Youth vs. Apocalypse

Young Activists Fight for Climate Justice and in Turn, their Future World

When your future is on the line, there is no age requirement for taking action. In 2016, a group of middle and high school students took a stand against the placement of a coal terminal in their Oakland, California neighborhood. They made it clear—there was no room for toxic pollution, or anything that threatened the wellbeing of their community, and the future they look forward to.

This was a catalyst for the students and their peers to come together with a vision and their voices to address the environmental injustices plaguing the Bay Area and, as a result, Youth vs. Apocalypse (YVA) was born.

Youth vs. Apocalypse is a dynamic, diverse group of young climate justice activists working to lift the voices of youth, particularly working class and youth of color, in the fight for an equitable and sustainable world. Through community organizing, YVA has expanded its focus from one proposed coal terminal to multiple campaigns aimed at making an impact locally and nationally. Their collective and direct actions include delivering powerful testimonies at statewide and local boards, voter mobilization drives, leading mass gatherings, and creating educational music videos. The organization’s victories range from Oakland air district rulings that regulate polluters to a ban on nuclear power from the local energy company as well as engaging thousands of young people in the fight for their future.

Youth vs. Apocalypse redefines the traditional notion of leadership in the climate movement by foregoing a typical organizational structure and looking to students themselves to drive impact.

Over 60 youth leaders from elementary, middle, and high schools, in communities that are most impacted by climate breakdown, have stepped up to the plate to take active roles in YVA’s work. They support over a dozen school based clubs, collaboratively make decisions as part of the Organizational Management Team, and engage new members as Community Education Organizers. “Our youth leadership is important to the idea that no one is disposable,” Carolyn Norr, the co-founder and Program Director at YVA said. Regardless of age, there is a place for any passionate, interested individual to join the team.

Hannah Estrada, the San Francisco Lead Community Education Organizer, and her fellow youth leaders are passionate about addressing the systemic issues of climate change, in particular, how communities of color are disproportionately harmed by environmental hazards. “This is my future, my community, and our fight,” Hannah Estrada, the San Francisco Lead Community Education Organizer and Bay Area native, explained, “there is a need for students of color to be on the frontlines because it is happening to us and we can do something about it.”

Adult supporters, or “co-conspirators” as they identify themselves, provide support and education to the team as well as pull inspiration from the energy and spirit of the young voices. “Their determination and confidence in saying, ‘Yes, this is a climate crisis’. It motivates me to do more, and to fight for their future too,” Cory Jung, a longtime teacher and YVA supporter, stated.

Youth vs. Apocalypse’s mission to fight for climate justice by uplifting young voices continues to get louder each year. While the organization primarily operates in the Bay Area, its roots have grown across California communities and anyone who wants to collaborate on climate justice is welcome to join the cause or support their youth organizers.

As YVA youth activist Marlay’ja says, “The time is now. Our tomorrow is not guaranteed”.Learn more about Youth vs. Apocalypse by visiting

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