By Laura Kussman
Sol Mehl Zobrist is unable to deny the fact that children born today will know a vastly different planet from generations before them, as the unrestrained extraction of resources for capitalist profit is changing our globe’s future.
Joining the ranks of Earth Guardians and Class of 0000, Zobrist stood in front of her local community and delivered a global, call-to-action commencement speech last Saturday at her Spring Street International High School graduation. Expressly. Her message: this generation of students is done waiting for leaders to act on the most pressing threat now facing the world — the crisis of catastrophic climate change.
She did so in solidarity with 300 other confirmed “Class of 0000” commencement speakers — a youth-led movement whose mission is to build a coalition of first-time voters prioritizing climate action.
Taking form from its call for “zero emissions” and “zero excuses” from politicians, the “Class of 0000” project is recruiting class valedictorians and student graduation speakers to deliver one unified speech, demanding immediate action to end the fossil fuel energy system.
“I will be decorating my cap with a picture of earth and ‘The Class of 0000’ on it to represent,” Zobrist notes. “I will be filming it live.”
Zobrist’s fire for action, education and advocacy came from a handful of flames. In one of her high school classes, she studied the youth-filed constitutional climate lawsuit called Juliana v. U.S., which asserts the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change have violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. Earth Guardians is an organizational plaintiff in the case, whose youth director is 19-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. Zobrist notes she was lucky enough to meet Martinez after following him online.
She says, “I felt really inspired to keep bringing these messages to my school. I immediately felt I had to join Earth Guardians and the Class of 0000. I got involved right away in the center of it all. I wish there were more people in my class involved. This is a very important topic to address.”
As an indigenous woman of Mayan ancestry with close family relations to the Navajo people, Zobrist feels an intimate connection to the conservation and protection of the earth, as well as climate change and social inequality.
“Martinez is of Aztec ancestry. He really inspired me to look back at my roots and dig up what’s important in my life,” Zobrist said. “The people disproportionately affected by this are people like me. So this is very personal — I want to be a voice and bridge for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.”
Not only a mentor for kids, which has galvanized her drive to create a global education system for a climate-conscious classroom, Zobrist is also a business co-founder of Chasing Change — a multimedia safe-space for frontliner exposure and education alike.
“We want to use video to showcase people on the frontlines of the climate fight all around the world.”
In the coming weeks, Zobrist will head to the Earth Guardians headquarters in Colorado to meet with the founder and strategize training solutions for new crew leaders, further develop the website and create print pamphlet literature. Currently, there are 256 youth-led Guardian crews around the world, including one in Kathmandu, Nepal, where Zobrist visited earlier this month.
“This is something that is going to bite us whether we do a ton to stop it or not. I hope climate deniers can walk in their truth, but not interfere with mine.”