Northern Arizona University is set to host a first-of-its-kind climate summit starting Friday. The event features presentations and panels by professionals, environmentalists, tribal members, writers, artists and young people.
This week, KNAU is featuring some of the youth activists who will be a part of the summit.
Lauren Pacheco will be a part of the event’s youth town hall. She’s a 17-year-old senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, and a leader of multiple student and youth groups focused on climate justice. She spoke with KNAU’s Zac Ziegler.
Zac Ziegler: “When did you begin to take an interest in climate activism, and what drew you to the issue?”
Lauren Pacheco: “I've always been super into being outside and hanging out with my animals, and it wasn't until really I got into my sophomore year of high school that I switched to Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, and they had an environmental coalition. They really fostered a space that I could take the confidence in my political actions.”
ZZ: “So you built your leadership role at that club, but then also you're part of a new group, the Flagstaff Youth Climate Alliance. What is that group and why did it get started?”
LP: “It really happened after the September 20th strike. This past month, my friends and I, we met a bunch of people from different schools and different youth groups, and we were all fighting for the same thing but we weren't really in contact with each other. And we felt that if we were, we could make our voice more united. Mostly we want political action on the state level, but we'll see where folks interests and that.”
ZZ: “You played a role in planning September's climate March. Tell me about that experience.”
LP: “It was a random Saturday meeting. I knew what the strike was, members from my coalition were going, and since I'm a leader on that group, they were like, ‘Okay, we should probably go to this.’ We're talking about the strike and it seemed like it didn't have a clear goal. I ended up taking way more leadership than I planned on. So, yeah, we went to board meetings, we met with different schools, and we held poster-making sessions. And [we] showed up on the 20th and saw how the turnout was, which was a lot more than I expected, which was really cool.”
ZZ: “So, you said there's often a lot of energy with young people in these events . . .”
ZZ: “But not a lot of it being focused. Do you feel like that's an important thing that needs to be taken advantage of?”
LP: “Absolutely, and that was part of the thinking behind the Youth Climate Alliance, was that there's this general idea that climate change is bad and we want policies changed. Except that’s such an umbrella term, climate change, and so it's really hard to be like, ‘I want to focus on ocean acidification’ or ‘I want to focus on increased natural disasters.’ It's really hard to have these things that aren't necessarily tangible to someone who lives in Arizona. When you think about, like, oceans and how you can be like, ‘Well, this is what's reasonable for next steps in policy, and this is what we can negotiate with her legislators.’”
ZZ: “What's your plans after you graduate and for your future?”
LP: “I'm going to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, majoring in adventure education with a minor in environmental policy.”
ZZ: “So, do you hope that you can combine those two loves, the outdoors and fighting for climate justice with that career path?”
LP: “I think so. I think it's hard to fight for something you can't appreciate. After talking to people who don't necessarily agree with you, or you're getting burnt out because it's a lot of work, or you feel like you're not getting anywhere. But the minute you step outside and you’re on a hike, you really go, ‘This is what I'm fighting for it, and I am stoked to keep doing this.’”
ZZ: “Do you ever worry that maybe you were born a little too late to make that difference?”
LP: “I think now is the perfect time! We can take this holistic approach to climate justice. I'm able to vote on this next 2020 presidential election, and I’m really stoked about that and a bunch of my peers are really stoked because we can make our voices loud now, and be like, ‘This is what we want from the next president. We're not going to take anything else.” So, perfect timing in terms of voting next time!”
ZZ: “Lauren Pacheco, thank you very much for joining me today.”
LP: “Yeah, thank you.”
That was Lauren Pacheco, who will be a part of the Youth Town Hall at this week’s climate summit in Flagstaff. It takes place Friday and Saturday. More information and registration is at climate2020arizona.nau.edu