Meet Phillip Cruz: a Youth Organizer with Micronesia Climate Alliance, grassroots organization of community members who are committed to finding climate justice solutions. Check out our interview with Phillip below where he talks about getting started in Climate Justice Solutions, and the role of higher education in his Environmental Justice journey!
How did you begin doing environmental justice work?
From a young age, I was curious about the relationship between humans and the environment. My curiosity led me to learn that humans are the cause AND the solution to most environmental problems. I started to think about all the resources I used daily (i.e. water, electricity, paper, etc.) and learned ways to conserve and use them more efficiently.
In 2010, during my undergraduate studies at the University of Guam (UOG), I was selected for the UOG Green Internship program. This program was for students interested in learning about environmental sustainability and assisting with initiatives around the campus and the island, including island cleanups, permaculture projects, energy auditing, and outreach. I soon became passionate about environmental sustainability and held leadership roles in the program. While I was an intern, I coordinated various sustainability projects through the student organization, the UOG Green Army, which I was the president for my last several semesters of undergrad. Some of the projects include recycling and waste diversion at various island-wide events, tree-planting in the island’s southern watersheds, and promoting sustainability through local events such as festivals and fashion shows.
I transitioned from a youth leader to a youth organizer/mentor in my role as the Sustainability Coordinator at the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and UOG Sea Grant program. In my position, I facilitate outreach on various topics, such as coral reef conservation and solid waste management. I work on the coordination team for the annual UOG Conference on Island Sustainability, which brings together people from different backgrounds, such as scientists, teachers, lawmakers, and the business community to engage in discussions on sustainability. I also coordinate annual events such as the Green Dream Competition for high school students of the Mariana Islands, where teams are challenged to create innovative solutions for various sustainability topics.
I joined the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance (MCCA) in May 2019 after the alarming report from the United Nations’ Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services stated that nearly 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction due to human activities. At MCCA, we advocate for climate action and climate justice in our communities. put their profits before our futures.”
“It has also been a dream of mine to visit New York City so that was extremely exciting,” said Phillip.
What do you think is the most important thing for young people to know about environmental activism and how they could get involved?
To young people: The most important thing for you to know about environmental activism is that if you don’t fight today, you may not have the tomorrow that you dreamed about. Talk to your peers about what concerns you. Are you concerned about climate catastrophes caused by the excessive carbon we’re emitting into the atmosphere? Are you concerned that your coastal regions are going to be inundated with water from rising sea levels? Are you concerned that nearly 1 million species could go extinct within your lifetime?
Get involved today by reaching out organizations in your area who are already fighting the fight. If there are none, reach out to other organizations, such as the Climate Justice Alliance who can help you organize a climate strike or a protest with your friends, classmates, and peers.
What was your favorite part of the Youth Summit in Brooklyn last summer?
My favorite part of the Youth Summit in Brooklyn was the feeling of unity during group discussions. I learned that we are all facing climate injustices in our communities and together we can fight big corporations and governments who put their profits before our futures. It has also been a dream of mine to visit New York City so that too was extremely exciting. I would love to visit NYC again in the future!