Interviews with Ashley Funk

Interview on October 4, 2016 with:

Ashley Funk

1) Why are the courts such an important tool in youth climate activism today?

Our generation and future generations are going to have to deal with the impacts of climate change more than any other. However, when I started working with Our Children’s Trust, I didn’t have the right to vote. That meant that, no matter how much I pressured my representatives or spoke out about climate change, I didn’t have a choice in who represented me and my generation in the government. Since many can’t use their vote to bring about climate policy, youth across the country are using the courts as an avenue to initiate change. Through the courts, we can secure our constitutional right to a healthy livable climate for generations to come.

2) What experiences led you to link the impacts that you saw in your hometown to the climate crisis?

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to attend an engineering program hosted by NASA for underrepresented students. Through this program, I got to choose any topic for a research project, and I decided to focus on NASA’s initiatives for understanding climate change. My research led me to the work of Dr. James Hansen, who is now a plaintiff on Our Children’s Trust case representing his granddaughter. Delving into Dr. Hansen’s research, I quickly learned about the impacts and the drivers of climate change, and I made the connection between the history of my hometown and its impact on the climate.

3) What is it like to organize in your hometown? Do you talk about climate change? Do you solely focus on coal impacts?

For the past 4 years, I’ve been away studying at college, and so I haven’t been able to organize as much in my hometown. When I return after this final year of college, I will definitely have to learn again how to best drive change in my community. In the meantime, I have been trying my best to influence conversation about climate change and our need to rebuild our economy to move beyond its dependency on fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal. I have definitely gotten backlash on this because coal and natural gas have been so integral to our culture. However, I believe that investing in infrastructure—like strong water, internet, and road systems—can help bring jobs and strengthen our community.

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