By Olivia Salzwedel, Alliance Intern from University of Minnesota Morris ’22
“If we can’t breathe, we can’t fight for justice. There isn’t anything more fundamental than the right to breathe,” says Puerto Rican Elizabeth Yeampierre in this not-to-be-missed 3-minute PBS NewsHour Brief but Spectacular. She emphasizes that young people are the key to addressing climate change, as we need intergenerational power. Yeampierre and her family, along with their community, personally suffered from toxic exposure, deadly asthma and lung cancer caused by lead paint and harmful emissions in Washington Heights and Harlem.
These experiences inspired Yeampierre to become an attorney and environmental and climate justice leader engaging young people in communities of color to address environmental racism, including “learning how to read a room”. She defines environmental injustice as “the disparate siting of environmental burdens in low-income communities and communities of color.” She emphasizes these communities are least responsible for creating climate change and have historically lived within their carbon footprint but suffer severely from the horrific effects of climate change.
She confronts the widespread overwhelm felt by so many young people and calls on them to fight against climate change by reminding them that, “if their ancestors had thought they were hopeless when they were in shackles, we wouldn’t be here.” She says we must push beyond this moment of crisis “to ensure future generations won’t suffer like our families.” We hope you are as moved as we are by her compelling words and call to action.