What 2020 Means for Us
2020 is a big year. The 2020 census will re-proportion congressional seats and determine how billions of federal dollars will be distributed in states, cities and communities across the country. The results of the 2020 presidential election in November, with first primaries starting in less than a month, will set the trajectory of federal policy on the climate for the next four years. On April 22, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Locally, Chicago is anticipating a renewed Climate Action Plan from the city by the end of 2020. And many of us at the Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action (CYACA) are finding ourselves dealing with the reality of graduating high school in just five months.
As we wrapped up a year of climate activism in 2019, we joined the Illinois Youth Climate Strike on December 6, which drew out hundreds of students and allies despite low temperatures. The tone of the December strike echoed the demands of previous climate strikes: the City of Chicago needs to enact immediate climate solutions. The #FridaysForFuture strikes will continue this spring.
At CYACA, we wrapped up our year with goal-setting for our organization and created a list of New Year's resolutions. Among organizational goals, which include planning a Youth Climate Summit at the Field Museum in April, we’ve been reflecting on what tangible steps we want to see the city and school district take this year.
I have been a student at Whitney Young High School for six years, and one goal that I have, along with many other Whitney Young seniors, is to leave behind a positive environmental legacy for our school. When CYACA began our CPS Solar Initiative at the start of the last school year, we didn’t realize how many energy- and conservation-related decisions had to be made at the district level, and that they were not being independently decided by schools. We have since worked with CPS’s recently appointed Sustainability Director, Sandrine Schultz, on exploring solar for our school and other energy conservation strategies. But the question of how we can hold the district accountable for its energy decisions remains important, as there is often a lack of transparency and urgency when students do not actively demand results. We still see a lack of urgency in the green transition for CPS and for the city as a whole—a city that has promised us renewable electricity in all buildings by 2035 and a fully electrified bus fleet by 2040 but has made little headway in enacting those goals.
For many of us at CYACA, 2020 means an abrupt transition into college and away from Chicago, the city that we have invested in with our activism for years. Before we leave, we want to see concrete legislative action on climate change from the city, which means that the Lightfoot administration needs to uphold its campaign promises. When we take our work to the next stage of our life, we want assurance that Chicago is protecting the health of its residents and the future of its young people.