Climate Education Bill: Advocacy in Action
In 2022, a groundbreaking $2.1 million Climate Education Bill was passed in the Maine legislature. This huge policy win, resulting in funding for climate education professional development for public school teachers, emerged from a youth- and educator-led, grassroots effort to make change in Maine public schools, and increase access to climate education for all Maine students. It is a bill that was dreamed up by Maine youth and teachers, supported by community organizations across the state, and supported by strong legislative champions. Members of NBEC’s Climate Education Advocacy and Stories for Change working groups have collaborated on bringing forward stories of people involved in the LD 1902, Climate Education Bill campaign.
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Lulu Van Lonkhuyzen
Lulu Van Lonkhuyzen is a Midcoast Maine high school student who testified in favor of LD 1902, the Climate Education Bill. Here is their story.
Engaging in climate action as a coastal Maine student
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is your experience of climate education?
The first time I ever learned about the climate was through my own initiative (like the Maine Youth Action Network’s conference and podcasts). Then in 9th grade we learned about ocean acidification and climate change. It was really engaging to learn about current issues and be able to apply them to everyday life.
The only times I’ve engaged in outdoor learning is through my own pursuance and once in 7th grade when we journaled about nature. I wish I had realized the extent that nature plays in life long before I did.
Why is climate education important to you?
I live in Midcoast Maine where lobstering is a big industry. As the climate warms, lobsters and shrimp are flocking north to stay alive. Many lobstermen, who are mainly coming from poor (and some rich), white, conservative backgrounds, often push away the threat of climate change, dismissing it as a “leftist” issue. But it is just as important to recognize the lobstermen who are fighting for climate justice.
Climate education is vital in my community because there should not be a political divide in the fight for environmental—and therefore human—rights.
Climate education starts at a local level and includes accomplishments as well. Climate anxiety is (unsurprisingly) very common among my peers and young people. The ways we combat climate anxiety is through climate education and doing what we can. We cannot save the world but we can unify across race and class lines to create a better world. There is a quote I like by environmentalist and activist Chico Mendes: “Environmentalism without class struggle is just gardening.”
Why did you support the Climate Education Bill?
I support the bill because the first step to tackling an issue is to understand it and the extent to which it impacts things. Knowledge is power. Education is power.
What was your involvement in the bill process like?
I submitted a written testimony because I was in school at the time the bill was being presented. This was my first time testifying for anything and my testimony was really short because I didn’t know what to write. To me, climate education was a no-brainer. My involvement was fairly limited but I hope to become more involved in bills via the process of testifying!
What do you hope happens next?
I hope to depoliticize the earth. I hope to approach the issue of climate change with an intersectional understanding. I hope to make climate education and justice accessible for everyone.
Email interview, April 2023.