Location: Charlotte, NC
Kate Lewin first learned about climate change in seventh grade. She remembers reading about rising sea levels and polar icecaps melting and feeling alarmed. Her concern wasn’t just about the environment. It was also distressing to her that more people were not sharing her fear about global warming and the climate crisis and her sense of urgency in doing something about it. “My friends and I were trying to get people to pay attention,” she says, “but it didn’t really go anywhere.”
For the next few years, despair about the environment translated into personal despair. Kate felt lost and depressed. “I felt like there was no hope,” she says, “And the future seemed really grim and scary.” But as Kate began taking steps in her own life to be more environmentally-conscious, she began to feel better. She read about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who has made worldwide headlines with her environmental calls for action, and she felt less alone. “I saw how she turned her passion into action,” Kate says. “And I realized I shouldn’t just sit around being sad. I should do something about it.” She channeled her fear into activism and that not only ignited hope, but gave her the identity she now embraces today and will be taking with her to college and beyond. Kate is a fierce environmental activist.
She began by taking steps in her own life to live a more environmentally-friendly life. She became vegetarian and often eats a vegan diet to minimize her dairy consumption in addition to completely cutting out her meat consumption. (“The cow industry is really damaging to the environment,” Kate says.) She tries to wear repurposed clothes and refrain from buying new ones to cut down on waste and address the excess many consumers unwittingly embrace. She tries to carpool or walk and she tries to be conscious of waste in general and of her own unnecessary use of energy and water.
Then Kate began to share her advocacy. When she studied in Israel during the spring semester of her sophomore year, she introduced a recycling program to her high school in Jeruselum because they did not have one. She started an Instagram page and twitter account called Climate Crisis Now (now called Charlotte Youth Climate Coalition), where she reposts articles and news stories she finds about the environment and calls to action and also creates her own material.
This past September, when she was back at Providence High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kate attended a rally uptown about the climate change crisis. She met other activists and learned that they were striking every week, so now she misses school every Friday (with her parents’ blessing) to join other teen activists and different youth organizations in striking outside the Government Center. Their activism has led to holding Duke Energy more accountable for its role in damage to the environment and that gives Kate hope that action can lead to change. She is also part of a group chat of all of the local strikers and activists and is now part of a network that has become a friend group and source of support and inspiration to her. She even got to meet Greta Thunberg when she came to Charlotte to speak. “She Is really knowledgeable,” Kate says, “but she is a lot less intimidating than the media makes her out to be. She isn’t always angry.”
Last week, Kate participated in a challenge that the Providence High School Environmental Club initiated to raise awareness about excess waste. Kate carried around a trash bag all week that she filled with all of her trash. (“There was an exception for really stinky trash like food,” Kate says.) The exercise made Kate, someone who feels like she is already environmentally-conscious and doing her part, more conscious of how much she can still do to minimize her carbon footprint. “I used too many paper towels,” Kate says. And she is more aware of eating in now because all of those takeout containers add up. “Now every time I throw something away, I will really think about it.”
Next year, Kate is heading to college, where she plans to study environmental engineering or environmental sciences or sustainability. “I used to want to be an astrophysicist,” Kate says, “but now I want to focus on what needs to be done.” She says she is no longer relying on others to make the changes that are needed. It is up to her and her peers. Kate says she feels more optimistic about the future… and thanks to Kate’s efforts, so do I!
To see Kate’s posts about climate change and the environment: