The Miami Youth Climate Summit: A New Generation of Climate Activists

Jasmine Judge, Design Editor

On Sunday, Mar. 13, the fourth annual Miami Youth Climate Summit took place in person for the first time ever at Gulliver Prepatory’s Upper School Campus. Since its inception in 2018, it has grown to five times its initial size, with attendance increasing from 200 participants in the first year to over 1000 participants at the 2022 Summit.

Created by a group of 40 to 50 students across South Florida, the Miami Youth Climate Summit’s representatives hail from 13 local public and private schools, including Terra Environmental Research Institute, MAST Academy, Ransom Everglades, Doral Academy, G.W. Carver Middle, Coral Gables High, Gulliver Prep, Palmer Trinity, International Studies Preparatory Academy, Coral Reef High, South Dade Senior High, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart and Miami Palmetto Senior High.

The Summit aims to educate future student coalitions on topics regarding sustainability and environmental issues, as well as motivate teens to participate in climate activism. Simultaneously, it hopes to inspire schools to incorporate climate education into their curriculum and unite the community in the fight against climate change and global warming.

“In order to save ourselves, we have to fix not just our generation’s wasteful habits, but our parents too,” Miami Youth Climate Summit Co-President Sebastian Fernandez said. “So often I feel like we put the burden on ourselves to fix it all, but our parents are still here continuing the same wasteful habits as the generation before them. If we can convince the parents it makes it so much easier to convince those around us.”

While the central focus of the Summit is to bring attention to climate change and its impacts, the event covers a wider range of topics than what its name suggests. Each year, the Summit invites keynote speakers and offers attendees the opportunity to converse with other environmentalists and meet local “green” celebrities.

“We’ve had Ron Magill come this year and talk about his efforts to preserve the harpy eagle in Panama, which is a key species in its ecosystem,” Fernandez said. “We’ve also had representatives from the Cortada Art Organization come and talk about their art pieces that discuss environmental issues like sea level rise or mangrove forest destruction. We try to get as diverse as possible when it comes to climate topics — otherwise it would get kind of boring.”

In addition, the Summit provides up and coming youth environmentalists with a platform to discuss Miami’s vulnerability to sea level rise and global warming. It gives students a chance to interact with other like-minded individuals and brainstorm solutions. The conference fosters friendships and encourages students to collaborate to fight against climate change.

“The Summit has acted as a way to greatly strengthen the relationships I already had with many of my friends,” Fernandez said. “It’s allowed me to reach out and recruit them to specialize in some of their own passions working alongside me.”