It's in our salad dressing, bread and most everything else we eat -- and it's doing tremendous harm to our bodies. How can we kick the salt habit?
Young activists in our region have made headlines over the past few years, mobilizing against issues of gun violence and sexual assault. Now, as devastating wildfires out West are producing enough smoke to reach our region, young people are focusing on climate change. And they’re making it a central issue of the presidential election.
The candidates’ views on climate change are starkly opposed. When addressing the wildfires at a California press conference last week, President Trump indicated that global warming would reverse itself. Vice President Joe Biden believes climate change “poses an existential threat” and has endorsed the Green New Deal, but he supports fracking, which has upset many in the climate community.
The issue of climate change has fueled young, local activists ahead of this pivotal election. What are they doing to make sure climate change stays front-and-center and doesn’t get overshadowed by other pressing issues?
The Kojo Nnamdi Show is providing special coverage on climate issues this week as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of over 400 news outlets designed to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
Produced by Kurt Gardinier
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Young activists in the area have made headlines over the past few years mobilizing against issues like gun violence and sexual assault. Now as devastating wildfires out West are producing enough smoke to create a haze over our region, young people are focusing on climate change, and they're hoping to make it a central issue of the presidential election.
KOJO NNAMDIThe issue of climate change has fueled young local activists ahead of this pivotal election. But what are they doing to make sure climate change stays front and center and doesn't get overshadowed by other pressing issues? Joining us now is Aura Angélica who is an Organizer with Sunrise Movement of D.C. She's a first year Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania. Aura, thank you for joining us.
AURA ANGÉLICAStoked to be here.
NNAMDICan you tell us what is Sunrise Movement D.C.'s focus and what is it's involvement with the 2020 election?
ANGÉLICASure, yeah. So Sunrise Movement D.C. is what we call the D.C. hub of the Sunrise Movement, which is a national movement. And we really see our priorities as creating a livable future for all people and that is, you know, kind of the model for that. In terms of what Sunrise D.C. does is we try to make sure that we're putting forth our best work that keeps the climate centered -- that keeps issues centered on the climate both in local issues and national issues.
ANGÉLICAIn terms of the elections, we're doing both a lot of local organizing work in terms of getting voter turnout right here in D.C. for local elections as well as there's a big national movement towards, you know, more federal politics, presidential election, different senators that we believe are champions of climate -- necessary like climate protections. So that's where we focus our efforts.
NNAMDIAura, you lead Sunrise Movement's D.C.'s actions and mobilization programs. Talk about its “Get Out The Vote” campaign.
ANGÉLICAYeah, sure. So the “Get Out The Vote” is actually one of the projects that has been spearheaded by let's say more of our political power team in the hub. Within that there has been, you know, some mobilization of folks, who are going in communities, have been doing some canvassing, have been, you know, passing out door handles, passing out posters with information for how to better start to vote here in D.C. They been doing this in some of the most suppressed wards. You know, Ward 7 and 8, the voter suppression there is heavy. Just maybe yesterday was announced that they wouldn't have supercenters for voting. So we believe that this issue really is one that runs rampant in the city.
ANGÉLICAAnd it's one that -- maybe D.C. itself isn't that crucial in the national election. You know, in the previous election, D.C. probably voted six percent for Trump or something like that, nothing major. It's largely Democratic. But in terms of its local politics we're seeing that a lot of folks are getting left out of the conversation even though, perhaps -- they're likely and are definitely the most affected by the policies that our council members put forward.
NNAMDIAlso joining us is Nadia Nazar, Founder and Co-executive Director and Art Director with “This is Zero Hour.” She's a freshmen at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Nadia, thank you for joining us.
NADIA NAZARThank you for having me.
NNAMDIWhat is "This is Zero Hour" and what is your involvement with the 2020 election?
NAZARYeah. So Zero Hour is a youth led climate justice organization and a lot of work centers around educating young people on the climate crisis in the intersections that the crisis has on systems of oppression like racism, patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism and more. And teaching young people and mobilizing them to fight for the climate crisis. And right now we have a joint campaign with the national children's campaign called Vote for Our Future. And we're engaging young people in getting them to register to vote, get their mail-in ballots and really get them mobilized to vote for people that will consider our futures when -- as being an elected official. And so we are mobilizing online and doing different events and stuff for that.
