 Yeah, I. So I grew up on my family's farm in Western Mass in East Hampton. And we are a local organic community supported agriculture. And the last couple of years, we have been experiencing more extreme impacts from climate change. And how we are experiencing those in sort of in like, extreme switches back and forth between extreme weather patterns. So we're used to going through ups and downs in the natural, crazy weather pattern of Western Mass. But in the last couple of years, we've had extreme droughts and extreme rainfall. And in 2021, we've experienced more rain in the month of June and July than we normally do throughout an entire season. I think it's something like 16 inches within the first like two weeks of harvesting, which is not only incredibly difficult to manage in the fields, but also leaves our crops vulnerable to a disease called I talk through which is spread through water molecules. And it puts our fields at risk of flooding. So I have really been experiencing these impacts firsthand, the drought earlier this summer was like a record breaking emergency. And I think from a pretty young age, I saw that I need to be a part of the action to see not only the future of my family's farm, but also the future of every generation that comes after us.
Sasha Krakauer 8:51 I personally got involved with climate work from what from a young age, I went to the common school in Amherst, which is this really tiny progressive school. And we were always hands on in nature hands on with the farm next to us. So it was always we were always taught about environmental efforts, we were always taught about the importance of the environment. And we were also taught to bridge the environment and ourselves together, where it's like the environment is part of us like this is our community. This is, you know, not just a separate playground, but it's like our playground that's part of us. So I'm being taught that I actually wrote an article in the budget on Sentinel when I was nine years old about climate efforts. It probably wasn't the best room well read an article when I was nine, but it was still me engaging in climate activism when I was younger, and then going to the climate summit in 2019. That really sealed the deal that I was like, I really want to continue doing this for the rest of my life.
Amrita Acharya 9:45 Can you talk about some of the highlights within the work that you've done and also maybe some of the challenges that you've faced?
Sasha Krakauer 9:51 We had this weekend, summer climate convention for youth ages 10 to 12. It was you know, spearheaded by all leap. And it was one of the first Youth Climate Action Now efforts. And it occurred on August 20, and 21st, I believe. And we brought a bunch of students together to learn about climate action, but to also go through that process that we do at the summit's of creating climate action plans. And they were just so smart, they were introspective, they were really aware of the world around them. And they created these really awesome plans to bring to their own schools, like for instance, changing school policies about littering change, and then also doing challenges in school to get people interested in climate action. Do you know any other your students that you're mentoring?
Ollie Perot 10:40 One of my students is creating an environmental justice club at their school to provide a space for people to share their intersectional stories. And then my other student is presenting at the Arcadia Folk Festival on September 17. Yeah, so they're, they're shooting pretty big.
Amrita Acharya 10:58 Yeah, you guys have spoken a bit about education as a topic and climate education in general. I'm curious to know, through your observations, and being in school, and I guess, you know, being at home, but also being surrounded by youth, how schools have perceived climate education? Do they approach it at all? And do students talk about climate change?
Sasha Krakauer 11:22 Yeah, oh, I think this is a really big issue. In my school, at least I'm an eco leader at my school, we are a small group of students who oversee sustainability efforts. And I find a lot of the time that I have to go head to head against the administration to allow us to educate about climate change. I mean, obviously, they think it's a great thing to learn about. And they're open to it. But they don't want climate education to come at the expense of academic or like, you know, any other education, whether it's mathematics or science or something else, where they're not necessarily seeing is that there's so much intersection between like every single subject in school and what we're teaching about climate education. For instance, when we did the Climate Action Week, we asked the administration to allow us to have one full day of climate workshops, and they only allowed us to have a morning of them before the academic day. So students had to get up early. And then I heard so many complaints like, why are we getting up so early? This is so painful. So hopefully, this year, I am really trying to work with the administration to allow us to foster foster that environment for both in environmental education as well as you know, what they perceive as normal education.
Ollie Perot 12:33 Yeah, and I think another challenge that sort of comes with, like some adults not taking us as seriously is that a lot of people, we've had some pushback with our strategy for activism. And I think this is probably a challenge that a lot of youth but organism organizations face. And it's the challenge of people not giving us the space to be angry, and not recognizing that like, disruptive action is important, because we've tried, we've tried using our voices and putting them out there. And I think now we've just been so frustrated with the lack of response that we are ready to take it another step up. And that step looks a lot different from organization to organization. And I think for why can't it means getting involved in advocacy, and like bringing that anger to local government and into policy change, and showing that we are ready to disrupt that system as much as possible until real system change comes with our efforts.
Amrita Acharya 13:42 And so for what can what can we expect to see in the future?
Ollie Perot 13:47 Well, we're definitely going to continue to support the students from little leaders, we want to make sure that we are providing support to them however they need in the next couple of months. And then after that, we're sort of in between actions right now. So we don't know when our our next big event is going to be. But our main goal for the future is going to be to establish these monthly meetings. And they're going to be hopefully in person gatherings where we meet with a specific goal. And hopefully, there will be a lot of a lot of people there. And they'll have a theme. And it's sort of just to hold community engagement over a longer period of time and to ensure that why can't isn't a group that has one big action and then we go away for a while we need to have regular meetings where we are prioritizing environmental justice and youth empowerment.
Amrita Acharya 14:41 If you're interested in getting involved, you can either follow their Instagram at Youth Climate action now. Or you can google us climate action now to find the organization's website. Once there, you can fill out a registration form for updates and monthly events. On this season of climate change at home, I am speaking to individuals from green burial Massachusetts, the beaver Institute and journalism on intersectional climate change, among many others. Lastly, I'd like to thank our sponsor Whelan insurance, a local business operated exclusively by solar power. Well and insurance has seven EV charging stations at its King Street offices in Northampton, free for public use. Until next time, I'm Amrita Acharya and I thank you so much for tuning in.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai