Student Leader Speaks Out for Climate and Racial Justice at Newton Rally

On October 17, Newton students came together for the March and Rally for Climate and Racial Justice. One of the students who spoke to the crowd of mostly young people at Newton City Hall was Coral Lin, a senior at Newton North High School and an officer of Next Gen Voices. Coral has also been volunteering with Green Newton for the past three years. What follows is an excerpt of her Call to Action:

I first learned what climate change was in third grade when I read about polar bears and melting ice caps. It was not until years later when I learned more about how we can all have an impact, which I will explain later, as well as the human impacts of climate change.

Climate change is linked with systematic inequalities. It disproportionately affects communities of color, leaving BIPOC with worse health outcomes such as asthma, pregnancy risks, and heat related illness. According to a recent study published by Nature Human Behavior, rising temperatures are also widening the racial achievement gap in schools in the United States and around the world.

We are joined together today, during a pandemic, because we know there are multiple, worsening crises in our world alongside COVID: climate change and racism. If we in Newton want to live up to our ideals of equity, we must individually and collectively do our part in taking bold climate action.

This starts with Newton Power Choice, which is at the center of the Newton Climate Action Plan. I ask those who are able to opt up to 100% renewable energy by going to greennewtontakeaction.org. There, you can also learn more about the most impactful ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint. By opting up to 100% renewable energy, you will be supporting cleaner air, more demand for renewable energy, and more locally sourced energy. As a city with sizable privilege, we must invest in climate solutions to mitigate some of the public health repercussions caused by fossil fuels.

We must also support zoning reform in Newton. Right now, our city is going through a historic process of reimagining what the future of Newton should look like. Zoning reform is important on both a climate and racial justice standpoint. It is an opportunity to bring more affordability and accessibility to Black families who our housing policies have discriminated against and also create more sustainable housing that makes Newton less car dependent.

I urge you to support Newton’s zoning reform process and expand diverse housing options across Newton. What we do, or don’t do, with zoning reform will affect who is able to live, work, and go to school in Newton for decades to come. Young people especially need to have their voices heard on policies that will affect our generation.

Just a few years ago, I was skeptical that my own actions could really have an impact on my community. Especially as someone too young to vote, I thought I would have to wait until my actions could truly matter. Especially for climate and racial justice, we cannot and will not wait to take action. There is so much more to do than just vote, so please don’t let other people tell you your voice doesn’t have an impact. It does.

You have power to engage in conversations with friends, family, strangers, and your elected officials about climate action and climate justice. Students, know that your classmates, teachers, and parents will listen to you if you organize. Adults, please listen to young people, and think about how you can take action for future generations. Start by educating yourselves and others about local initiatives such as Newton Power Choice and zoning reform and then take action. If every person here opts up to 100% renewable energy and emails their city councilors about zoning reform, we are already at a much better place than we started yesterday. And if each person reaches out to three more people, your impact multiplies. We must act now and center environmental and racial justice in our work. Thank you.