NNAMDIHow is that campaign going so far?
NAZARIt's going really well. We're working with a lot of young people in different communities and planning some more events for the next coming month before the election.
NNAMDIJoining us now is Mustafa Santiago Ali, the Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. Mustafa, thank you for joining us.
MUSTAFA SANTIAGO ALIWell, thank you for having me.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you started working on social justice campaigns, well, a little while ago when you were 16 years old. You are a little older than that now, but what are you seeing now among young people and how does it compare to when you were a teenager?
ALIOh, there's no comparison whatsoever to the time when I was coming up and the incredible work that young leaders are doing across the country literally across the planet now. I mean, they're really pushing. They are expanding a more 21st century paradigm if you will. They are holding people accountable, but they are also moving forward on solutions, which is so critically important. It's okay for us to push back. We have to push back. We have to put a spotlight on the injustices that continue to happen, but we also have to push forward the solutions of what real change looks like and the beauty of the young leadership is that the "isms" of the past are not a part of their paradigm.
ALIYou know, those sins that our parents and grandparents operated from, but, you know, they are truly creating a holistic movement where everyone's voice is valued and where real change can actually happen. So I'm just blessed to share space with them and then to see, you know, the evolution that is now happening in the climate and environmental movement.
NNAMDIWell, in June Mustafa you hosted an event called reaching young people where they are. How do you reach young people today?
ALIWell, first you let young people lead. You make sure that they have the platform and the capacity to address the issues in the way that they see that is most needed. And you also make sure that, you know, their voices are honored. And you make sure that access to the halls of power, you know, gives them an opportunity to make the influence that's necessary there. So that was a really powerful event because young people -- young leaders from across the country came together to say, here are some of the challenges that are going on, but also here are our ideas, our policy recommendations for how we make sure that we really have a 21st century set of actions to meet the challenges that the climate crisis presents to us.
NNAMDILet's go to the phones. Here is Claire in Rockville, Maryland. Claire, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CLAIREHi. Thank you so much for having me. I'm the President of MoCo Students for Change.
NNAMDICool. Tell us about MoCo Students for Change, because you made headlines organizing against violence, gun violence after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, but you have since shifted to other issues. What are you focused on now?
CLAIREYeah, sure. So a brief history of MoCo for Change. We started in 2018 as you said directly after the Parkland shooting. We organized a big walk-out against gun violence calling for gun violence protection legislation on the federal level. And then leadership decided that we should expand to include other issues. We have MoCo for Change via a platform in which students across the county could advocate for the social justice issues that they cared about and really bring students to the forefront of the political process on a local, state and national level. So we've worked on issues of de facto segregation, racial injustice, law enforcement. And we've continued to fight for gun violence prevention on a state and federal level.
NNAMDITo what extent are you now focused on climate change?
CLAIRESo a lot of our members are interested in that issue, and we have started working with Sunrise hubs in Montgomery County, such as Sunrise Silver Spring and Rockville to try to work together on the issue of climate change on a local, state and federal level. We've also been in conversation with a group called MoCo on Climate, who have done a lot of great work on the county level.
NNAMDII'd like to address this question to all of our guests, because -- and I'll start with you Mustafa, because you mentioned this already. You might to say a little bit more. Are young people now more engaged than in the past?
ALIOh, without a doubt. I mean, young people understand that -- you know, this climate crisis that we find ourselves in is going to impact them throughout their lives. So by getting engaged, you know, they are able to mitigate and hopefully stop, you know, many of these very significant and devastating sets of issues that we're dealing with in this moment, but are just going to continue to get greater, you know, as time goes on. So, you know, it's just a blessing to see the focus and the power that young people are bringing to make change happen.
NNAMDII'd like to put that question to our listeners too. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Do you think young people are more engaged with the issues of the day than they were in the past during the time of your own youth? Same question to you, Aura.
ANGÉLICADo I think we're more engaged today? I don't know. I mean, I've been alive now and not before. So I will say though that, you know, we have -- we're taking the streets and we're not alone. And we are a youth climate org, but we are not just youth showing up to these events. And so I don't -- I would imagine that there has been a push. I don't believe that the times that we're living through are actually -- like it feels worse than before, though, I've only been exposed to that through being taught history, which is often biased and not informative about these movements from the perspective of the people who are part of the movements, right, and not just from the outside.
