Teen Witness Ignored During Congressional Climate Hearing Speaks Out

Nadia Nazar, 16, didn’t hold back in her testimony to Congress February 6, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Nadia Nazar, 16, spent the last three weeks preparing her testimony for the first climate change hearing in years. As the co-founder of a youth-led climate movement, Zero Hour, Nazar was the first panelist to speak Wednesday during the congressional session’s second half.

She talked about deadly floods in India, from where her parents emigrated, and terrifying floods in Maryland, where she lives.

When the time came for members of the House Committee on Natural Resources to ask questions, Nazar was ready. “I was anticipating every time a member started talking … would they would ask me, would they ask me not,” Nazar told Earther. However, Nazar spent the rest of the hearing in silence. No one asked her a single question.

The only Congress member to even address her was Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who nearly broke into tears when she thanked Nazar for attending the hearing and apologised for the world her generation is inheriting.

“I almost want to apologise to you and the youth of this world who go to bed every night worrying about what will happen to our communities because of climate change,” Haaland said to Nazar during the hearing. “And I just want to recognise your presence here means a great deal to me and to many of us.”

But while Nazar’s presence might have meant a lot to Haaland — and while she appreciated the invite and opportunity to attend the hearing—she was disappointed to have not been engaged further. After all, she missed school, her AP computer science class, and an SAT prep course to attend!

And there were any number of topics Nazar could have offered an opinion on, from the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks to how a clean energy future would impact communities of colour. As a young woman of colour, Nazar is more likely to live the consequences of the choices being made today than anyone else who was in that room.

Nazar doesn’t think her silence was a coincidence; she believes her age, race, and gender had everything to do with why the committee ignored her. The way she sees it, these reps still view youth as “inexperienced” and “immature,” she said. That’s despite the fact that Nazar, and countless other youth, are devoting their lives to fixing this mess through direct action, calling shit out, and taking their governments to court.

“They don’t want to hear what we have to say, and they’re not really open to hearing what we have to say,” Nazar said. “They asked everyone else questions before they asked the two women of colour questions.”

This was a point that panelist Elizabeth Yeampierre, the executive director of Brooklyn-based climate justice organisation UPROSE, raised during the session, despite breaking protocol in doing so.

Nazar was grateful to raise issues around equity and justice for those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but she’s not naive. She realises that progressive policies don’t always sit well with the Democratic establishment. That doesn’t mean she’ll quit.

Zero Hour Movement is just getting started. It’s helping put together a massive school strike next month. If elected officials don’t want to hear Nazar and the rest of her young peers on the Hill, perhaps they’ll listen on the streets.

Earther reached out to the committee for comment and will update if we hear back.

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