Climate activist Jamie Margolin talks intersectionality, future goals and avoiding burnout at virtual event

Margolin published her book “Youth to Power” in June 2020

Climate activist Jamie Margolin talks intersectionality, future goals and avoiding burnout at virtual event
Jamie Margolin at a recent virtual event.

Jamie Margolin spoke about her experiences as a youth activist in the climate justice movement at a virtual event on March 2 hosted by Women’s Initiative.

The event was co-sponsored by the American University Office of Sustainability, Sunrise Movement at AU and Visible. WI’s first-year fellows Chaitanya Venkateswaran and Kaniya Harris served as moderators, asking Margolin a series of questions submitted by the audience. 

“I’m a writer before I’m an activist,” Margolin said. “If I’m not writing about activism, I’m writing about something else.”

Margolin is a co-founder of Zero Hour, a youth-led movement for those wishing to take action in combating climate change. She is also a published author and released her book “Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It” in June 2020. The nonfiction book covers a variety of topics related to activism, giving advice ranging from organizing protests to utilizing social media for good. 

Aside from her work in the climate movement, Margolin is a freshman at New York University, studying film and television. She said that she hopes her studies will help her pursue storytelling on topics beyond just climate activism. Currently, Margolin is working on an upcoming show entitled “Art Majors,” following the lives of LGBTQ+ women like herself.

“I want to create the representation that I wish I would have had when I was younger,” Margolin said. “It is also like an escape from constantly being defined as and constantly thinking about climate change all the time.”

Margolin stressed her belief that almost any field of study can be incorporated into the climate justice movement, citing herself as an example after she decided not to study politics in college. She told the audience that there are countless ways to contribute to the cause, regardless of what discipline one finds themselves a part of. 

Margolin also spoke about the challenges she has experienced with burnout and the struggle to balance activism with other parts of her life.

“If the only thing you have is your work, then you start to resent it for taking so much away from you,” Margolin said. “And once you resent that cause, you’re not gonna wanna fight for it anymore.”

She told the audience that making time for other aspects of one’s life, such as hobbies, family and friends, can help combat losing passion in one’s work.

Another idea Margolin touched on was her belief that social issues facing people today are interconnected. For example, she mentioned a statistic from the United Nations stating that 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women. 

“You cannot have climate justice without racial justice, without gender justice, without economic justice,” Margolin said. “In order to properly solve the climate crisis, we have to address the issues that are at the root of it.”

Margolin also responded to questions discussing the impact of the coronavirus on climate activism, which previously involved large, in-person protests and rallies, some of which were organized by Margolin.

“The memory of this, the experiences from this, the trauma from this, the lessons learned in this will always stick with us,” Margolin said. “I think that’s going to impact how we take climate action and how we live.”

zkallenekos@theeagleonline.com

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