My name is Xiuhtezcatl. I’m 16 years old, and the youth director of Earth Guardians, an organization empowering young people around the world to act for climate justice. Even though I’m too young to vote, I understand that the decisions out of the White House can have a powerful impact on the kind of world we will be left with. On many of the issues I care most about, including climate change, President Obama and administrations before him have not done nearly enough. With that said, the transition into a Donald Trump presidency has been nothing short of surreal.
Trump has filled his cabinet with corporate billionaires and oil tycoons — many of whom are charged with running federal agencies they don’t believe in. The role of head of the Environmental Protection Agency has been offered to Scott Pruitt, a fossil-fuel-loving, climate-change skeptic who doesn’t believe in environmental protection. His choice for labor secretary is Andrew Puzder, a fast-food CEO opposed to raising the minimum wage. But no one exemplifies the Trump cabinet choices more than ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who, like Trump, has no experience as a public servant, and has spent his life serving his own financial interests at others’ expense. Tillerson has demonstrated his brazen drive to find and burn maximum fossil fuel reserves, and joined a lawsuit to keep fracking “out of his backyard,” while running a company that fracks in people’s backyards around the world.
Plus, Trump selected Tillerson to a post that would make him a point person in negotiations with Russia. Tillerson has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who honored him in 2013 with the rare Russian Order of Friendship. The arrangement creates a dangerous conflict of interest. Recently, ExxonMobil and the Russian government had a $500 billion oil deal fall through because Obama took economic action against Russian human rights violations. If Tillerson were confirmed, many assume he might reverse the decision, despite Russia’s role in the violence in Aleppo. This appointment shows a commitment to oil billionaire profits over protecting human rights. ExxonMobil shareholders will benefit and many others will suffer.
Bernie Sanders recently tweeted that 17 of Trump’s nominees have more money than the 43 million least wealthy American households combined, or one-third of the U.S. population. A friend of mine suggested that the Trump presidency, and now the selection of his cabinet, are simply the replacement of the puppets with the puppeteers. At least now the curtain has been pulled back so we can see more clearly how corporate billionaires are using our system to obtain more power and wealth. This comes at a time when we urgently need to reverse a trend of rising temperatures and sea level fueled by greenhouse gases. Human contributions of atmospheric carbon and methane from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture have caused the polar ice sheets to melt faster than scientists ever expected. But, it’s not just polar bears who are feeling the heat; low-lying nations and coastal cities face an increasing likelihood of catastrophic sea level rise. For this reason, many countries and climate justice advocates have fought to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Warmer temperatures have already caused us to lose a significant portion of the Great Barrier Reef, believed to be the most biodiverse place on the planet, with die-offs occurring recently related to coral bleaching. We cannot afford to be burning any more fossil fuels than necessary to make the shift to clean, renewable energy. Without strong resistance, the incoming administration seems to be on a collision course for climate disaster.
This situation raises the stakes for the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit, in which I am a plaintiff. Twenty other young people and I are suing the federal government for failing to protect our generation from climate disaster. With many White House appointees refusing to recognize climate science, the outcome of this case takes on added importance. If we win, the U.S. would be legally obligated to implement a climate recovery plan.
At the same time we are mobilizing people globally to pull their money from banks that are most responsible for funding fossil fuel pipelines like Dakota Access, a pipeline that threatens the water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and 17 million people living downstream on the Missouri River. We are demanding that banks pull their investments from these destructive projects and reinvest in renewable energy infrastructure to help us break our oil addiction. We are educating people about how they can reduce fossil fuel use in their own lives and break free from the systems that are threatening our future.
We are mobilizing politically as well. A youth-led partner organization called #AllOfUs is pushing Democrats to stand up against bigotry and for the planet by blocking Trump’s cabinet picks. If Congress fails to stand with the American people, we will replace them with our own progressive candidates. Now more than ever, we need to fight like our lives depend on it — because they do. We’ll see you in the streets and in the courts, because this country belongs to all of us and the love that we feel for our home and its diversity cannot be extinguished by a bad election result, and the failure of politicians to represent their people.
We need everyone to get involved, from taking personal responsibility to lowering your personal carbon footprint on the planet, and here is a simple list to get started. Get involved with a local organization that supports environmental issues, join the Earth Guardians movement in our fight to leave a healthy, just, sustainable planet for future generations.
Press link for more: Teen Vogue