Cemre (GEM-ray) Gonen is 18 years old and a freshman at UC Berkeley. She is in the lead circle of Youth vs Apocalypse – a youth environmental justice organization that focuses on amplifying the voices of youth, especially youth of color, to fight for a livable climate, and an equitable, sustainable, and just world.
YVA started as a group of Oakland youth, supported by adults in their community, using direct action and lobbying to fight a proposed coal terminal in their city, then expanded its focus to other climate justice issues. After a video with youth from YVA pushing Senator Feinstein to support the Green New Deal went viral, YVA students organized press conferences, gave interviews, wrote Op Eds, and developed a website, Weeks after the viral encounter, in March 2019, YVA led a Climate Strike of 2000 youth and allies. Feinstein pulled her weaker version of the Deal.
By September, YVA organized a crowd of 30,000, after working as a group to develop an intersectional set of targets and demands, organizing transportation for thousands of students from around the Bay Area, and connecting with dozens of labor and community groups, many of whom took climate action for the first time. YVA youth have supported climate actions across the state, taken leadership on local and statewide campaigns, and continued their presence in national media. Days after YVA leaders helped organize a march in LA pushing Governor Newsom, he issued new protections from fossil fuel extraction. After a series of actions, including an occupation, at BlackRock, their CEO drastically improved his companies climate priorities. YVA is a local group of young people who are impacting national conversations on climate.
Sim Bilal is a student and a climate and environmental activist from Los Angeles, CA who has been working with Youth Climate Strike LA. He organizes with YCSLA and One Up Action for environmental justice, an equitable future and climate education. His passion within LA is often centered around promoting scientific & technological innovation, and literacy within marginalized groups.