My name is Vic Barrett. I’m one of the 21 youth plaintiffs in Juliana v United States, a climate lawsuit targeting the federal government for knowingly causing climate change. Last month, I spoke at the 300,000-strong Climate Strike in New York City to share my story and urge everyone who attended to join me in fighting back.
As a 20-year-old, first-generation Garifuna-American, both my past and future are uncertain. My people were pushed from our homeland on St. Vincent by British colonial power, settling on the eastern coast of Central America in Honduras and Belize in the 18th Century. Despite overwhelming adversity, we organized our community and emancipated ourselves to protect our future as a people.
As sea levels rise and the coral reefs we depend on disappear, the future of my people is uncertain. In recognition of this, my mother left Honduras and raised me in White Plains, New York — a place she thought would promise relief from climate disasters. Then, Superstorm Sandy happened.
The climate crisis isn’t something we can outrun. That’s why I joined the Juliana v United States lawsuit and the Global Climate Strike. The story of the climate crisis isn’t finished yet — and we get to decide the ending. We can do that by organizing, mobilizing, and getting out the vote in our communities.
I’m taking on the US federal government because my history and my future demand it. My experience of the climate crisis isn’t distinct from the identities I inhabit — transgender, first-generation, Black, Indigenous, Latinx. The varied and layered truths of my life inform what this crisis means for me, just like it does for you.
Indigenous lands all over the planet are being flooded, polluted, and destroyed. My Black siblings of all genders are being gunned down by police. Migrant children are dying at the border. Trans people are being murdered. Violence is in the air that we breathe — and for so many of us, the climate crisis is just the next chapter in a story of violence that began before we were born.
There is a lesson I’ve learned from my ancestors. My people were stripped of their humanity and made into a product. They fought back, so that I could exist. And I know it’s my duty to them and to generations to come to keep that fight going. I hope you’ll join me. We get to decide how this story ends. We must do whatever it takes.