ANGÉLICABut, you know, like just yesterday we had an action and two women came up to me and they were like, you know, I was out here during the Hoover administration. And they're still out here. So I'm all for the youth and I'm all for my friends and, you know, generational colleagues. But I will say that clearly there's been many fights that have been fought for a long, long time and that we'll continue fighting. You know, I see this as a forever thing. I don't -- there's always progressive to be made.
NNAMDINadia, what is your understanding of how the youth of today compare to their predecessors in terms of being activists?
NAZARYeah. I definitely think that we reflect a lot of young people that came before us. And as Aura said like we're continuing that movement and that energy. And I think that young people are so engaged nowadays. And I think it's a little hard these days, because everyone gets so desensitized to all this information. There's so much information constantly coming to us at like Twitter, Instagram and so many different like feeds and channels, and we're always getting more and more information. And there's so much that's been happening recently with so many different things. And sometimes it's hard to like feel something and feel like attached to a lot of that.
NAZARBut even through that I think young people have really overcome that feeling of like being desensitized and actually going forward and taking action with their friends and mobilizing their communities. And I think in these past few months, especially in the pandemic and especially with like the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of people are learning more. And I'm seeing so many of my friends shifting their political opinion and really taking more attention into learning about how different issues effect Black lives and indigenous lives as well.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Mustafa Santiago Ali, Nadia Nazar and Aura Angélica. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about climate change, youth activists and the upcoming election, and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Are you concerned about our changing climate and what another four years of the current administration's environmental policies would mean? Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. Nadia Nazar is Founder and Co-executive Director and Art Director with "This is Zero Hour." She's a freshman at the Maryland Institute College of Art. And Aura Angélica is an Organizer with Sunrise Movement D.C. She's a first year Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania.
NNAMDIWe've also got on our phone lines, Claire who is the President of MoCo for Change. We'd also love to have you join the conversation. So give us a call 800-433-8850. Aura, young people roughly 18 to 29 years old typically vote at some of the lowest rates of any group. There was a surge in 2018, but rates still lag far below older adults. Are young people, you think, more engaged in this presidential election?
ANGÉLICAI really hope so. I am very onboard with like, you know, this idea that we think that we're doing it and we think we're showing at the polls. But then, you know, election after election the numbers are just trailing and it's just devastating. I think we're at a time where people are really focusing on what's going to happen down the line and not necessarily focusing on the ways that they can get engaged right now. And I think that with the election of Trump in 2016 there was this belief that, Nah, there's no way. There's no way that this is going to happen. And we didn't engage in the ways that we should of and then it did happen.
ANGÉLICAMaybe they took a lot of things of granted. And so I'm quite hopeful that this election year will be different. I cannot, you know, I don't want to do the thing that I've done before, though, where I believe it will be different and it's not. So I'm doing everything that I can. Sunrise Movement D.C. and the Sunrise Movement nationally is doing everything that they can in order to, you know, make sure that we are showing in the polls, that we are engaging civically, that we using our electoral power for those who are most marginalized and not given this power or a voice over the issues that most affect them. But, you know, don't want to be cynical.
NNAMDIWell, Claire of -- the President of MoCo, it's my understanding that MoCo for Change is also helping people to get registered to vote. Is that correct, Claire?
CLAIREYeah. So we actually teamed up with an organization called Youth Activism Project to register 100 percent of eligible seniors in Montgomery County in both public and private schools to vote. So that's an initiative that we just launched yesterday. And if you want to learn more about it you can head over to our Instagram @mocoforchange. We dropped a video explaining the initiative. Yeah.
NNAMDINadia, is climate change at the top of the agenda for young people in your view?
NAZARI definitely think that climate change is at the top of the agenda. I just earlier saw an Instagram post by Sunrise saying that the climate crisis is the number one issue for so many Democrats and people voting this year. And I'm really glad to see that. And I think with all the momentum that's been going on in the past year with the strikes and also conversations about environmental racism and so much more conversation about the climate crisis with all the wildfires happening and so much going on, I think everyone is really finally like starting to understand like the caliber and how deep this issue is and how important it is that we get someone in office that's not going to -- that is actually going to take some action.
NNAMDIMustafa Santiago Ali, what role do you think young people will play in the 2020 election and how important is turnout?
