Our guests are Elsa Mengistu and Emelly Villa, two of the young people behind Zero Hour, a movement that is bringing the voices of diverse youth into the conversation on climate and environmental justice. They’re doing incredible things to make this the world they want to (and can) live in – and they’re only 17 and 18! Want to send us feedback? Tweet us, email us, or leave us a voice message!
Quinn: Welcome to Important Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.
Brian: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: And this is episode 33.
Quinn: And Brian- oh it's a good one.
Brian: It is.
Quinn: Brian, it's time to get on board with the fuckin' revolution. And I feel like if we haven't been indoctrinated today ... If you can't get on board after this, man, and we're not talking just any revolution, right? This is the real one, right? This is the kids that are out there.
Quinn: These, otherwise, innocent, young kids.
Brian: The next leaders.
Quinn: 16, 17, 18 years old. I mean I was such an idiot, at that point. I mean, more of an idiot than I am now, even. But these kids have had enough of our bullshit. Right. They are organizing, and marching, and fighting back. And they've got like, fucking flaming outfits, and they come in on chariots, and one is called the mocking jay.
Brian: I think you're talking about the Hunger Games, that's the Hunger Games.
Quinn: That is the Hunger Games.
Quinn: The point is, to them it's the fucking Hunger Games.
Brian: It is the Hunger Games.
Quinn: They're like I, whatever the word is, like I sacrificed myself, or whatever the thing she says when she stands up to you. All these people are doing it, because, you know what, we fucked it up real bad. How many, if you had to count, over the course of the conversation, how many fucks would you say that these girls gave and give in general?
Brian: Not a lot of fucks.
Quinn: I think it's close to fucking zero.
Brian: Yeah, you can count them on your hand if your hand was closed tightly, like a fist.
Quinn: Right, and their hands are closed tightly like a fucking fist. Our guests today are Elsa Mengistu and Emily Villa, and they are two of the young women behind the "This is Zero Hour" campaign. Started with a huge march across the country recently, and is becoming so much more than that.
Quinn: We talked about how they got started, why they're still going, and what is worth fighting for. The answer is not you and me.
Brian: No, no, no. They've had enough of us.
Quinn: To be clear. God are we lucky to have 'em.
Brian: They're just saying, "Screw you, we got this."
Quinn: Yeah, I do feel like over the course of the conversation it became abundantly clear that ... what we provided to them, this outlet, we're just like a vessel, like a-
Quinn: ... a vessel for their message, like a carcass of something old and dying that still has one specific use left. And then they find that helpful, and that's to spread the word about their efforts. But, otherwise, we are this just archaic relic of the past. Just get out of the way, man.
Brian: We tried to be, you know,-
Brian: -hip, and young.
Quinn: And cool. How'd that go?
Brian: Not good.
Quinn: I think it's all fair though. I mean, again, we're not the Baby Boomers, who are just, I mean just monsters. Who still don't care about anything.
Brian: That's what I mean, like I-
Quinn: But to them, we're just like accessories to the fuckin' crime. They're like, "Get out."
Brian: ... I tried to let them know that we were on their side.
Quinn: Right, that's the- particular is the whole point of this fuckin' endeavor on this thing.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Quinn: And they're like, "That's fine."
Brian: They're like, "That's adorable. Shut up."
Quinn: "Please shut up."
Brian: "We have some shit to say." Yeah, they were wonderful.
Quinn: You got some shit to say. What do you got going on today?
Brian: Oh well I wanted to, I believe maybe it was the last episode or maybe two episodes ago, you were telling some story, I wasn't paying attention. And I said that I wanted to talk about something.
Quinn: Fucking perfect.
Brian: But we had run out of time, and now we have time.
Quinn: My feet are up, I'm listening, I just realized I left tea kettle in the bathroom.
Brian: Oh perfect. Well I just wanted to mention this, because I thought you would be all about it. Because you bring up, very often, and surprise me with news about-
Quinn: God, this could be anything. Is this how you feel?
Brian: -wonderful, space nation Asgardia.
Quinn: Oh, really?
Brian: And I've got some news about wonderful Space Nation Asgardia.
Quinn: Can't wait.
Brian: I have received an email from the Space Nation of Asgardia.
