On Thursday, Sept. 9, Teach for America held a webinar titled “Equity Talks: Gen Z’s Role in Saving the Planet.” The event was a Zoom conversation between the managing director of data science at Teach For America Andis Arietta, who has a doctorate degree in environmental studies, who was  the event moderator, and climate activist Sophia Kianni. The Brandeis Hiatt Career Center shared the event, and students could register through Handshake. Students and teachers throughout the country were also able to attend the event. 

Kianni, an Iranian-American activist, shared her experiences with learning about climate change and eventually  creating her nonprofit organization Climate Cardinals. Climate Cardinals works to translate information about climate change, including the UNICEF Climate Children’s Risk Index, to other languages in order to make climate change education  more available to other countries, per their website. “The reality is climate change is going to impact all of us, it’s just  going to impact certain communities disproportionately,” Kianni explained. She went on to share the findings of a 2021  study that explained that the younger generation is three  times more likely to experience climate disasters than their grandparents. 

Kianni explained that before turning 18 and being able to vote, she felt there was very little she could do in order to combat the impacts of climate change, a problem she believed  needed to be solved systematically. She began working with various advocacy groups in order to organize school strikes in the D.C. area. After she turned 18, she felt as though she  had more power in order to create change. Because of this, Kianni urges young people to vote for lawmakers who will assist in the battle of fighting the climate crisis. 

Arietta addressed the fact that the realities of the climate crisis can be depressing and asked how to stay motivated  to fight the impacts of climate change while also caring for  oneself. Kianni responded with her “favorite phrase”: “You cannot take care of the planet if you do not first take care of  yourself.” She explained that the impacts of climate change  and mental health are interlinked. One way to prevent this impact is to focus on positive news coming out of the scientific  community as opposed to just the negatives, Kianni said. 

When asked what people should do on a day-to-day basis in order to combat the climate change crisis, Kianni responded  with three step. First, go vote. Second, talk about the climate crisis with friends and family. And third, figure out how climate change interacts with an issue that you care the most  about. Kianni said that this third step is where you will find  your “magic sauce” of how you personally can best address the climate crisis.