Hudson Valley Wild
By Isabel (Scout) Pronto Breslin
2019 CoalitionWILD Ambassador
When I first got into the climate movement, I started out with just the idea that I wanted to see biodiversity talked about more. I work with birds and wildlife, and biodiversity is my passion. I even started a local youth organization, Hudson Valley Wild, focused on this and wrote guides on biodiversity for our Drawdown Eco Challenge. I thought that it would be amazing if I could attend a youth climate summit given the energy and momentum in these spaces, and when I finally went to two of them, I realized that they were the perfect opportunity to put my idea into place, as biodiversity was not discussed at either.
As the year went on, I met people in my community and region who were working on projects focused on the environment. They were all so supportive of my vision and passion, and provided me with great opportunities to get more involved. I was invited to give presentations, workshops, and to participate in panels at three climate summits. This led to even more opportunities, like joining a youth network, the Student Climate Coalition, and I was given the opportunity to speak to many youth activists from my state, New York, and hear about their projects and what they’ve overcome. I started to work more in my town and recently joined my town’s Climate Smart Communities Task Force where I am working on nature-based solutions, including biodiversity. To see my community working together to improve our town is really cool because it is so literally close to home.
At the start of all this, I felt alone. All of my close friends supported me, but none of them really cared about the environment enough to join me. As I began attending summits and climate strikes, I started meeting more and more kids who had the same interests as me, and I soon had groups of friends from all different places around New York State. Now I have friends in nearby towns, as well as ones in New York City, who I meet up with when I go to Extinction Rebellion strikes. I also was able to connect to global youth through the UN Youth Climate Summit and Youth for Nature. It’s the best feeling to be around kids who have the same interests as you and who are all united under one goal: protecting the planet. With the youth movement growing so quickly throughout the world, it’s exciting to see our power and influence also grow as the attention is more and more focused on us. This gives me hope, and I look forward to seeing where it will lead in future years as we become old enough to vote and hold jobs in which we have power over fundamental decisions.
One of the coolest things about my work over the last year has been the ability to explore a lot of different areas in the environmental movement. I have set up wildlife camera traps, used iNaturalist, done a BioBlitz workshop, met with state legislators, presented to my village board, organized a strike, learned about indigenous peoples and their practices, heard from United Nations youth leaders, contributed a poster to an art campaign and a recycled plastic fish for a festival, done the work of organizing and planning events and a summit, developed toolkits, held a film festival, and been able to interview incredible activists and practitioners, as well as share my passion and knowledge with others.
Throughout everything, I’ve learned so much. Not only valuable information about the climate and ecological crisis, but also very useful skills which I found that I needed, like being able to communicate my message to people with different beliefs and viewpoints, as well as different audiences in general. I also learned practical lessons about what works and what doesn’t to mobilize action, which, along with those skills, will help me later in life when I pursue a career. I learned my strengths, weaknesses, what I love and where I want to direct my energies (for now). A side benefit has been talking to my close friends about what I am doing and feeling their support and interest in listening to me.
I want to encourage youth to join this movement, because it not only makes a difference in the world, but will also give you a sense of self-fulfillment knowing that you are making a mark at a critical point in history. I think pursuing your passion within the environmental movement, whether that be green technology, biodiversity, policy and legislation, sustainable farming, or whatever, is what will keep you going and motivated, but also remembering to take some time for yourself to make sure you are doing okay, knowing that this work will take an emotional toll on you, but that you will have an unbelievable amount of support from everyone in this movement.
I hope that through my organization and our continued work, we will be able to make a contribution to solving the ecological crisis and creating a brighter future. I am grateful to CoalitionWILD for the opportunity to be part of their wonderful community and to gain inspiration, insights and skills through the program.
Isabel (Scout) Pronto Breslin
Isabel (Scout) Pronto Breslin is the co-founder of Hudson Valley Wild, an environmental youth activist, and a 2019 CoalitionWILD Ambassador. Scout’s focus is on growing youth action around biodiversity and nature-based climate solutions. She does this through incorporating these subjects into tracks at climate summits and networks, and through leading activities in her community.