Youth Vs. Apocalypse is a diverse group of young climate justice activists working together to lift the voices of youth, in particular youth of color and working class youth. Their collective action aims to fight for a livable climate and an equitable, sustainable, and just world.
YVA started as a group of Oakland youth, supported by adults in their community, using direct action and lobbying to fight a proposed coal terminal in their city, then expanded its focus to other climate justice issues. After a video with youth from YVA pushing Senator Feinstein to support the Green New Deal went viral, YVA students organized press conferences, gave interviews, wrote Op Eds, and developed a website. By September 2019, YVA organized a crowd of 30,000, after working as a group to develop an intersectional set of targets and demands, organizing transportation for thousands of students from around the Bay Area, and connecting with dozens of labor and community groups, many of whom took climate action for the first time. YVA youth have supported climate actions across the state, taken leadership on local and statewide campaigns, and continued their presence in national media. YVA was recently named by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as one of (and the only youth-led) the YBCA 100. YVA is now a local group of young people who are impacting national conversations on climate.
YVA approaches the climate crisis as a symptom of the same system that has impacted frontline youth and their communities in so many ways. We focus on building a movement not just of those who already consider themselves climate activists, but of everyone who is impacted. Our theory of change centers on three broad goals: 1) to engage more young people as community leaders and activists, especially those often shut out of climate discussions 2) to “change the narrative” around climate issues by building popular cultural support for urgent climate action and 3) to achieve concrete policy changes that support young people’s right to a livable planet and just society.
We build our base of youth activists through school presentations (now online) in frontline communities, peer-to-peer social media campaigns, and an annual fellowship serving more than 60 frontline youth leaders. These programs grow our base by presenting in relatable terms, the science and history of our ecological crisis and why it matters, while also teaching youth skills to effectively amplify their own voices. Additionally, we use Hip Hop in our organizing, from collaborative original songs and music videos designed to elevate campaign messages, to online creative writing and activism workshops led by young people.
As young people get involved in YVA, they become part of a caring, youth-centered community. YVA supports multiple campaigns and initiatives, each led by 2-3 youth campaign coordinators who meet weekly as our Youth Lead Circle. Through these campaigns, YVA has made an impact locally and nationally, leading mass actions, organizing targeted pressure on corporate polluters, delivering powerful testimonies at statewide and local boards, as well as creating and launching divestment campaigns, music videos and social media campaigns, voter mobilization drives, and school-based mobilizations.
YVA expands and redefines who leads in the climate movement through peer-to peer community organizing that meets frontline young people where they are and supports their powerful, strategic leadership, whether they previously considered themselves “leaders” or “environmentalists” or not. Though YVA, youth leaders also have the support to work collaboratively and in community, building the broad coalition we need to achieve system-wide change.