Quinn: What's the email address for them?
Brian: I think it's- oh, I don't think it's one where you can email them back.
Quinn: No, but I'm just curious how they- how does a space, what is their-
Brian: This one is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quinn: Got it, okay, so continue.
Brian: The subject of this email is, "Become a Mayor of Asgardia."
Quinn: Become a mayor-
Brian: They are holding their mayoral elections.
Quinn: So they elected, by the way questionable, 'cause he started the whole fuckin' thing. They gave that old guy the necklace.
Brian: Was it Igor?
Quinn: Sure, Igor.
Brian: I think his name's Igor.
Quinn: Is his name really Igor?
Brian: Yeah, Igor Ashurbeyli.
Quinn: Jesus. Oh my god.
Quinn: So he's got the fuckin' space necklace, and-
Brian: An exciting and unique opportunity is upon us.
Quinn: Tell us about it.
Brian: It is now time for another important step in the journey to becoming the first space nation in human history, the mayoral elections. And since the founding of Asgardia, residents-
Quinn: Last week.
Brian: ... have been calling for ways to directly support the nation, and help build the vision-
Quinn: Have they?
Brian: ... of the head of our nation, Igor Ashurbeyli. And that time is now here. So over the next few months, hundreds of people from all over the world, will stand to represent their localities and campaign to become the mayor for their city.
Quinn: Wait, their localities here on Earth?
Brian: Yeah, I think so.
Quinn: No, no, no, I thought the whole point was you're starting a new nation. Wouldn't you be a mayor of specific locality of that new nation, not of ... Fuckwhere, Nebraska.
Brian: No, no, but it starts with people here. We have to have people first. So people from their localities here, are gonna rise up and they're gonna say, "Hey, I wanna be mayor of some city on Asgardia." And then we're and I-
Quinn: But what are the cities of Asgardia? I just have technical questions I'm confused about.
Brian: My answer to that is this: Candidates will raise the flag of Asgardia, reach out to new residents, and make new contacts, and encourage people to vote for them.
Quinn: So is this like the Tom Cruise "Home and Away," movie, like the land rush of the west where you can just- like what are the defined municipalities that you're becoming the mayor of?
Brian: I think maybe you find that out later.
Quinn: So it's a Ponzi scheme.
Brian: I'm not seeing a lot of break down here geographically.
Quinn: What is the call to action in the email?
Brian: Listen, there isn't even a space nation yet. It's a satellite the size of a toaster, remember. So there's a lot of stuff to do, but let's prep for it now.
Quinn: But what are they asking you, specifically, to do with this email? Is it just an announcement, or is it a, "Hey, click on this."
Brian: No it's a, "Hey, click on this."
Quinn: What happens when you click on it?
Brian: It brings you to a wonderful page where-
Quinn: Is it a PayPal page?
Brian: It's not a PayPal page. Not directly. It lists the responsibilities, it lists the benefits, it lists the requirements.
Quinn: What are the benefits? What are the requirements?
Brian: What do you wanna hear first? This is all too good.
Quinn: Just let's do it. Go down the list.
Brian: Well, let's go with the benefits. I feel like that's a nice one. Once you're elected mayor, you take up an official position in the first ever space nation, and you run your own mayoral office for an entire year. So it's a year at a time. You, obviously, become directly involved in the growth of Asgardia. You work directly with the head of the nation's administration, which now you're a part of.
Quinn: The necklace guy, right.
Brian: Oh, this one's good. You manage your office by appointing your own deputies and PR managers. Boom.
Quinn: All that means is it's coming out of your pocket. Continue.
Brian: Yeah. Benefit number six might be my favorite. Enjoy the challenges of building a brand new nation.
Quinn: Fair. I'm up for that. Okay. Talk about requirements.
Brian: Here's some of the requirements. First of all, you obviously have to be willing to run your own office, and fulfill the responsibilities of being a mayor. You must be at least 18 years old, and then, obviously, you must pay an initial registration fee of 100 euros. And that's about it.
Quinn: That's it. Those are the requirements to be a mayor of a space station.
Brian: Yes. Space Nation.
Quinn: Oh, I'm so sorry.
Brian: Yeah, so I don't know, it seems pretty cool.
