In The Wake Of Sandy, A 16-Year Old Climate Activist Speaks Her Mind

Maya Faison. Photo: Global Kids

by Maya Faison

I am 16 years old and I am currently in my home in Laurelton, Queens.  It is day six with no heat, no power and no gas in my mom’s car to escape.

Trees are down all over my neighborhood and at night it is pitch dark, with only the moon as light. I feel paralyzed with cold. It is a freezing chill that goes deep to the bone and makes me worried about the future I can have on this planet. It scares me to know that I am going to leave my family when I go to college next year—my grandmother, mom, aunt and sister–in such an uncertain place, knowing that they can be trapped, unable to go anywhere, if another heavy storm comes.

We may not be so lucky the next time.

As a climate change activist, I knew something like this was bound to happen, but I never expected something this big. I feel proud that I’ve been working with other activists to get our elected leaders to take immediate action on climate change. However, I feel let down and disappointed that it’s taken a major storm that has taken over 40 lives and counting for my elected leaders to acknowledge the reality of climate change.  We may have heard about how climate change affects far off places such as the Maldives or the Arctic. But here in New York City, it’s our reality more now more than ever.

This past June, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to attend the United Nations Conference on Sustainability, also called Rio+20.  Twenty years ago, before I was born, the first United Nations Earth Summit in Rio established benchmarks and promises to ensure a sustainable world for the future generation that meeting. Those promises were not kept.

I worked with other youth activists in Global Kids, a New York City based youth organization, and with many partner organizations, to persuade our leaders to attend the conference and to take action on climate change. At the conference, we were excited by the work of other citizens like us, all advocating for the changes we need to sustain our planet and our future. But we were also heartbroken that many world leaders didn’t attend and only a few were willing to commit to the necessary work that needs to be done to make sure other young people like me are guaranteed the future we deserve and the basic rights to food, water, air and health.

I am happy to hear that our Mayor has decided to endorse a President who realizes what a problem climate change is. As climate change has become more of a reality, more and more people have been trying to dispute the fact that it is as grave of an issue as it is. My message to them and to all of our leaders on the eve of the Election is simple: do not let any more time pass before you take action. Our nation is in danger and my future is in danger.

This is the future I want: a country that is better prepared for climate and environmental disasters, and is working proactively to mitigate global warming. Just like we have fire drills in school, we need to have evacuation plans and disaster preparedness kits.  We must rely less on oil and more on alternative energy, and reduce carbon emissions by any means necessary. We need more preservation of natural resources and less consumption. We cannot continue to provide subsidies to oil and gas companies that are wreaking havoc on our earth.  Science matters, and we must educate the next generation on the realities of climate change so we are all working to promote a better, more sustainable future.

I am more committed than ever to work to make the future I want a reality.

Maya Faison, a 16-year old senior at Long Island City High School, is a Global Kids leader.

11 Responses to In The Wake Of Sandy, A 16-Year Old Climate Activist Speaks Her Mind

  1. BillD says:

    Way to go Maya! Your commentary shows unusual maturity and wisdom for a teenager.

  2. Julia Olson says:

    Maya and Global Kids are partners with Our Children’s Trust in the TRUST Campaign to compel governments to prepare Climate Recovery Plans based in the best science to protect our atmosphere, our climate system, and our coastlines.

    What Maya wants, and what all young people and future generations deserve, is the basic human right to a healthy environment. They want their governments to protect that which threatens their families and their well-being. We need comprehensive climate recovery plans aimed at securing the future we want for our children.

    Thank you Maya for raising your voice!

  3. Danuta Pereira says:


  4. Peter Whitehead says:

    so sorry maya that the idiots in power never listened

    remember al gore said:


    good on a t-shirt?

  5. Joliz says:

    Maya I am SO PROUD OF YOU! Keep turning hope into action!

  6. Christina says:

    This young lady has wisdon greater than many adults. How long must we wait before something changes?

  7. Farjana says:

    good job maya! Hope you are okay now. :)

  8. Pangolin says:

    Honestly the most important thing you might be able to do right now is start using a bicycle on your daily trips around New York City. Promoting bicycle culture and especially utility bikes such as cargo bikes or food bikes breaks the cycle of car dependence and builds alternative culture.

    Bicycling centered social events such as social rides focus on the ability of cycling to enhance social connections and cohesiveness. Why does it matter that you do it in New York? Because NYC is one of the great media centers of the entire world. New social experiences that start in New York spread around the globe.

    Finally, and this is slightly mundane, bicycles can get you out and away if you need to evacuate. Cars jam the roads and don’t move or can’t get gas. Riding to a shelter ten miles inland before the storm hit hard would have saved some of those people on Staten Island. That takes slightly over an hour for even casual riders.

  9. Molly says:

    Maya, you and the other Global Kids leaders, make us adults so proud and even more inspired to fight the good fight on this morning of Obama’s victory….and to make sure he listens to you this next terms!!

  10. Philip Pease says:

    Way to go Maya. Only 16 years old and already much smarter than most politicians.

  11. Emily Raup says:

    About 7 years ago I was 16 too and astounded by the threat of global warming and the fact that nothing was really being done yet! I feel hopeful seeing that someone like you, so young, has the passion and brains to help convince people and politicians that this is an extremely important issue. Keep it up! We need more young folks like you! I hope you and your family are doing okay now after Sandy.