ALIOh, it's critical. I mean, as we saw in the last set of elections, you know, literally a few votes can swing respective districts or, you know, in a state level a few thousand votes sometimes can make the difference between having someone who believes that climate change is real and knows it's real and is willing to work on it and someone else who says that climate change is a hoax.
ALISo young people, their engagement, their vote can definitely make a difference, significant difference in the turnout on all kinds of races not just the presidential level, but, you know, also on the state level and the county and the local level where, you know, if you're talking about environmental injustices issues, which we should have a conversation about how that plays out in climate change, you know, that's where many of the impacts are happening.
ALISo young people are critical. I think young people will turnout in higher numbers than they have in the past. And I hope that also translates into people honoring, you know, their vote. And the opportunities that should come with, you know, the young people's vote.
NNAMDIWe'll get to the environmental justice issue in a second. But, Claire, I wanted to bring you in on this next issue, because you were a part of this. Montgomery County students led multiple walk-outs. Fairfax County students organized the county's first student climate strike in December. Starting with you, Claire, can you talk about that and some of the actions we've seen locally?
CLAIREYeah, sure. So in 2018 and 2019 MoCo for Change led two massive walk-outs of students in Montgomery county and D.C. through the nation's capital. And those were calling for gun violence prevention measures to be implemented on a federal level. But last year, when I became co-president I decided that it was important for us to move our efforts to the statewide level. So in collaboration with a bunch of other student organizations from Montgomery County we organized a Annapolis Gun Violence Prevention lobby day to encourage our state legislators to act on several pieces of gun violence prevention legislation that were up for debate.
NNAMDITalking about some of the actions that we've seen locally around climate change in the wake of the Montgomery County students and the Fairfax County students, who organized the first student climate strike, can you talk about some of the other actions we've seen locally?
ANGÉLICAOh, sure. Yeah, sorry. I was like, yeah, we have some high schoolers in our hub. Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, so Sunrise D.C., we really try. Like being in D.C. it's hard to just pay attention to local issues, right? Different hubs around the nation might have that as their priority. But our positionality within the nation's capital really requires us to engage both with local elected officials and local policy as well as national elected officials and national policy.
ANGÉLICAAnd, you know, just last Thursday, not even a week ago, we were in the front of Senator Diane Feinstein's house given the atrocious bill that's being put forward in the Senate in response to these wildfires. It's something that completely does not respond to the emergencies that are going on. We have hurricanes coming through. We have -- I'm from Puerto Rico, like my country faces the worst after effects of billionaire corporations just putting, you know, carbon emissions into our atmosphere.
ANGÉLICASo really there's a lot to be done. We are really focusing on what we think are the main issues with the best capacity that we have. Yesterday we were out protesting the fact that the Supreme Court Justice seat is getting replaced and just shoved through the process without any actual input from the people, who are most going to be affected by this, you know, long term appointment. And these issues are all intertwined with the climate. If we have a justice, who upholds policies put forth by the Trump administration that completely ignore climate change and that call climate change hoax that's a problem that we have to deal with.
ANGÉLICAIf we're putting senators in who don't want to engage with climate and instead want to support the coal industry, that's a problem that we have to deal with. So we really -- I don't know, like just put all of energy as we can because we don't see the climate as really being separate from any other issues like racism in this nation, in this city and voter suppression. And, you know, all of these other like colonialists and imperialist issues that we have.
NNAMDINadia, care to respond to the question I was just asking about some of the actions we've seen locally? We only have about 30 seconds left in this segment.
NAZARYeah. I think it's great that a lot of people are mobilizing even amidst this pandemic and doing it safely with masks and everything. And we should definitely keep pushing as we go forward.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation. We'd love to have you join it. Give us a call 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about climate change, youth activists and the election. We know that this is an important issue for our guests and youth activists. We were wondering if it's also an important issue for you. Mustafa Ali, what is environmental justice, in your view?
ALIWell, maybe we should start with what is environmental injustice or environmental racism. And that's the disproportionate impacts that continue to happen to communities of color, lower-wealth white communities and indigenous brothers and sisters. You know, it is everything from transportation justice to where our highways have been placed and the pollution that is then placed upon the communities that live closest to that. It is housing justice and, you know, the location of low-income housing many times in flood plains or next to polluting facilities.