Quinn: Be 18 and pay 100 bucks? That's it?
Brian: The elections are under way. They end on September 9th. So it's a little bit late in the process, I probably won't run.
Quinn: Oh no, no. You're running pal.
Brian: But I could have.
Quinn: This is a business expense. You're running ... for sure.
Brian: Pretty cool so, yeah I'll keep you guys updated with what's going on there.
Quinn: So here's what we're going to do on the next podcast, is you're gonna, on air, apply for this, and then we're gonna just see how it all goes.
Brian: Yeah, I guess I am curious. I need to sign up and vote for the constitution, in order to take part in it. But I definitely already signed up. I don't think I voted for the constitution. So it's all very exciting stuff.
Quinn: Okay, keep us in the loop. We're going to check in.
Brian: Will do.
Quinn: And this is going to be very exciting. I cannot wait hear what you're actual responsibilities are.
Brian: Can you imagine me, a mayor, of a locality.
Quinn: Can I ask you a question? What do you think a real mayor does? Off the cuff, what would you say ... is the day-to-day job of a mayor?
Brian: He probably goes to the office-
Quinn: He or she.
Brian: Well I was thinking of me. He or she goes to the office. There's probably somebody who's bringing coffee to this person. You are probably sitting at your computer a lot. There's a lot of people coming in, asking questions, sign these documents, "What do you think about this?" Some guy called and wants to tell you about his backyard flooding. There's little things you gotta deal with. So probably a lot of that, I see mostly that stuff. Then you gotta talk to people, you gotta be on the front lines. Like the mayor of Beverly Hills. She's out there every week, fuckin, with her weird outfits, and showing the people that she's one of them. It's like that.
Quinn: I cannot wait to see how this goes. We will check-in, back later, with Brian's now official campaign-
Brian: Official campaign-
Quinn: ... to be a mayor-
Brian: ... of some part of Asgardia.
Quinn: ... of some completely undefined geographical ...
Brian: You should see the video. The video they sent out; Asgardia looks beautiful. Looks beautiful.
Quinn: Yeah, that's going in the show now. Okay I cannot wait to see. We will check in with that and see how it goes.
Brian: I'm excited.
Quinn: Okay, is that all you got today?
Quinn: That's it?
Brian: Yeah, I'm gonna talk about this cool Star Wars' thing later. I got some cool shit to tell you about Stars Wars virtual reality.
Quinn: Okay, bookmark that. Great. Alright, thank you.
Brian: We should probably talk to Elsa and Emelly.
Quinn: Yep. Our guests today are Elsa Mengistu and Emelly Villa from the incredible Zero Hour Campaign. And together we're gonna talk about the, fuckin', revolution. You know, I don't mean the revolution that all the 35 year old white people are "leading", no offense. It's great, it's helpful, it's where a lot of money is coming from. That group includes us. But these young women and others like them, are eligible to vote for the first time, or maybe not even eligible, yet. Or they might be by November. And on their list includes their country's at war, in like 50 places across the globe, and we only know half of them. Civil rights are getting squashed out on the reg. Inequality's raging, environmental justice is, I don't know, non-existent. We've got fires, and floods, and dogs and cats are living together. But great news, these folks are doing the opposite of sitting on their asses. They are fighting from day one, 'cause they feel like they have to, and they want to ... it's pretty inspiring. So let's hear from them. Elsa and Emelly, welcome.
Emelly Villa: Hi, thank you for having us.
Elsa Mengistu: Hi.
Quinn: For sure, for sure.
Brian: We're very happy to have you here girls. Well let's just start off easy. Give us all a little backstory, who are you girls, and what do you do?
Emelly Villa: Okay, I'll start, so my name's Emelly, I'm from Whittier, California, and I'm 18 years old. So, I just graduated high school, which is really exciting.
Emelly Villa: Oh, thank you. I kind of got started through my high school. We had an environmental club at my school, and I just decided to join. And, I became really involved, my junior year, with that, and so, coming into my senior year I actually became president of it. And we just did small projects, here and there, like beach clean-ups. And we had guest speakers, and so one day we had a guest speaker from Citizens Climate Lobby. So, they focus a lot on carbon fee and dividend.
