Dyson Chee shares about the Hawai‘i Youth Climate Coalition
An excerpt of this was originally published in The Friend, May 2022.
Led entirely by youth, the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition (HYCC) is a growing climate justice organization which coordinates strikes, rallies, and educational events where they advocate for the advancement of climate causes. Founded in 2019, HYCC has already been at the forefront of change in Hawai‘i.
Their mission is simple: to help shape a just, equitable, and climate-resilient future for our communities here in Hawai‘i.
HYCC strives to maintain these values while creating change:
Climate Change is not a singular issue.
We do not subscribe to violence as a means of attaining our needs.
We stand with other movements fighting for equality.
Collaboration with our community members is the only avenue for change.
The Friend reached out to HYCC and Executive Director Dyson Chee shared some thoughts about HYCC's work:
Why do you care about the climate? I care about the climate because it provides us with stability and security. We know, for a fact, that climate change exacerbates all sorts of issues, ranging from wildfires to droughts to hurricanes to sea level rise. These arenʻt the kinds of burdens I want to inherit, nor are they the things that I want to pass onto my own children.
How did you get involved with climate advocacy? At what point did you realize you needed to take action? When I was 14 or so, I got involved with policy at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature to ban single-use plastics like Styrofoam clamshell containers. This was the beginning of my climate advocacy, because plastics are made from oil and they contribute to global warming. I really realized that I needed to take action when I saw just how polluted some of my favorite beaches were with the disposable plastic products we use–it was so wasteful, using ever-lasting plastics for stuff we throw away after an hour or so.
What motivates/inspires you to do this work? Being surrounded by amazing people who also have the same passion and drive to better our community!
What has been one of your greatest challenges in this work (with HYCC and/or with climate advocacy in general)? Definitely time management. Being a student and a climate advocate at the same time can be pretty taxing, and a lot of the time, things like sleep, self-care, and time with friends and family get thrown under the bus. Iʻve gotten sick numerous times pushing myself too far, and thatʻs not productive or healthy, so Iʻve learned that I have to be more balanced in my work.
What has been one of HYCC's greatest accomplishments so far? Helping to pass Bill 40, Oʻahu's disposable plastics ban! That was an uphill battle, but thanks to adult trailblazers and some conscientious council members, we were able to push the nation's most stringent disposable plastics ban over the top.
Share the importance of legislative advocacy in addition to individual actions. Legislative advocacy is super important because it creates system-wide change that can make a massive difference in a much shorter time than what would be possible with individual actions alone. And sometimes, greed or profit holds back corporations from voluntarily making the kinds of changes that we currently must do in order to combat climate change. When this happens, legislative advocacy can push bills that mandate these groups to take action. Of course, the tough part is that these corporations often wield tremendous power and influence in our governments. The way we can counter that is by getting involved in legislative advocacy and ensuring that our elected officials are also listening to our voices.
How do we energize/inspire others to take action? (What has worked for you?) There is hope! If there was no hope that we could prevent catastrophic climate change, HYCC would not exist. But hope alone isnʻt enough. We also need action. When we couple action and hope, thatʻs when we get things done and save the world.
What do you see is your unique role in climate advocacy? What skills/gifts do you use in this work (that might help others to realize their gifts for this work)? Engaging in peer-to-peer conversations in order to empower and encourage youth to take part in efforts to protect our futures. Ultimately, there’s a space for everyone in the climate movement—for example, HYCC has roles for different youth with vast amounts of interests ranging from writing, graphic design, speech and debate, socializing, photography, planning, and scientific analysis.
What do you want people to know (regarding HYCC, the climate crisis, environmental justice, etc.)? Please follow us on Instagram (@thehycc) and if you know of any youth in Hawaiʻi who care about climate change, please do put them in touch with us either via Instagram or email, because we want to support and empower as many youth as possible
HYCC wants to support and empower as many youth as possible to take on the climate crisis together. While HYCC is mostly based on Oʻahu, there is currently a small representation from Hawai‘i Island, Maui, and Kauaʻi. HYCC invites youth members from all the Hawaiian Islands and is willing to support efforts from all islands. HYCC works with other organizations from other islands—for example, they recently recorded a video for Kauaʻi County to share at their youth conference.
Ways to support HYCC and their work:
Know youth who are interested in environmental protection? Share with them about HYCC!
Help with funding so they can sustain their work!
Testify on HYCC-backed legislation at the county councils and state legislature! This is one of the most important actions people can do to support their efforts because testimony from the community is extremely important in getting climate-friendly bills passed.