ALIYou know, it is also economic justice and, in many instances, the previous paradigm, the fossil fuel paradigm that we've been operating from has actually extracted wealth from those communities and provided little jobs. And it's a number of other aspects. It's really about us addressing these sacrifice zones that have been created across the country that are populated primarily by black and brown and indigenous brothers and sisters, and figuring out ways to address that. The environmental justice aspect is how we help these communities to move from surviving to thriving.
NNAMDIAnd, Nadia, the climate change, along with many other issues like COVID-19, as Mustafa was just saying, disproportionately affects black and brown people. How does This is Zero Hour address this disparity and work to rectify it?
NAZARYeah, so we educate young people -- a lot of young people about environmental injustice and about different solutions that they can take. We have a campaign called Getting to the Roots of Climate Change, where we talk about how different systems like racism, patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism all intersect, and how they affect people disproportionately.
NAZARAnd through that we have so many young people across the country that have given that presentation through their peers and their classrooms and their communities and continue that dialogue and that education around that. And that presentation also includes solutions and small solutions they can do individually. But also talking about things that we need to do systematically, voting, and even further than voting, but putting pressure on elected officials.
NNAMDIHere now is Alejandro in Silver Spring, Maryland. Alejandro, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALEJANDROWell, thank you so much for having me. My name's Alejandro, and I just called in to share my own experience in the Maryland 8th district. I have been a part of Congressman Raskin's Democracy Summer Program. And there, it's a really good place to talk about political issues. And foremost among the concerns of young people I have seen is climate change.
ALEJANDROAnd I think that being able to discuss issues that are as salient to our time as climate change with other very empowered and passionate young people really helps, not just learn about the issue, but really act on it. I think that as someone who went to school in the Montgomery County school system for the last, let's say, from 2012 to 2016, being a part of that program really inspired me to later on become involved in, like, environmental politics and focus my college career on climate change.
ALEJANDROI think that, as a lot of your guests have said, it's an issue that disproportionately affects individuals of color. And I think that, oftentimes, looking at it from a global perspective really underscores the importance of the issue. As we have seen in Syria, climate change, it's hard to say whether or not it's going to be the cause of war in the future, but it certainly, in our day, has acted as a threat multiplier, at the very least.
ALEJANDROSo, you see that displacement refugee movements are all going to be, let's say, if not the most certainly one of the most important issues in the next 50 years, 100 years. So, I really do appreciate everything that everyone has said, and it really is a good time to be a young person involved in something like this. I know living in Washington, D.C. or Silver Spring, Maryland, being in the city, it's easy to think that climate change isn't going to affect me. I live in a concrete jungle, but obviously, that's not true.
ALEJANDROA lot of the fellows that I had the pleasure of being a member with in this program, they weren't just from Maryland, but also from across the country.
ALEJANDROOne of them lived in California and they described how commuting back and forth, they often saw fires as they're driving on the highway. So...
NNAMDIYeah, I mean, this -- Alejandro, clearly, we're not talking about just a regional issue or a national issue. We're talking about an issue that is worldwide. So, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. And Aura, Alejandro referred to Congressman Raskin, that would be Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. But, Aura, the National Sunrise Movement endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary, but has not endorsed either candidate for president. Does the organization plan to do that?
ANGÉLICAThat's a good question that Sunrise National can field. I think the best thing I can tell to this is, like, we have a clear preference within the movement. The two options we have are someone who pulled out of the climate agreement, and we have someone who's at least willing to admit that climate change is real. And so, there's a clear preference there and there's an alignment between some of the values between the Biden administration.
ANGÉLICAHowever, that's far from endorsement for us. Biden's campaign, you know, part of his platform is to be through emissions by 2050. And that's, like, a bit preposterous. We don't have until 2050 to wait to get there. We don't believe that the platform administration is currently where we need it to be. That's not what a Green New Deal looks like, and it's not what a Green New Deal looks like right now.
ANGÉLICASo, we are going to fight for our GND champions and we, you know, did endorse Bernie Sanders because of that -- for that same reason. And, you know, we're willing to work with one administration more than the other, given that one administration is willing to work more with us. But I would be -- I would most likely assume that we're far from endorsement, given how not entirely aligned for the platform from the Biden administration is with our current demands.