Quinn: Yeah, we know them.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so I loved it, and so I ended up attending some of their meetings, of their monthly meetings. Through there, yeah I'm still apart of it and everything and it's great. And I met Vance through Citizens Climate Lobby, and he is an amazing mentor to me, and he's always trying to find projects for me to do that involve youth. And so, one day, I was at school and he forwarded me an article of the Rolling Stones and it featured Jamie in it, who is the founder of Zero Hour. And he just emailed me and he's like, "I think this is a great opportunity, and we should definitely try to get in contact with them." So I just emailed her, and ever since then I've just been apart of Zero Hour. That's pretty much it.
Quinn: That's awesome. I love it man, just jump in on it. Elsa what about you?
Elsa Mengistu: So yeah, I'm a year below Emelly, so when I found Zero Hour, I was just scrolling on Facebook. I had just really started to get into community organizing and March For Our Lives. And so I followed this guy's Tweet, or I guess Facebook post. "If any youth would like to hold a march for a Zero Hour rally in our town, I'd love to help out." And I was like, "What the fuck is this?" So I went to their account, and I just saw their posts, and most environmental organizations focus solely on the climate and the environmental issues. They never get into issues involving race, gender, class, or how different systems oppression, and just different systems impact equal differently through the lens of climate change. And so that really made me wanna get involved with them. And so I just emailed them, and I was like, "This is what I'm good at, and if there's any way I could help out. I would love to help out." And I've been with them for a few months now, and we organized the march on DC, and we had dozens of global sister marches. And this is where we're at right now, and so it's really exciting.
Quinn: That's so cool man. So when you emailed them, and you told them what you were good at, what did you say?
Elsa Mengistu: I focused on March For Our Lives. I really did partnerships, and communications, and public speaking, and stuff like that. So I was like, "I'm good at speaking, I'm good at communication," like I guess a resume.
Quinn: Yeah, right.
Elsa Mengistu: Not a resume, but I was like, "This is what I'm good at, and if you guys would like help with any of these, I'm more than willing to help out." And it was weird, because now I'm on the volunteer management team. And I'll go through how many people wanna volunteer and I'm like, "How the hell was I, like, chosen out like-" It's so weird, and it was just a random chance. If I didn't pester them I wouldn't be here.
Brian: Persistence is pretty important.
Quinn: Yeah it is, and also, maybe just don't ask questions. Just roll with it, you got the spot, you know. So, two things, Brian what would you email in as your list of strengths and things that you could contribute?
Brian: What now we have to talk about this?
Quinn: Yeah, right now. Go. Ten seconds.
Brian: I'm sure that Emelly and Elsa had some time to prepare.
Quinn: Nope, you don't have time. What is your quick list of things that you'd be able to offer.
Brian: I'm good at making people laugh, sometimes.
Quinn: You time is half up.
Brian: Already half up?
Brian: How many more seconds do I have?
Quinn: Two now.
Brian: And hire me.
Quinn: That's great, good luck. There is this amazing story of, I don't know if it's true or not, but Da Vinci sent in his resume to, I think it was the Medici's, of like things he could do to help the war. And he's like, "I can build a flying plane, I can catapults, I can draw art, I can make ships disappear in the sea." And they're like, "Who the fuck is this guy?" Like, "What?" And it's floating around on the internet somewhere. We'll put it in the show notes. It's like "Da Vinci's resume", and it just makes you feel like an asshole, you know.
Brian: Oh my god.
Quinn: Alright, fine, alright. I can't build a flying machine.
Brian: Yeah, mine's not that good.
Quinn: Alright, that's awesome. Alright Brian you wanna get them set up for our tone on this thing.
Brian: Absolutely. Basically, this is what we like to do on this podcast, chat with you and in that conversation come up with questions that we can ask, and answers that we can get from you that are action oriented. We want everybody who's listening to this to be able to walk away from this episode knowing that they have a voice, and they can take some action to help your cause, and help our whole cause. So we'll just set up our conversation for today like that. Quinn's gonna give you some context. We're gonna figure out what the hell to do, how to do it, why we wanna do it, and keep the revolution going.
