A day of environmental and civic justice

By Cadyn Waxingmoon, Earth Charter Indiana intern

 Oaklandon Kids for Climate, meet Lawrence city councilors before Sept. 5 meeting.

Oaklandon Kids for Climate, meet Lawrence city councilors before Sept. 5 meeting.

Since the City of Lawrence passed the Climate Recovery Resolution I have often thought about the Oaklandon Kids for Climate and their push for environmental justice. The purpose of my latest visit to the E-STEM club was to help the kids prepare for their meeting with the Mayor of Lawrence. Mayor Steve Collier had enthusiastically aided the Oaklandon kids in their work with the Climate Recovery Resolution, and even issued a proclamation the day the resolution passed to acknowledge the E-STEM club's activism. Now Mayor Collier was coming to Oaklandon to have a follow up meeting with the Kids for Climate.

A recently begun tradition for Earth Charter Indiana is to gift the Mayors who assist us in passing the Climate Recovery Resolution with a portrait drawn by aspiring artist and Youth Power member, Lucy Scott. The Oaklandon kids were planning to present their Mayor with this token of appreciation as well. Though I already knew most of the Oaklandon kids from last summer’s Climate Camp, still others I had never seen before and it was nice to meet new youth who cared so much about the fate of our environment. The new children had never met with a government official before and even the kids who gave testimony for the resolution still had a sense of nervous giddiness that filled the room.

When Mayor Collier arrived we all sat down so the kids could present him with his portrait and he could bring them up to date on how the Resolution was being fulfilled. After happily receiving the his portrait and answering a few questions, Mayor Collier told us about the construction of a new Lawrence Police station that would reduce carbon emissions, though he did not go into detail on how. He also mentioned getting more fuel-efficient police cars, saying that the city could not afford the kind they had initially wanted, but that they would definitely be buying comparatively greener vehicles from here on out.

 Mayor Collier, holding portrait, is surrounded by Kids for Climate, school officials, and IUPUI students.

Mayor Collier, holding portrait, is surrounded by Kids for Climate, school officials, and IUPUI students.

The Mayor, having other obligations, left soon after that, leaving the Kids for Climate to reflect on their meeting. There were three parts to the resolution, the city must create a climate action plan, use that plan to attain carbon neutrality by 2050, and form a Mayor’s youth council that would advise the mayor in issues regarding climate change. Jim Poyser explained to the Oaklandon kids what was being done to fulfill the Indianapolis resolution and then added a few other things cities can do to reduce carbon emissions. The children decided they would welcome Mayor Collier back to their school sometime in the near future and tell him about different ideas for citywide carbon reduction; in fact, they resolved to make themselves his unofficial youth advisers.

Upon leaving Oaklandon, Jim and I made our way towards downtown Indianapolis, during which time we had an encouraging phone meeting with a prospective Youth Power member from Terre Haute. We discussed social justice, aquaponics, our climate resolution, and the merits of vegan food. We planned to attend a City County-Council meeting where the council would be taking a vote on whether or not gerrymandering was harmfully impacting voter rights. If the resolution was passed here, Indianapolis would be the 20th Indiana city to officially state opposition to gerrymandering, and could now move on to finding ways of fixing our twisted democracy.

While at Oaklandon, we had told the E-STEM club about the meeting we would be going to. One of the IUPUI graduate students who work with the kids gave them a crash course on gerrymandering by drawing sectioned off tally marks on a white board and rearranging the lines dividing the marks to show how elections can be influenced by how electoral districts are placed. Now, at the City County-Council chambers, we shook hands with fellow concerned citizens while waiting for the meeting to begin.

Most of the audience was there for the gerrymandering vote and many had brought signs. Gerrymandering was not the first item on the agenda, and we waited as the city county council went through various other business. When gerrymandering was finally brought up there was cheering from the spectators. Several council members were compelled to speak on the issue; as each one spoke their words were either followed with applause if they were opposed and booing and calls of “shame” if they were in favor of  the broken system.

The long awaited vote was at last revealed as 15-10, the motion to recognize gerrymandering as a threat to the simplest of voter rights was passed. The vote received a standing ovation and the crowd soon began to calm down and sink into post victory bliss. Jim and I followed the stream of people leaving the meeting to chatter over the success of the vote and to hurry to his car before our parking meter ran out.

Going home, Jim and I chatted about the day’s events, a fuzzy glow euphoria had come over the both of us after the success of the day. I had seen fellow youth commit to helping their city towards an environmentally sound future, as well meeting an auspicious new member of the Youth Power community. The encouraging city council meeting I had just left was fresh in my mind and was beginning to seem to me as a stepping stone to a predominantly more equitable tomorrow.

I was getting tired, and in the warm haze filling my mind I found blissful undaunting hope that all children would care about the earth, that all city councils would denounce systems which thwart democracy, and that many other days like this would follow, days that would leave me with this warm optimism.