Teen Environmental Activist Tells Congress to Stop Putting “Profit Over People”

Nadia Nazar, a 16-year-old leader of youth environmental organization Zero Hour, responds to a representative dissing the Green New Deal and explains the role of youth in fighting climate change

environment, climate, Nadia Nazar, Taylor Hebden, Dharna Noor, youth, Congress, Doug Lamborn

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Story Transcript

DHARNA NOOR: It’s The Real News. I’m Dharna Noor.

A key congressional committee held their first climate change-focused hearing in a decade. Last week was the House Natural Resources Committee’s first meeting under new Democratic control. During the three and a half hour hearing, a group of diverse witnesses testified, ranging from skeptics of climate change to environmental activists. Here’s Nadia Nazar, a 16-year-old co-founder of the youth-led climate advocacy organization Zero Hour.

NADIA NAZAR: Some of my friends say they don’t want to have children because they’re worried about the kind of lives they would have to live on a warming planet. In the future, asthma rates will be higher, there will be less access to food, and more extreme natural disasters and weather will occur, all due to climate change.

Climate change not only threatens the future of my generation, but it continues to displace and kill people. My family in Kerala, India experienced the floods that occurred there this past summer. These floods displaced approximately 800,000 people, and killed 483 people. Around the same time, my friends in Ellicott City, Maryland experienced floods that caused landslides and infrastructural damage in a historical city.

Climate change has been happening. Climate change is happening. Climate change will continue to happen. Climate change is my future, unless you do something about it right now.

DHARNA NOOR: At the hearing, heated debates ensued on the urgency of the climate crisis and proposals to take it on. Some, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the youth-led environmental organization the Sunrise Movement are aiming to fight the climate crisis with a Green New Deal that would bring the U.S. to net zero carbon emissions within a decade, and create millions of jobs in the process.

But some are skeptical. Republican Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado spoke out at the hearing.

DOUG LAMBORN: I think that the ingenuity and hard work and creativity of the American people is a real solution here, and should not be left out. We shouldn’t, like you said, top down, from government coersion, government control. That sounds too much like a Soviet five year plan, or something like that, which is simply not going to work.

Now, I understand that if someone comes into Congress–you only have to be 25 years old to be a member of Congress. And we have young people that bring a lot of great qualities, but maybe they don’t bring a lot of life experience. And so I guess I can understand if someone has not had a lot of life experience, and they’re proposing something that’s extremely unrealistic–well, the impossible. Impossible. But what I don’t understand is adults and grownups, who are older and more mature, are also advocating something that’s impossible.

DHARNA NOOR: After the hearing I spoke with Nazar about those comments from Representative Lamborn, who has accepted over $300,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2005.

NADIA NAZAR: It was interesting to see everybody’s perspective, because because when I work I work only with–I work mainly with people that understand this, that understand climate justice, and wholeheartedly have put themselves–have put themselves into this issue. So to hear from different perspectives was interesting.

It was also interesting how dismissive they were of youth in the Green New Deal and how disrespectful that was, really. Youth have been relied on so much to make their decisions for their future. Like in a year or two, I have to decide my career for the rest of my life. We have to start making major decisions. So if they trust that youth can make decisions like that, then why can’t they trust us to create something like the New Deal, the Green New Deal? And the Green New Deal was created by the youth of the Sunrise Movement. And so that was a policy–and it was really pushed by youth. A lot of work went into that, and to see it be dismissed was disappointing.

And what he said, that it was top-down, that was partially untrue, because there are youth mobilizing in their states and their local communities to introduce a state Green New Deal for their state government. And there are high schoolers that are currently mobilizing with Sunrise to bring the Green New Deal to their high schools and their local communities.

DHARNA NOOR: You said today in your testimony that you thought for far too long, representatives have been putting the needs of the fossil fuel industries above the needs of their constituents, of ordinary people.

NADIA NAZAR: It seems here in Washington the policy makers have for far too long put the interests of fossil fuel corporations and other carbon emitting industries over the health and prosperity of the people, the wildlife, and this planet. The lives of my generation have been disregarded for far too long.

It really is greed. Like, they just want money. And the fact that they put profit over people is really, really disappointing. And the for elected officials to hear us and to see us face to face and to make that connection, like, hey, what you’re doing is harming me, my future, and my generation, so please stop. To have that opportunity was great.