NNAMDII don't think I've heard a more diplomatic statement than that in a long (laugh) -- in a very long time. But what you're saying clearly is that you are against the Trump administration, but not actively encouraging people, as yet, to vote for Biden.
ANGÉLICAOh, no, we are actively encouraging people to vote for Biden. Oh, yes. Oh, please, vote for Biden. What I mean -- and that's me endorsing that, maybe, but I think what I'm trying to say is that as a movement we don't see Biden actually championing the demands that we are putting forth and addressing the needs that we have right now in 2020.
ANGÉLICAAnd I think that's where it kind of -- the power of endorsement has not been put onto his campaign yet. And maybe it will be put there. That will be an issue that the national movement has to decide on. But until then, I will continue, myself, pushing my friends to vote for Biden and, you know, believing that at least we might have a little bit more wiggle room. And then focusing on other elections, right, senators like Ed Markey and Jamaal Bowman, who we're supporting, you know, over others.
NNAMDINadia, This is Zero Hour has not endorsed either Trump or Biden. Do you plan to endorse someone in this election?
NAZARI would say that that's something that I'm not really able to speak on, necessarily. But I definitely agree with Aura that people should vote for -- people should make their vote for Biden. And that's more like a personal statement, but we're definitely encouraging young people to make their vote. And, as Aura said, like, having the preference clearly between the two candidates in that distinction that they both have -- yeah.
NNAMDILet's go to Kay in Silver Spring, Maryland. Kay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KAYHi. Thank you. Despite everything else upsetting that's going on, the top issue for me is the many parts of environmental issues. And I have to say to these young people, I'm in my 70s and I have not heard young people as articulate and so amazingly good. I'm blown away by the depth of what they're expressing today. And I want you to grow and grow and carry on. And you've really given me hope. That's all I want to say.
NNAMDIWell, Kay, I'd like you to say some more. Were you an activist in your youth, and how do you think these young activists today compared to young activists in the past?
KAYWell, I started with civil rights and the Vietnam War and all kinds of justice issues. And I was down at the Supreme Court the other night, and I haven't stopped from 18 to the 70s. So, I'm just inspired and, you know, environmentalism is pretty hopeless, but in terms of what we have to do, all the things that we have to do in the next six or seven years. So, they're strong. They're good. I just hope that they really get heard.
NNAMDIWell, you are the living reality of what some of these young people were talking about earlier, that they, in fact, draw inspiration from previous generations who were also activists in their youth. So, Kay, thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Mustafa, Joe Biden, it is clear, doesn't really excite some on the progressive left. Do you believe this group should still support and vote for him? And how important is this election in that regard?
ALIWell, the election is super-critical. I mean, we're now at an inflection point in relationship to climate change. So, if we don't have someone in office who's going to start to move forward on the steps that are necessary, then we'll be just so far down the road that we won't be able to deal with the issues that the IPCC and the National Climate Assessment Report have shared with us, along with the realities that people are seeing on the ground.
ALIEveryone has to make a choice for themselves. You know, there is a clear, a very, very clear difference between the two folks who are looking for your vote to become president. So, you know, folks have to make some choices for themselves. But here's the other part that we need to also be talking about, beyond the fact of the state and county and local races, which folks should be also doing their own really tough analysis of the folks who are trying to garner your vote in each of those races, as well.
ALIBut we need to change the conversation around climate change because you have to anchor it in the reality of what's going on in the ground and in people's lives. We've got 100,000 people who are dying prematurely from air pollution every year. We know where the majority of the fossil fuel facilities are located, and those are located in communities of color and on indigenous land.
ALIAnd, you know, knowing that we've got 100,000 people dying, that's more than are dying from gun violence, which is super-critical. I've worked on that issue. Others have, as well. We got 24 million folks who have asthma in our country. So, when you start to have a conversation around the real impacts that are happening and then help people to understand that same pollution that is killing black and brown people is the same pollution that is warming up our planet, then people see the tie-in, and they understand then more clearly why their vote matters.
ALIYou know, when you share with folks that that same pollution is exacerbating, you know, what's going on with folks who have asthma, everybody knows somebody who has asthma, whether it's your grandchild or your child or your niece or nephew. So, then people are much more likely to get connected to what's going on.
