Youth-Driven Climate Action: Power and Potential

Hybrid: 133 S. 36th Street, Room 250 (Forum) and Zoom

A crowd protests for environmental action.

A panel discussion with ASTER CHAU (Academy at Palumbo), AMAN SHARMA (Penn C'26), JULIA OLSON (Our Children's Trust), moderated by MICHAEL MANN (Penn).

AS THE EFFECTS OF A CHANGING CLIMATE become clearer each year, in forms ranging from extreme weather to bleached corral, many of the most powerful and effective advocates for climate action are young people who foresee truly catastrophic consequences within their lifetimes. In movements including Fridays for Future, Sunshine, and The Last Generation, youth are driving meaningful climate action around the globe through governmental and extra-governmental channels. For the inaugural event in the CLIMATE AND DEMOCRACY series, the Mitchell Center and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities are honored to host three activists in a conversation about the power and potential of youth activism and intergenerational alliances for climate action:


ASTER CHAU is a sophomore at the Philadelphia high school, Academy at Palumbo, and a 2023 Climate Hero in the PPEH/WHYY My Philadelphia Climate Story program. At a 2023 Climate Story event, Chau spoke of a double standard that adults tell children to believe in “a future of endless possibilities and dreams,” yet leave them “scared to plan for the future because climate anxiety is real.”  


AMAN SHARMA is a Penn student (C’26) and avid wildlife photographer who in 2019 started a petition to the Indian government demanding they declare a climate emergency for the country. He was able to gather a whopping 350,000 signatures. His petition eventually saw a ripple effect as it became so popular that other activists reached out to start similar campaigns in their own countries. After unifying his movement with and 74 other petitions, he was able to gain around 1.2 million signatures calling for a climate emergency declaration in 70 different countries.


JULIA OLSON is founder and Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel for Our Children's Trust. After a landmark victory in Held v. Montana – the constitutional climate change case brought by 21 Montana youth against the state of Montana for violating their rights to a clean and healthful environment – Olson said, “As fires rage in the West, fueled by fossil fuel pollution, today’s ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation’s efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of human-caused climate chaos. This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate. More rulings like this will certainly come.


MICHAEL MANN (Moderator) is a Presidential Distinguished Professor of Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania with a secondary appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication. He is also director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability and the Media (PCSSM). Mann is the author of several books including his most recent work, The New Climate War, which shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change, and offers a battle plan for how we can save the planet.

This event is part of Climate & Democracy, a lecture series co-hosted by PPEH and the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy.