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Keep it in the Ground:
Art activism at the UN Climate Conference

As a SustainUS Delegate in 2018, I joined 11 other youth from across the U.S. to make a stand for climate justice at the UN Climate Conference (COP24). We went to affirm that, even with federal climate action stymied under the Trump administration, we were still in the fight.


Frontline communities -- predominantly Indigenous communities, low-income communities, communities of color, women, and children -- in the U.S. and around the world are already facing the brunt of the climate catastrophe.


Seeing the scourge of wildfires across the West, flooding throughout the Midwest where I come from, and the increasing frequency of hurricanes in the East we know that all of us will lose from the worsening effects of climate change.


In spite of these challenges, the very same communities that are facing the brunt of climate change are also leading on climate action by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, building community resilience, and envisioning new realities and a livable future for us all.

As a delegate to the UN Climate Conference, I went to uplift and amplify solutions and urgency for action brought to the international stage by frontline communities. One of the ways this manifested was through my art activism.

The Trump Administration was to hold a panel at the UN Climate Conference to highlight and praise the nation's ongoing dependency and use of dirty fossil fuels. SustainUS, alongside Indigenous and frontline community partners from the U.S. and internationally, met in the days before the panel to plan our response. We planned to disrupt the panel and give the stage to community leaders from frontline communities to share their stories on what real progress, real action should look like from the U.S.

I spearheaded the design and creation of the banner that would be the backdrop to the event. Its message was simple: "Keep it in the ground." To protect communities around the world, we cannot continue our dependency on fossil fuels: dirty energy sources -- like coal, petroleum, and natural gas -- need to be kept in the ground. (And communities that have traditionally relied on jobs from fossil fuel industries need support as we transition to sustainable energy sources.)

On the day of the pro-fossil fuel panel, we were joined in the hall by 80+ delegates, activists, and journalists, including Greta Thunberg (then 15). The action received international media attention and was praised as an act of resistance against the Trump administration's efforts to undermine and weaken U.S. action on climate. See images of the action and the banner below.

Read more about the stories shared by frontline community members during the action:

To listen to a song I wrote and shared at the UN Climate Conference, visit the Music page.


Youth leaders hold up the banner "Keep it in the ground" in front of the panel

AP Images / Monika Skolimowska - from Corporate Accountability


Vic Barrett, a plantiff in Youth V Gov, shares his story and call to action

Monika Skolimowska/Picture-Alliance dpa via Alamy Live News - from NRDC


Members of the 2018 SustainUS Delegation at COP24

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