ALIWhen we look at what's going on with gun violence, pollution actually exacerbates gun violence pollution inside of our communities. There's a tie between air pollution. There's also a tie between that air pollution and the warming up of temperatures, which causes, you know, higher incidents of gun violence as well. So, we need to change the narrative. Sometimes we have this narrative is one that folks used in 1990 and into 2000. This is now 2020 and we've got to make sure that that narrative is actually connected to what's going on in people's lives. And then people will vote, because they see themselves reflected in that vote.
NNAMDINadia Nazar, the presidential election is obviously important, but so are all elections. How is your organization making sure local and statewide elections are not overlooked?
NAZARYeah, we're definitely encouraging young people to take more research and pay more attention to their local candidates because we think it's so important that people pay attention to local politics. Whether that be their county, city, state, it's so important because there's so much local action that's happening. And even within this Trump administration, that's happened these past few years, like, we've still seen action on the local level with some governors and some county and local state officials.
NAZARSo, we definitely think it's important that young people research. And we've been spending a lot of time doing events in Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh in getting young people engaged there to take action locally and to vote locally, but also keep state and federal politics in mind.
NNAMDIBack to the phones. Here's Emily in Takoma Park, Maryland. Emily, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EMILYHi. Thank you so much for having me. I'm from Takoma Park, Maryland. I've been involved in (unintelligible) organizing climate strikes at the University of Maryland. And my question is -- because I know you guys were talking earlier about voter turnout for young people, and I think also, you know, generally in this country voter turnout is really low. Sixty percent of the country normally doesn't vote. And I feel like a lot of these conversations are often talked about, like, how can we encourage more people to vote? And, you know, kind of like, get out the vote efforts and knocking on people's doors and stuff.
EMILYBut my question is -- I mean, you know, like, I know a lot of people who are not voting because they feel unmotivated by Biden, like he's not taking climate change seriously enough. I know he just came out recently in saying that he supports fracking. And my question is, how can we move these discussions towards more systemic ways of increasing voter turnout, like rank choice voting, where, you know, people can go out to vote because they actually feel like they're voting for someone they feel inspired by and, like, having a more accurate way of allowing people to express themselves.
NNAMDIDo you care to respond to that, Mustafa?
ALIWell, you know, there's a couple of responses to that. The first thing that I always share with folks, and, you know, I've had the chance to work in close to 1,000 communities now across our country and a little bit outside. And when I hear folks say that, you know, they're not inspired to vote, then I'm always asking, well, what are you doing to get folks engaged and running for office? You know, young people can run for office once they're at a certain age. So, you know, what's the work that's happening there?
ALIAnd I know many of the organizations, you know, who are on the line tonight and also others are doing work in that space. But the other part of it, the sister's right, but, again, you know, we've got to anchor this in what's going on in people's lives, and that is the disconnect that's going on. When I was at the Hip-Hop Caucus, we had the Respect My Vote campaign. And the beauty of that campaign was that young people, returning citizens, folks of color and artists were all coming together about issues that mattered inside of the hood and, you know, on the reservation, you know, in the barrio, all these different locations that sometimes folks forget where folks are unseen and unheard, and make sure that their voices were being amplified in the areas that they cared about. And through that campaign, that Rev, Yearwood and others over the years have done, 600,000 new folks registered to vote. And it's because they saw themselves reflected.
ALISo, you know, we all have a responsibility, you know, who work in this space, of making sure that what we're doing is authentic and that it's anchored in what folks are looking for. And we just got to continue to push, but, you know, we also just got to make sure that we're making sure that our ideas, and especially -- we're talking about young people now, so young people's ideas, you know, have much more of a reflection of what's actually going on on the ground.
ALIAnd then the last part is, we just got to get more artists and entertainers also engaged in Sunrise, and This is Zero Hour and others have been pretty effective in making sure that those voices are all part of the platform, just to make sure that you're connecting people. Once you can get people's attention and then you break the issues down, they'll get engaged.
NNAMDIWas that what the Hip-Hop Caucus was all about? You were senior vice president there.
ALIWell, the Hip-Hop Caucus, you know, we did a number of different things. And should out to Rev on the 16th anniversary of the hip-hop caucus. Voting was a big one. There was also the divest movement, but then we put divest and reinvest into it, so we have a number of artists and entertainers and other people who are part of that movement. And then, of course, climate change and environmental justice...
