I am striking for justice. Environmental. Food. And Social. The future I want must address all three as they are intricately linked and formed from the same root causes.
My name is Jamie Margolin and I’m a 17-year-old climate justice activist, founder of the youth climate justice movement Zero Hour that led the 2018 Youth Climate Marches on July 21st of 2018 in Washington DC and 25 cities all around the world.
I am a senior in high school and I should be focussing on my college applications, but to be honest I’ve barely started because I’m too busy fighting to make sure I actually have a future that I’m applying to study for.
And that future that I am fighting for is one of food justice, climate justice, and social justice. In the past we often identified as either an environmentalist, an animal rights activist or a social justice activist. This is part of why we have not been able to build a mass movement centered around those impacted most. In the world I am building we are all three and more. We throw out the rule book and show up for each. This is how we build a creative movement that can fight the oppressive structures that are fueling climate change.
First things first, we have to understand that the climate crisis is threatening the very food we put on our tables, and for many families, the reason why food isn’t able to be put on the table.
A new United Nations report warns that the climate crisis is causing land and water resources to be exploited at unprecedented rates, which combined with climate change is making it look pretty impossible for humanity to have the ability to feed ourselves. Half a billion people are already living in places that are turning into deserts, and soil -- you know, the thing all our food is grown in -- is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming.
The climate crisis is making food harder to grow, and massive storms, droughts, floods and other climate caused disasters are destroying the food that is already grown. This makes it so millions more people die of starvation, and even in areas in the global north that people assume will be unaffected, food prices are sky rocketing due to all of this, making it more and more accessible for low income families to put food on the table.
The climate crisis is not about a distant sad looking polar bear, it’s about the very food you depend on to survive. So then, one begs the question of how we got into this situation.
Many people pin the start of the climate crisis to the industrial revolution. That was when we started digging for coal, mining fossil fuels out of the ground, and burning them. But it actually started long before that. Colonization started the climate crisis, and all of the practices it brought. With colonization, European settlers destroyed natural habitats, hunted species to death, and brought in invasive plant species that indigenous and African slaves were forced to grow. With colonialism came the extreme extraction of the earth, and the genocide and silencing of the indigenous wisdom of the peoples that have been keeping this earth alive for centuries. With Colonialism came the idea that everything on this earth is made for our extraction, and that everything is to be bought and sold. According to an article about early western colonialism in Encyclopedia Britannica, when colonizers arrived to the Americas they immediately thought of the land, the water, and all of the natural resources in front of them as theirs to claim and extract. Because unless someone had explicitly bought the land with a system of currency they valued, it was seen as free pickings. So with Colonialism came the idea that nothing -- not air, not water, not trees, not animals -- was sacred or priceless. And this mindset is the core of how we got to the climate disaster. The idea that everything can be extracted and everything can have a price tag slapped on it. Even air and water. So that’s why before the first coal was mined, even before the first factories were opened, the seeds for the climate crisis had already been planted. And the colonialism that caused the climate crisis is still playing out today. For example, former colonized countries emit the least amount of carbon dioxide, but feel the worst effects of the climate crisis. And even though countries in the Global South like India emit large amount of pollutants, it is because the United States ships our factories overseas so poor people of color can do our dirty work. American corporations save money exploiting workers in india and polluting their air, water and people. While the poor communities are poisoned and suffer, rich communities in the United States buy those products without having to feel the toxic effects of producing them. It’s the same colonial system of forcing people of color to produce and pay the price for luxuries for those in rich white countries. Colonialism never went away, it just evolved.
So if we can agree that the root of climate change is colonialism, then the only logical solution is to completely decolonize our society -- from the way we get out food, to the way we relate to each other, to the way we get our energy, to the way we treat animals and the nature around us.
By 2030, I will be old enough to run for congress in the united states, but not old enough to shoot for the US presidency which is where my eyes are set. By then, we will have known if we have created the political climate that will have allowed us to salvage life on earth. By then, we must already be on the path towards climate recovery.
And this is what that decolonized future on the path to climate recovery looks like… First things first, we have to decolonize how we eat. Animal agriculture is one of the main causes of the climate crisis. Currently, the industrial animal agriculture industry is causing the massive forest fires in the Amazon, they are the ones who purposefully set it on fire in collusion with the Brazilian government in order to turn that land into nothing but more space for factory farming. The Amazon rainforest that also happens to be the lungs of our planet. If we do not save the Amazon rainforest, we have no chance of surviving the climate catastrophe. Instead of mass animal agriculture, we must engage in what is called regenerative farming. A way of farming and getting food that goes with the earth, not against it. And the thing is, this decolonized eco-friendly way of agriculture that replenishes the earth instead of depleting it is not a new concept -- it’s how we’ve farmed for most of human history. My abuela grew up on a farm in Kachipai Colombia, and instead of the way farming is done today, where there is just one type of crop for as far as the eye could see, her family grew literally EVERYTHING that they could. Coffee, Mangoes, Passion fruit, corn, lemons, vegetables, everything. My grandma could just shimmy up a tree and grab a mango for snack, and there was no need for any pesticides. Right now the pesticides and chemicals we are spraying on our food is poisoning ourselves and the earth, but if you farm multiple crops in the same area, strategically so one plant helps the other grow, then it’s almost like the food grows itself once it gets in the swing of things. The health of the soil is vital to saving life on earth, and instead of the way of farming today that depletes the soil so it is dead and can no longer be fertile and act as a carbon sink to fight the climate crisis, the way my grandma farmed made sure the earth was always healthy. Multiple crops rotated and planted around the same areas, no use of pesticides, made it so the earth was always fertile. My grandma tells me you could drop any seed in the ground and without even trying, the seed would yield crops.
So we have to get back to our roots of regenerative farming, and start localizing production of our food again. Decolonizing it.
I am striking for a future where everyone has fresh healthy food on their table. Because food on the table and a stable climate are not mutually exclusive, and both should be inalienable rights.
About the Author
Jamie Margolin is a 17-year-old Colombian-American community organizer, activist, author, public speaker, and high school student. She is a founder and co-executive director of an international youth climate justice movement called Zero Hour that led the official "Youth Climate Marches" in Washington, DC and 25+ cities around the world during the summer of 2018. Jamie has organized countless actions for change and protests like the "2019 Youth Climate Summit” in Miami Florida and Youth Climate Lobby Days on Capitol Hill both in 2018 and in 2019. Jamie is the author of countless thought provoking Op-Eds for various publications such as The New York Times, and has been on both American and international speaking tours for climate justice all while being in high school. Jamie is also a plaintiff on Our Children's Trusts' Youth v. Gov Washington state lawsuit, suing the state of Washington for denying her generation's constitutional rights to a livable environment by worsening the climate crisis, and she is a climate justice organizer in her local Seattle community. Her debut book, "Youth To Power: Your Voice and How To Use It,” is hitting bookstores worldwide in 2020 (pre order at www.youthtopowerbook.com ) . Jamie is one of Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21” girls changing the world in 2018, One of People Magazines 25 women changing the world in 2018, Fuse TV’s Latina Trailblazer of 2018, one of The Today Show’s 18 under 18 Groundbreakers of 2019, MTV EMA Generation Change winner of 2019, and one of the BBC's 100 most influential women of 2019.