By Jenna Poppell
Lauren Cohen is a 16-year-old activist, as well as a sophomore at Oak Hall School. What separates Cohen from her peers, however, is she will be speaking at a youth panel on Oct. 24 regarding climate change, in order to reach out to the community of Gainesville. The program is put on by the United Nations Association as part of United Nations Day 2019, whose goal is to highlight the local youth’s voices and support their fight against climate change.
Cohen’s interest in climate change occurred only one year ago, when one of her friends encouraged her to get involved, as he knew it was a topic she could be interested in. “It all just kind of began when I think I really understood the importance of these issues and how they affect my life and future generations all around us,” Cohen said. Once involved, her passion towards the movement only grew stronger and she ended up planning the “Youth Climate Strike” which took place this past March. This Thursday, Cohen will not only go over local, state, and regional issues but highlight the voices that are often not heard or listened to. “I’m also speaking up about the fact that marginalized communities are often left out of the conversation,” she emphasized. “I acknowledge that I have a privileged life, being able to go up there and being able to speak about these issues and a lot of people don’t,” Cohen continued.
Isaac Augsburg, another youth activist speaking as part of the panel, explained that activism helps him give back and stand up for such an overwhelming issue. “I’ve always been in touch with the natural world around me,” Augsburg said. “When I learned about climate change and local environmental issues, I felt hopeless and the only way for me to cope with that hopelessness was activism,” he noted. Augsburg will be speaking on the roots to climate change as well as the systems of oppression like Colonialism, Racism, Patriarchy, and Capitalism. He explains that after the panel is over, he hopes people will begin to connect the dots between social justice and climate justice.
The Gainesville United Nations Day celebration will be held at the Gainesville Women’s Club with the theme “Our Climate – Our Future”. Cohen was asked to speak at the event by award- winning environmental journalism, and environmental fellow at the University of Florida, Cynthia Barnett, who will also be presenting the keynote address.