Quinn: Yeah, whatever we can do. Even if the answer is, "Get the hell out of the way and let us do it. You've screwed everything up." We understand. So listen, ladies we start with one important question that each of you could answer, that would be wonderful. So instead of saying, "Tell us your life story." We like to ask, Emelly and Elsa, why are you vital to the survival of the species?
Emelly Villa: That's a hard question.
Quinn: I know that's why I ask it.
Elsa Mengistu: [crosstalk 00:17:51]
Brian: This isn't gonna be easy ladies.
Quinn: I encourage you to be bold, to be honest. Why do you- I guess since you were little, which was like last year, to now, or the past year, what has made you feel like, "Shit man this is what I'm here, this is what I'm here to do. At least right now."
Emelly Villa: I think we're so vital to the future just because we are the future. Not to be mean or anything, but-
Brian: No that's not mean.
Emelly Villa: -older generations haven't really done anything to help us. And we kind of have to pick up the pieces and the mess that you guys made. And so I think it's so important that the youth, kind of, speaks out and tries to fix the problem. So I think that's pretty much the basis of why we're so vital.
Quinn: Yeah that sounds-
Quinn: -that's pretty correct.
Brian: It reminds me of the cover of your webpage. "We are the ones we've been waiting for." It's incredible.
Quinn: Yep, which is like awesome and empowering, and also like, "Yeah, we fucked it up pretty good."
Brian: Yeah it makes me feel terrible.
Quinn: It should. Elsa what about you? What specifically makes you feel like you're vital to the survival of the species?
Elsa Mengistu: Kind of adding on to what Emelly said, I mean you guys did kind of fuck everything up, but-
Elsa Mengistu: ... there's a cycle to life, and with every generation in it's youth, they've often times pushed for some kind of social change. And where my generation is, right now, in it's youth, it's our time to advocate for some kind of change. And whether that change be environmental justice, Black Lives Matter, Me too, any of those issues that are kind of happening at the same time. We are all vital in pushing society in one way. If you look at our grandparents or our parents, even, whatever they did in their youth, it set up our world for how it is right now. And, although, our world may be a little sucky, granted it is a little-
Elsa Mengistu: ... better than it was 50, 60 years ago.
Quinn: In a lot of ways, yeah.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, and so I think our role as human beings in the society, and just as a species, we have to push our world a little more to the better side of what it could be. And so that's why I think I'm vital and why I think youth like me are vital. And we always will be, 'cause it's a cycle, in my view, I guess.
Quinn: No, I love it, that's awesome, man. So, I guess, that is what is the fuel empowering you guys every day. Could you give us, again, sort of context for all our listeners here, 'cause it feels like, understandably, there's a different march every weekend. But you guys has such a great specific mission. Could you just give us the overview of two things: one is like, tell us about this Zero Hour, where it came from, what it's original goal and what it's goal is now. And then, also, each of your roles in that capacity, real quick.
Elsa Mengistu: Well Zero Hour started about a year and one month. Like, yeah literally a year and one month ago. It started with Jamie reaching to Nadia, or Nadia reaching out to Jamie, and they kind of all just- it was just a group of teenagers that met at [inaudible 00:21:05], or at some camp, and they're like, "The world is literally dying, and we're inheriting this mess." And so they decided to- they just kept brainstorming for awhile, and they were like, "What's something that we can do?" So they decided to do a march on Washington, but that wasn't gonna be like our focal point for the rest of the organization's life. They wanted to see how they could set themselves apart in an environmental movement that is very white and old. They did that by producing our platform, which, I guess, can be seen radical by some means.
Elsa Mengistu: It's just really addressing the root causes of climate change, and how different communities are impacted by environmental policy and climate change differently than other communities are. And how do we assess, how do we take that information, and how do we use that in our activism, so that we address everybody, and not just one thing. Not so we whitewash this. Not so we leave out indigenous communities who have been left out of these conversations for ages, or any community that's been marginalized.
Elsa Mengistu: They took that focus, and they took to their activism. And I guess that is what Zero Hour is about, it's a movement by the youth for the youth. It's a movement by students of color for students of color, by queer people for queer people. Wherever your identity lies, there's a place for you at Zero Hour, and that's the foundations they wanted to set for Zero Hour. It's not like any other organization that brings the science to this. There's humanity behind the science and the data. That's the origins of it, and that's the focus they had when they started it, and that's the focus they're going to continue having, if that answers your question.