ALI...is another set of work that's going on.
ALISo, it was a number of different issues all coming together. Because, again, you know, holistically, we've got a number of set of challenges that are happening inside of our communities, but we also have an incredible amount of opportunities. And, lots of times, when it comes to black and brown voices, black and brown successful projects, they just don't get highlighted. So, therefore, people don't know the successes that are happening that can be replicated. And that's why, you know, platforms that will give a spotlight to that work, it then motivates folks.
ALIBecause when you see success happening and you see folks who are making success happen who look like you, you're much more likely to get involved. If folks are talking about it in the barber shop and they're talking about it in the beauty salon, you know you're doing something right, because that message is then, you know, circulating around the community. And then people will get more engaged because they know, well, that's such and such down the corner who's a part of that or, you know, that's, you know, that creative that I know who's also a part of it.
ALIAnd that's the new paradigm that we have to operate from. It is the missing component of the climate movement and the environmental movement is honoring those artists and those creatives who can literally reach millions and millions of people in a second. And, you know, that's not taking away anything from all the great scientists that I work with, but...
ALI...if Beyoncé says something, millions of people are going to pay attention. If one of the top scientists says something, you know, you might have 10 percent of people who will pay attention. So, there's a way to bring them together.
NNAMDIGot an email from Jim who said: Biden is better than Trump is a pathetically low bar. We should do better, but the DNC won't let us. I'll be voting green in this election. On the other hand, Quinn from Annapolis emailed, I am a single-issue voter for climate change, and the only option is Biden. Unfortunately, President Trump is still in the we-need-more-evidence phase. Now, here is Jim in Lake Jackson, Virginia. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMHey, Kojo. Thank you. I joined late. I don't know if you talked about the future coalition earlier. If you haven't, the future coalition is a coalition of 60 youth-led groups around the country. They led the climate -- environmental strike last September 20th, 2019 led by 20-year-old Katie Eder. We had Katie on a Peace Studio Gala Zoom call last night with Ted Danson, the actor. And the two of them went together, talked for about 25 minutes, and Ted was just blown away.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing that with us. Here now is Leah, in Virginia. Leah, your turn.
LEAHHello. Thank you for having me. While I am a Latina woman here in Loudoun County, Virginia, and I run an environmental eco-green high school. So, I don't only teach the children from three years old to five, but also the families. And we can make a great impact on the way that they live. We have geothermal energy. We have solar energy, so we're carbon neutral. We teach our children how to compost daily, and they have their vegetable garden.
LEAHI have been an educator for 30 years, and we have the (unintelligible) my husband, and a big group of wonderful people here in Virginia called the Virginia the Virginia Green Initiative.
LEAHWhat do we do? We teach the small businesses how to go green. My comment is, it is possible. We all have our potential. We can all do it, no matter your color, you're brown, you're black, you're white, we can all do it, but we need to have that will.
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us, Leah. Nadia, last year, you tweeted the following: I consider my work and that of This is Zero Hour to be an outpouring of love into the world. What did you mean by that, and do you feel the same way today?
NAZARYeah, I definitely still feel the same way today. I feel that my organizing is a part of a community that's small, but also a very large community that consists of people all over the world. And together, we're all working together in taking our frustration and putting it into motivation. And I think really the only way that we can organize inclusively and include everyone is with love and with open arms and with friendship and with that care and compassion.
NAZARAnd in contrast to what has happened with, like, fossil fuel industries and those who have corrupted power and greed, and I feel that negative energy.
NAZARAnd I think that we can really play off with that with care, compassion and moving forward in community.
NNAMDIWell, Nadia Nazar, Mustafa Santiago Ali and Aura Angélica, thank you all for joining us. Today's show was produced by Kurt Gardinier. Coming up tomorrow, the Trump administration banned tax dollars from being used for federal diversity training. We hear from Howard Ross, a national local leader in the field, and how he found himself at the center of that debate. Plus, the What's with Washington podcast debuts "51st," its new season dedicated to the District's fight for representation.
NNAMDIThat all starts tomorrow, at noon. And join us next week for our Kojo in your Virtual Community. We'll be discussing the stress and anxiety of parenting during a pandemic. For more information and to register, go to wamu.org/events. And thank you for listening. Stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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