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What does the life of one young climate activist look like?

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Marianna Hefte will be a junior at South High School this fall. She loves history and English; she competes in debate. She is 16 years old and, like many of her close friends and colleagues, has already been working on climate justice issues for years.
Hefte is part of a fast-growing youth movement for climate action. She said, “When I first learned about climate change as a 5th grader at Dowling Elementary School, I lost faith in humanity. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that activism is a remedy for hopelessness.”
Hefte began cultivating a spirit of activism that has grown steadily stronger over time.
She got involved in the local chapter of iMatter Youth, a group that advocates for city and state level climate policy. In 2018, her chapter wrote a comprehensive, 100% renewable electricity plan for the city of Minneapolis – and delivered it.
Along with other members of the youth movement MN Can’t Wait, Hefte sat with Governor Tim Walz on his third day in office last January – and presented a three-point platform to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state now, including the Minnesota New Green Deal.
As a member of the Green Tigers Environmental Club at South High School, Hefte went back to Dowling Elementary School last year and gave a presentation to second graders about climate change.
She said, “Talking to kids about climate change is really hard. In the future, I think we’ll take a more discussion-based approach to engaging kids on this issue.”

‘I want to make sure the city is working its hardest’
Most recently, Hefte has been a summer intern for Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson.
Her internship is part of a city of Minneapolis program called Step Up. The program connects youth ages 14-21 to internships in nearly 200 companies, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Her internship has involved working with constituent concerns, researching health issues that impact residents of South Minneapolis like diabetes and the opioid epidemic, and drawing things out of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan.
She said, “I want to make sure the city is working its hardest not to be reliant on fossil fuels. We only have about 10 years left to solve the biggest threat humanity has ever faced – and we have to make sure our solutions are equitable.”

South High plans demonstration for Sept. 20
Hefte has been inspired by the work of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, creator of the Friday School Strikes that have been carried out in several countries around the world. Thunberg’s strategy is extremely straight forward. To the adults, she says, “If you aren’t going to do what you need to do to clean up our earth, then we aren’t going to do what we’re supposed to do – which is go to school.” View her TED Talk at Greta Thunberg: the disarming case to act right now on climate change.
Students at South High School will participate in an international strike day on Friday, Sept. 20 (follow details on Instagram.)
Hefte said, “At South, we’ll come to school in the morning and then, at a designated time, all of the strikers will leave school and take the train to the St. Paul Capitol for a rally from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.. I’m looking forward to that. I’m glad so many of my peers are joining this movement.
“We need to keep equity in mind when we organize. People from under-represented communities should be given space to lead these movements because climate change will not affect everyone equally; it will especially hurt people in low-income communities.”

Give your input
Marianna Hefte is one of 19 Minneapolis residents appointed by the City Council and the Mayor to serve on the Community Environmental Action Committee. Members offer advice on issues regarding the environment, climate change, and sustainable development.

The group meets the first Thursday of every month from 6-8 p.m. in different parts of the city. Meetings are always open to the public.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5 at Roosevelt Library (4026 S. 28th Ave.)

Email Kelly.muellman@minneapolismn.gov or call 612.673.3014 with questions.

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