Meet Sarah Goody, One Of The Leading Youth Activists Of The Climate Movement
“I’ve really been blown away by witnessing the power of young people. Young people are invaluable to the climate movement,” Goody said.
In celebration of Climate Week, NowThis has teamed up with Bank of the West to highlight the most prominent voices of the climate movement. Sarah Goody is a 16-year-old climate activist based in California. She founded her own nonprofit, Climate Now, in 2019, as a way to educate young people about climate change and empower them to join the climate movement. She also often collaborates with educators on how to incorporate climate change into the curricula of schools. Continue reading to learn more about the ways in which Sarah helps inspire and guide the people around her to get involved in the climate movement.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How Sarah first got involved in the climate movement
NowThis: You first became interested in climate change when learning about rising temperatures in your sixth grade science class. This led to you pursuing your own path of education about the climate crisis, through books and podcasts, and from other climate activists, policy organizations and politicians. How did that moment motivate you to take the first steps to get involved in the climate movement?
Sarah Goody: I started volunteering with different youth programs, and eventually in 2019, I got super invested into the Fridays for Future strikes. After traveling to New York City with an organization called Greening Forward and getting together with a bunch of climate strikers, I did a 50-week climate strike. Every Friday I would not go to school. Instead, I would go to San Francisco City Hall or the San Francisco Ferry Building, where I would share with my community why climate change matters so much to me. From there, I got really interested in public speaking. I started working with different schools and speaking to teachers and students; and from there, I started a new journey (and a new chapter in my activism book), which was [founding] my organization, Climate NOW.
NowThis: Tell us about Climate NOW.
Sarah Goody: I started [Climate NOW] in eighth grade, in 2019, after doing these strikes and getting invited to speak to different classes. I started to really put two-and-two together, that most students did not know what climate change was at all, or if they understood, they did not really understand why it mattered or how they could, as a 12 or 13-year-old, make a profound difference on this cause. So I started Climate NOW, which is a nonprofit organization that works to educate students about the climate crisis. We do that by going directly into schools and talking with students about this issue, and then providing them with empowerment resources to feel confident in taking action and speaking up about this issue, and from there, engaging them in different environmental projects.
On confronting climate change as a young person
NowThis: How have you noticed that young people experience the first time they learn about climate change?
Sarah Goody: I notice a kind of a sense of despair, and a sense of urgency. As we watch videos and documentaries to learn about climate change, it really breaks down these knowledge barriers. All of a sudden, we cannot ignore this issue anymore. It is right in front of our faces and we have to do with it what we choose. I see so many of my classmates get lost in that sense of despair and fear for their future. I think they do what most people would do, which is just try to ignore it and move on. It's painful and it's scary to think about. I remember telling myself when I was in the classroom,:
“Don't let this be something that you just let fly under the radar, that you forget about it 10 days, two weeks or in 10 months, because this feeling that I'm feeling now, this understanding, this conceptualizing of what's happening to our planet- I never want to let that go.”
NowThis: How has Climate NOW tried to address that lack of understanding, that fear, and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start?
Sarah Goody: What Climate NOW does is address the urgency of climate change, and that it is a scary topic to be talking about. But at the same time, we provide a sense of hope. We provide key actions and clear steps that students can take to actually make a difference.
“I think what was lacking in my classroom is that we were shown this huge problem, but we weren't given a clear solution.”
We weren't given action steps. We weren't given a way to go out there and to address our feelings, and to make sure that we felt heard and seen. So what we do at Climate NOW is try to help students—once they can conceptualize what's happening to our planet—to help them take those actions, to find the confidence in themselves to speak up and talk about climate change. They can immerse themselves into this community of youth climate activists that are located all around the world.
On mobilizing the younger generations
NowThis: What are some of the biggest challenges in mobilizing the younger generations around the climate movement?
Sarah Goody: Young people are often thought of as immature, without much life experience. There's been a lot of pushback from adults who think “you're too young to be talking about this, you don't really understand what you're talking about”. That really puts off young people from getting involved, when others don't see us as capable. These kinds of stereotypes around age and ability can get in the way of getting young people involved in the climate movement.
And what we're coming to terms with as a generation is that we can't just be kids.
“The past generations have left so much on our plates, that if we continue to ignore that then that's only going to make our lives harder in the future, and for the lives of our future children and our future grandchildren. So that requires us to think in new ways.”
Greta Thunberg [started] a huge shift in the way that [she] got so many people involved in the climate movement. Young people saw others [their age] stepping up into the forefront and making a difference. Another barrier to getting young people getting involved is access to education.
On educating youth about climate change
NowThis: According to Brookings, “In the U.S., 86 percent of teachers believe climate change should be taught in school, but nearly 60 percent of teachers report they do not teach climate change because they believe it is outside of their subject area”. What do you propose to teachers for how they should try to educate their students about climate change, especially when it's not a part of the curriculum?
Sarah Goody: There are so many opportunities to intersect climate change education within a curriculum in a wide array of topics. When it comes to the climate crisis, it's something that's impacting pretty much everything we could think about. It intersects with the arts, the sciences, with English, with social issues, with math, with history. It's easy to input climate change into the conversation. If educators really take advantage of those situations and use that as a learning experience for their students, then even if it's not part of a mandated curriculum, it can really be interspersed into what the curriculum is proposing.
How to get involved in the climate movement
NowThis: Do you have recommendations for other young individuals who want to contribute to the climate movement?
Sarah Goody: I like to think that climate action separates into two different categories. That first category is individual actions, things that people are doing in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprint. There’s so many individual actions that people can be taking, and that we just might not be aware of. That’s where that kind of education and awareness aspect comes. It's really looking at everything we're doing all day long, whether that's transportation, food, the new pair of shorts that you're going to buy. All of those actions have an impact on the climate crisis.
And then, group actions are things that people are doing with other people involved, i.e. in politics. I've seen a lot of communities adopting climate emergency resolutions. Young leaders have been going into their local town halls and local town meetings, and proposing that their town adopt a climate emergency resolution, which is basically a statement declaring that climate change is an emergency impacting their community.
NowThis: Not everyone has the personality to be leading a protest, with their voice echoing over a megaphone, or contacting their local representatives. Do you have suggestions for how people can harness their own individual talents to contribute to the climate movement?
Sarah Goody: There's this really common misconception that climate activism looks like just one thing. Oftentimes, that one thing is striking, or it's volunteering within the organization, or it's, joining a political organization and lobbying Congress. When I was first getting involved in climate activism, that was really scary because I didn't know how to do any of those things, and at the time, none of those things were things that I necessarily wanted to do or was interested in.
What I've learned over the past few years is that everyone has a unique story to tell and everyone has their own unique perspective to bring to the climate movement. Sometimes, the greatest changes and the greatest actions come from people putting their unique selves out there, and using their talents and using their passions to connect back to the climate movement.
I've seen people who are super passionate about soccer start a program with their team where they plant a tree for every goal scored. I've seen people who are super passionate about music, songwriting, reading, and music write songs about the climate crisis and use those songs to bring people together during strikes and marches. I've seen people use art to tell stories and put it on TikTok to insert these conversations over social media.
There are opportunities for all of us to make a difference by merging our passions with the climate movement. And more people feel seen and heard if they feel like they can be a part of the movement in their own individual way.
“I've really been blown away by witnessing the power of young people. Young people are invaluable to the climate movement.”
Oftentimes, the hardest part is deciding to take action. It can feel overwhelming.
“But reflect on what you can do, because if you're not part of the solution, then you're a part of the problem. I know that I want to hear [what you have to say] and the rest of the world wants to hear it as well.”