New Book Seeks To Make Climate Change Real For Teens

Ahmari Anthony, Howard University News Service

A week prior to the release of “No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis,” editor Lucy Diavolo facilitated a similarly titled discussion and Q&A with three of the contributors to contextualize the work and explore the current landscape of the environmental justice movement. 

The event was hosted and sponsored by Haymarket Books, “a radical, independent, nonprofit book publisher based in Chicago.” It was one of their many educational events hosted since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, all aiming to bring people together to discuss subjects related to social change.

“No Planet B” is a collection of Teen Vogue contributions that discusses climate justice and intersectional activism. The book is a collaborative effort that consists of three sections: reporting, activism, and intersectionality, according to Diavolo.  

The panelists discussed how their own experiences in various academic and activist spaces informed their perspective and work.

Jenn Jackson, for example, is an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Political Science who holds affiliate positions in African American, Women’s and Gender, and LGBT Studies. Their research in Black Politics allowed them to provide the audience with a deep understanding of environmental racism. 

“The climate crisis is happening alongside a long history of the exclusion and the intentional repression of the rights of folks in communities that are not deemed of value, not of worth,” they said.

They pointed to the crises of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Maria, and the 1985 Chicago heat wave as examples of this phenomenon. “White supremacy does not incentivize care for communities of color.”

Kim Kelly, a Teen Vogue labor columnist and activist based in Philadelphia provided the audience with an understanding of the economic and political landscape at play. 

“When it comes to the climate crisis, you would think ‘Obviously this is a big deal. It impacts workers because workers are people and the world is on fire,’”she said.  

Kelly further explained that, without proper coordination and cooperation, thousands of workers will be marginalized or left behind, especially in massive industries such as gas and oil, as the country makes the shift to a greener way of life.

“We can’t just dismiss the concerns of folks who are in this position. Workers need to survive,” she said. “There’s a lot of lives hanging in the balance.”

The other panelists agree. Maia Wikler, writer, anthropologist, and organizer, emphasized the importance of being in community and maintaining relationships in order to do equitable, effective work to achieve climate justice. She explains how this mindset stemmed from organizing but eventually influenced the way that she identified stories and sources. 

“All the stories I’ve done for Teen Vogue are from personal relationships,” said Wikler, who is also a candidate for a PhD in Political Ecology at the University of Victoria.

“To me those are some of the best scientists,”she added. “They are on the ground everyday, they are observing everyday. The strongest and most astute observations I’ve heard on climate change, they come from community members.” 

Jackson agreed, sharing an anecdote about students in Chicago learning to avoid water fountains that dispense water with heavy metals by letting each other know that water taste indicates safe drinking water. 

“Folks in communities are experts on their experiences with climate issues and environmental racism and specifically how folks are learning to survive despite the states inability and desire not to care for them,” they said.

Jackson added that communities are not only ignored when they express their concerns or diagnose their own issues, but also in the creation of solutions. 

“Folks in communities who have been affected by our governments and the larger global crisis around climate and environmental racism have the knowledge and the wherewithal and the know-how to navigate these systems and are just often not tapped or respected enough to actually be included in the conversation,” they said. 

Since the book is a collection of Teen Vogue contributions, the role of today’s youth in combating climate change was also an important subject of discussion during the night -and the panelists predicted that this role would be a crucial one.

“So many young people are so much more politicized and aware and engaged than they were when I was younger, and I’m not that old,” Kelly laughed.

Jackson expressed hope not only for people, but also for the future of the Earth. 

“We spend so much time talking about the loss but we don’t talk enough about the abundance. And we don’t talk enough about what we have,” they said. We have each other, we have our communities and we look outside our window and we still have what we have here. We still have so much greenery. We have air, we have water. We’re breathing, we’re here together.”

The event is available for replay on the Haymarket Books YouTube Channel, and the book will be available online on February 9th.