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Member Spotlight: Mia Vaughan

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

One of our newest members is Mia Vaughan, a junior at St. Croix Preparatory Academy, who has been involved in the 4:30 pm “Fridays for Future” protests at the corner of Third and Myrtle Streets in Stillwater. Mia and her family recently relocated to Stillwater from Bend, Oregon. Her Friday vigils, inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s visionary leadership, have the support and participation of Sustainable Stillwater MN’s board of directors. In fact, Mia is about the same age as Ms. Thunberg. Mia agreed to share her opinions on environmental activism with us.

Q: Why is climate change so important to you? The impacts of the climate crisis are devastating to every organism on earth, and that severely prohibits my future. But not only my future, it's already affecting many people in the world (most directly people of color because scientific data shows that people of color are more likely to live near heavily polluted areas) and that’s absolutely not ok. I don’t want my life limited by the past generation’s decisions.

Q: What benefit do you see in joining Sustainable Stillwater MN? Sustainable Stillwater MN is helping to bring awareness to the climate crisis. My side of climate change, Generation Z, is awake to the betrayal that we face with the government’s inaction. I think it would be awesome to get the youth of Stillwater to voice their opinions too.

Q: What do you personally do in your daily life to preserve the environment and fight climate change? I try to make as little waste as possible by bringing reusable utensils, bowls, straws, cups, and bags when I go out so I can avoid single-use plastics. I have talked to my family about becoming zero-waste friendly for a couple of years now, and my parents have decided to drive electric and hybrid cars and to use energy from sustainable sources. I use reusable gift wrap, Tupperware, and choose plastic-free and bulk food options when shopping. I also thrift shop so I don’t have to participate in the fashion industry as much. I actively advocate for systems change to prevent more climate change and have participated in a couple of climate strikes as well.

Q: What do you think is the most important part of solving climate change? The most vital part would be the active refusal by the general public to engage in climate-harming practices, such as the use of fossil fuels, and single-use plastics and foam. We need to recycle clothing and a more minimalist lifestyle, rather than constant consumerism, because those are not sustainable. The system in the United States was built to be influenced by the people, so if the public makes lots of changes, the government and corporations will have to change. If science isn’t motivation enough for change, the popularity of their decisions will be.

Q: What are your career plans? Maybe a degree in environmental sciences, environmental justice, or political justice. I just want to help and be a voice of change.

Q: Who influenced you most on the subject of climate change issues? My science teachers in second grade, where we first were introduced to global warming and the hole in the ozone layer. It really freaked me out, and I couldn’t understand why adults just didn’t stop everything and fix it. Later, in my biology class, I watched the documentary called “The Dust Bowl” by Ken Burns, and I realized that was an early warning sign of the impacts of unsustainable human practices on earth. The devastation of that event stuck with me and I realized that humans are doing very similar things to the earth now, just in different forms, so I educated myself on the issue.

Q: What advice do you have for your fellow students regarding our climate future? My advice is to just educate themselves, not listen to the dismissive words of adults, and instead think for themselves. It’s really scary, but especially for the more privileged kids like myself, we need to realize that our sisters born into different bodies, different places, and overall different situations are being damaged and slowly killed while we ignore the problem, and if we really want to call ourselves “empathetic” and “open-minded” we must act for everyone utilizing the empathy and open-mindedness we claim to have. This would involve caring for the numerous humans as well as millions of animals that need our help, and we have the power to do it.

Thank you, Mia, for your activism. You inspire us.

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