Climate activist and founder of Plus 1 Vote, Saad Amer, talks about his leap from nature lover to climate activist at just 14 years old. Frustrated with the lack of meaningful climate action from lawmakers, Saad came up with a simple solution. “Let’s get rid of them.” That’s why Saad is encouraging you (yes, you) and all your friends — “your smart friends, your woke friends, your highly educated friends,” as he says — to get out there this November and VOTE! “A democracy will only represent the people who are voting,” he says. “And so if young people aren’t voting for a series of reasons, then of course the democracy is not going to represent the needs and the values of young people.”
You can follow Saad Amer on Instagram and Twitter @itsSaadAmer and on Facebook @saadamer.
Follow Plus 1 Vote on Instagram and Facebook @Plus1Vote or on Twitter @Plus1_Vote.
Interested in learning more about Saad Amer? Check out the links below:
- Register to vote and learn more about Plus 1 Vote here: https://www.plus1campaign.org/.
- Watch Saad Amer and Al Gore discuss the climate crisis and the role of voters in solving it: https://www.facebook.com/ClimateRealityActionFund/videos/338065750953633.
- For more on Saad’s efforts to get out the vote this November, check out this InsideClimate News article: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03082020/climate-activism-youth-vote-election-2020
[00:01:09] Hi, I’m Saad Amer, and you’re listening to Good Kids. I’m a climate activist and the founder of Plus 1 Vote. I’m going to talk about climate voting and what you can do to fundamentally shake up this system.
[00:01:41] In my entire lifetime, there has been no concrete action from the United States on this climate crisis. And so I’m going to bring myself into these spaces. Don’t ever feel small. Even if you are young, you have a voice. We need to grant voices to women, to children, to the LGBTQ, the indigenous, the disenfranchised, the underrepresented. The science is on your side. We are all in this together.
[00:02:09] My parents were born in Pakistan and then came over here to America hoping for a better life for their kids. And, you know, that was me and my two brothers. My first love was really my mother. And then my second was nature. Sorry, Dad. I remember going around my house planting daffodils with my mom, planting these little bulbs in the ground. And then a couple of months later, just boom, like magic, these little yellow bundles of joy would just literally sprout from the ground. And I thought nature was so cool, like, how is this even happening?
[00:02:54] When I was in the ninth grade for my first day of my first period of high school ever, I had biology. And my biology teacher, Mr. Murray, was just the most wonderful human ever. We went to the Fish Thicket Land Preserve on Long Island, and back then I would always carry a little point-and-shoot camera in my pocket. And so I was just taking all these pictures of these leaves and trees and all the stuff that I just thought was so beautiful. And he made one photo of a plant his computer desktop background and was like, this is awesome. And I was like, yeah, science is cool. Let’s do some more stuff. And so we immediately started organizing.
[00:03:40] We wanted to bring more people to the preserve. We wanted to figure out how to make this more accessible. And, you know, Long Island is very suburban. I mean, in many ways, it is the birth of American suburbs here. And so it was sort of like, well, we wanted people to understand what life was like before this, before people were here. What was that habitat like? What was the nature like? What are the implications of this urbanization to these ecosystems? How is that affecting our water quality? How is that affecting our air quality? How is that impacting climate change? And so we built out this program, this curriculum, where we literally bust out hundreds of kids from all across Long Island. I was able to make the tours free and accessible and just brought out all these kids. And Mr. Murray and I, we developed a science curriculum and taught over 50 tour guides from our school how to be their own sort of guides for these tours. And from there, it just started to scale up. Other schools started doing their own environmental programs and building benches, doing maintenance of the trails, picking up litter. And, you know, that just kept on growing.
[00:04:58] When I was 14, I didn’t know this could be a career. I didn’t know that there was space for this at the time. There was no climate activism, that wasn’t even a genre of activism. And so the idea of even being in that instance an environmental educator or an organizer, I never heard of such a term. And so I just started doing it and putting it together. And the more deep I got into the space, the more I understood the greater implications of the work. Now, my understanding and my framework of climate change is really based around climate justice and thinking about the most marginalized and the least represented and the most impacted and how those communities are the ones who often are ignored in the big spaces at the U.N. or in Congress or even in their own communities. And that is so foundational to my understanding of and to the realities of the climate crisis.
[00:05:59] When I was younger, I would get invited to give speeches beside senators and, you know, all these fancy people. But I frankly didn’t really understand the connection between the destruction of our lived environments and industry and how that was connected to policy and policy makers. And I had this aha moment where I finally realized we have these like millions of people on the streets that are like out here protesting and organizing. Every poll consistently shows that the vast majority of Americans, Democrats, Republicans and in between are all supporting action on climate. But nothing is happening. We’re not seeing anything changing, regardless of the public discourse. And the more I dug into that, the more I realized so much of that was because of our policy makers. And so I thought, OK, well, if our policymakers aren’t going to make and push for this policy to protect our environment and to stop climate change, let’s get rid of them.
[00:09:29] I am the founder of Plus 1 Vote, and Plus 1 Vote is an organization that at its core is about improving representation of marginalized people in our democracy. And we focused on five key issues that include gun violence, health care, climate change, voting rights and social justice. And in that social justice realm includes Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, DACA, the whole gambit.
[00:09:57] And it’s really about letting people know that activism starts with one. Who is the one person that you are going to register to vote? Who is the one person that you’re going to bring with you to the polls? Who’s your plus-one? And I think once you understand how easy it is to engage one other person in these conversations and in these actions, it becomes so easy to scale that up. You know, for me, my O.G. Plus one was my high school bio teacher. And, you know, he just kind of took me along for the ride and became this lifelong mentor. And with Plus 1 Vote, it’s kind of the same thing. It’s about reaching out to people that you already know and making sure that they’re engaged in these systems. A democracy will only represent the people who are voting. And so if young people aren’t voting for a series of reasons, then of course the democracy is not going to represent the needs and the values of young people. And I found this was even true in my own group. Like I found like my smart friends, my “woke” friends, highly educated friends, they too often were just not registered to vote. And so when I was really starting with this whole voting thing, it just started from texting my own friends, you know, hey, are you registered to vote? Have you gotten your absentee ballot? And when I saw that, for many of them, they just never engaged in the process because no one had ever sent them the tools. And then seeing that, sending them those materials made it so easy. I was like, oh, OK. Yeah, let’s do this.
[00:11:32] It became an easy no-brainer that this was very much needed and that having this type of dialog from this perspective was was really essential to pushing our political system in the right direction. So much of the conversation that we have right now in climate is purely the result of young people. And I say this as someone who has been working in this for, like, you know, a decade or whatever and has seen the media discourse shift and change. I’ve seen politicians come up and down and sort of talk about climate, but not really make it a priority. I’ve seen like a couple of articles here and there and media and then boom, these last couple of years, it’s just like an onslaught wave of stuff like literally like right now.
[00:12:24] It’s so difficult to deny the climate crisis when, you know, I’m out here on Long Island and a storm literally took out my power for two days. Meanwhile, my older brother in California, his skies are orange, colored by smog from the fire and ashes of just this blight of terror that we’ve allowed to befall ourselves. And that’s just my own family right now, like living here. There are countless experiences all around the world. It’s undeniable the impacts that we’re seeing as a result of failures and of negligence from our government. And you can point to this government now and you can also point back decades, because we’ve known about this crisis for decades. The reality is that’s only going to change when we keep on pushing, when we keep on raising that awareness, when we keep on writing those policies. And when we go out and we vote and we make sure that our plus-ones, our whole communities are also organizing and voting. And from that, we can fundamentally shift our political priorities and ensure that we have a more just and equitable future.
[00:13:39] As we’re heading toward November, we are organizing a massive, massive campaign to get out the vote. And if you need to register to vote, you can register at plus1campaign.org/register. You can get your absentee ballot on our website. You can get all the resources you need on how to vote right there on our sites. You can follow me @saadamer on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. And you can follow @Plus1Vote on Instagram and Facebook. And @Plus1_Vote on Twitter.
[00:14:32] Good Kids is a Lemonada Media original. Supervising producer is Kryssy Pease, associate producer is Alex McOwen. And Kegan Zema is our engineer. The show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Music is by Dan Molad, with additional music courtesy of APM Music. Check us out on social @LemonadaMedia. Recommend us to a friend, and rate and reviews us wherever you listen to the podcast. If you want to submit a show idea, e-mail us at [email protected] Until next week, stay good.