Inspiring youth to engage in activating democracy and emerge as game changers

Young Game-Changers in Action:
Meet Jamie Margolin,
Founder, This is Zero Hour

Jamie Margolin has two full time jobs. One she’s not so thrilled about — she’s in 10th grade. The other is her passion — mobilizing fellow youth to speak out against climate change.

Jamie founded the organization, This Is Zero Hour, in summer 2017. Now she’s organizing the next big youth climate march on Washington, DC, in July 2018 with a team of youth and some adult mentors.

The awakening came at a young age for Jamie. In her day job (school), she was taught to change light bulbs and recycle to help cool the climate. At home, she watched science and history shows, and political satires — the old Colbert Report is still her favorite. Jamie realized changing light bulbs wasn’t enough. “System change, we need system change,” she said. “Capitalism is cashing out Earth without limit.”

Sensing no meaningful action to ratchet down global warming, Jamie became overwhelmed. She spun off her frustrations as a rhythmic gymnast for a few years before turning to politics. At fourteen, she volunteered as an intern in Hilary Clinton’s Washington state campaign headquarters.

“I was the only bilingual speaker in the office. Spanish is my first language. So even though I was the youngest, I was in a lot of meetings,” Jamie explains. “I left with a clear idea of what it means to take civic action and I understood community organizing.”

She volunteered with Plant for the Planet and is one of 13 youth who sued Washington state over insufficient action to protect the climate for her generation.

Between her volunteer work and day job, Jamie was too busy “to see the urgency outside of the ‘little’ groups’.” But one day, she had a blinding flash of the obvious.

“It was an international ‘Holy S—t’ moment, pardon the French,” she said. “We need a massive youth movement. Everywhere.”

Her break came in summer 2017 when she attended the Junior Statesman of America program at Princeton. She met youth from all over during her 3-week intensive, “Speech and Political Communication” course.

“There were a lot of islanders from Guam, the Bahamas, and others. After I returned home, Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico. I had visited Puerto Rico when I was a kid — it’s a favorite place of mine. I sent a private message on Instagram to some of the Princeton Camp youth. We decided to organize a mass mobilization of youth.”

The Zero Hour March is not “just another climate march,” says Jamie. “We all ‘get it.’ The Earth will be just fine. Climate chaos is threatening us. Humanity. Our future. This isn’t ecocide. It’s more like mass genocide. This is about ALL of us. POC. Youth. Grandparents. Inclusivity, not either-or. We are going to make the politicians take action for system change -– or we will vote them out.”

The March for Our Lives rally in April 2018 demonstrated the power of youth voices. While students successfully mobilized en masse, their critics scoffed that the young activists should “shut up and go back to civics class.”

“First of all, civics class in most schools just teach us the ideal way government is supposed to work instead of telling us the truth about how corporations and corrupt powers have taken over our government,” Jamie explained. “Second, I’ve ‘shut up and been in class’ for most of my life, and the condition of the planet has only worsened. The adults in power didn’t take the right initiative when I did shut up, and they’re not going to change unless I speak out — that’s why right now, sitting in class and shutting up is not an option.”

Jamie’s path to activism started with a leap of faith into the unknown. She recognized a problem and dove in to start making a difference. Her advice to other students who want to be game-changers is simply, “Just get started.”

“Attend a community event and start talking to people there and work your way into that world. That’s how I got started and my involvement snowballed from there,” she said.

Mass mobilizations, such as the Youth Climate Lobby Day and Youth Climate March, are a great entry point for new activists. Get started at This is Zero Hour.

Jamie Margolin
Jamie Margolin; photo courtesy This is Zero Hour

“This [movement] is about ALL of us. POC. Youth. Grandparents. Inclusivity, not either-or. We are going to make the politicians take action for system change – or we will vote them out.”

— Jamie Margolin, Founder, This is Zero Hour

This is Zero Hour Youth Climate March Video

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