A crowd of hundreds gathers around the Georgia state capitol building. People are shouting, waving signs in the air, cars are honking. Standing at a podium in front of the crowd is young climate activist Greta Thunberg, talking about what’s at stake if we continue putting climate-change action on hold. Amongst the crowd is a fascinated 13-year-old Melissa Mauldin.
This was Mauldin’s first experience with climate activism, and it sparked a passion. “I was really inspired by Greta Thunberg” said Mauldin. “She was only a year older than me.” This was 2018’s Fridays for Futures movement. Mauldin’s activism has grown ever since.
“Climate change seems too big and too far off to deal with, so people often put it in the back of their minds, but we can’t afford to do that anymore because of all the deadlines.” The deadlines Mauldin refers to are from the annual U.N climate report. In 2018, the organization released multiple statements about how to prevent irreversible climate damage. The report states that the global temperature must be reduced by at least 1.5° celsius by 2030. The immediacy of climate change was one of the main reasons Mauldin started to get into the world of climate activism.
Her journey began with informing herself on global current events, such as the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a proposed climate and economic program to fight climate change while still making sure there is enough economic opportunity in the U.S. However, this is a very controversial proposal, resulting in many of the climate strikes we see around the world. After discovering the truth about the climate crisis and the impact that it would have on her, Mauldin was motivated to throw everything she had into spreading awareness of climate change.
After getting a thorough understanding of the topic of climate change, Mauldin believes that socially, climate change is not a universal experience, but rather, the crisis is systematically harming those who have been historically marginalized in the United States.
This significant effect of climate change is something that is happening right now and will continue to worsen the longer we ignore and deny climate change, Mauldin said.
While climate activism has provided Mauldin with a new idea of just how important climate change really is, activism has also led her to other experiences and opportunities.
Last September on the global day of climate action, Mauldin helped organize more than 80 DHS students to go to the capitol in support of this day.
“There were a bunch of speakers: people running for congress, students, people were holding signs, cars were honking and it felt like there were so many people there. It really did feel like together we can make a difference,” Mauldin said.
Mauldin soon came to the realization that so many people shared her same passion and they were willing to fight just as hard as she was to obtain climate justice.
Her passion followed her to Decatur, where Mauldin has also participated in multiple local climate initiatives. Her most recent was the Decatur100, a local chapter of the Ready for 100 solution, which pledges that Decatur, along with other cities around the U.S. will have 100% renewable energy by the year 2030. The majority of cities in Georgia have already committed to this plan, making Decatur behind on this climate initiative.
Mauldin has taken on numerous projects in support of the Ready for 100 movement. Some of these projects include public demonstrations on how climate change is impacting our community, speaking at city budget meetings, and organized strategic planning roundtables. By doing these small acts, Mauldin helps to contribute to the larger Ready for 100 movement.
With all of the opportunities Mauldin has come to learn a few things about activism. “Things you do matter,” she said. “When I’m an adult, I will be able to make a difference, I will be able to vote, and I will be able to do different things, but activism has given me a sense that my voice can matter and what I do can matter.”
She encourages any one who is at all interested to get involved. One of her most recent projects she has taken on along with DHS sophomores, Zoe Deluca and Lily Mae Barcik is a Decatur chapter of what is known as the sunrise movement. The Sunrise movement is a nationwide youth-led initiative. The goal of this movement is to inform the next generation about the seriousness of the climate crisis. The way that this is accomplished is by creating different chapters of the Sunrise movement around the country, which is what Melissa is currently tackling.
From all of the global movements she participates in to even the smallest actions like making phone calls, she is doing all she can to better the world that we live in.
“It has also been so cool to see everybody else who cares so much and is willing to fight with me. It has given me more hope in humanity at the same time as it has made me mad, or made me angry but I also see all these people who are coming together all around the world,” Mauldin said. “Sometimes I feel so down and hopeless, but then I think I have to try. I have to do everything I can.”