Quinn: Yeah, no, for sure, and can you talk, a little bit, just for a minute, what that radical seeming platform is, specifically?
Elsa Mengistu: Okay. It may not be radical to Gen Z, I guess, but it may be radical to Congress or older people that really, I guess, don't- I guess calling out systems of oppression, understanding how colonialism and imperialism has gotten us to this part of the world, where we don't care if there's a specific amount of natural resources. And we don't care if we use them all, and there's none left, and we don't care that the world, or the Earth, decays every time we continuously use them.
Elsa Mengistu: Those systems have gotten us to this point, like we're not calling for the abolition of capitalism, but we're calling to understand how has capitalism impacted climate change, or has racism impacted environmental policies and people that are dealing with climate change. How are frontline communities being impacted by these issues on a day-to-day basis and why are they being left out. Which all point to these systems of oppression that exist, but they're out of our control, and I guess the radical sense in that is addressing the root issues of these, instead of, maybe, calling for a ban on plastic straws. Which, I guess, is good, but plastic straws are only one percent-
Brian: It's a baby step.
Elsa Mengistu: .. of plastic in the ocean. Getting rid of those does nothing other than makes some people feel good.
Elsa Mengistu: Our radicalness is the fact that we go beyond simple, short solutions, and we address things that actually create these issues in the first place.
Quinn: And that's such a great fuckin' answer, because look the radical straw thing is not great man we use, whatever, like half a billion plastic straws a day. Turtles are not pleased about the straw fetish we have, but I have been glad to talk with some folks and hear some folks mention that, yes, it's great when Starbucks and McDonald's and whoever are like, "Oh we're not gonna use plastic straws anymore." But that's a really easy way to make ourselves feel good about the fact that everything else is fucked and we're not doing anything to address the root causes. It's great, but it's such a distraction, and it's so awesome to hear you guys are very happy to keep peeling back the layers and turning the mirror on everyone. And saying, "You aren't dealing with the causes, with the root issues of these things." Awesome, so Emelly can you talk a little bit about what your specific role is there and then we're gonna, sort of, get into today.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so when I first emailed Jamie, when I was in CCL I worked a little bit on the funding side. So when I emailed her I was like, "I'm good at fundraising. I could potentially do that." Because to put on a march it does take quite a bit of money. So she put me on the fundraising team. I don't even know how many months it's been that I've been on the team, but ever since then we've been reaching out to donors and foundations asking for money. So that's what I've been doing, but recently I became head of the social media team. Which, also like Elsa, I don't even know how that happened, but it's been great and, yeah that's pretty much what I'm doing right now.
Quinn: Brian's the head of our social media team and he also has no idea how the hell that happened.
Brian: You know, you just get put in a place, you do your best job, your boss yells at you sometimes.
Quinn: Yeah, it's great, it's great, but I do buy you coffee.
Brian: You're such a sweet man.
Quinn: Yeah. Well, that's awesome. All I can think about is, how at 17 and 18, how I was pretty proud of my life guarding jobs. And it-
Brian: I do not wanna talk about what was going on in my life when I was 17 and 18 years old.
Quinn: No and I don't think anybody wants to hear that.
Brian: You are blowing my minds with your responsibility and leadership ladies, I'm extremely impressed. Thank you so much for being better than me.
Quinn: That's right. Alright, so listen, we're gonna establish a little more context for today's chatting' about the revolution. Just some notes about what's going, Brian can ask questions if he gets confused, and Elsa and Emelly can jump in, correct us, tell us we're wrong, hang up. Who knows, we'll see.
Brian: Please don't hang up.
Quinn: There's, kind of, two generations that hopefully will have, and on voting day on November 6th, have the biggest impact. Both out of opportunity-
Brian: Lord we need it.
Quinn: ... and pure volume. The older ones is millennials, right? The older folks like to bitch about these guys. Right now I think they're defined as age 22 to 36, something like that, 24 to 36, they've gotten older.
Brian: [crosstalk 00:27:46].
Quinn: And they're projected to, finally, outnumber Baby Boomers, which is really the people who screwed this place up, as the biggest generation in America by volume, I think in a couple years. Like 71 million versus 74 million today.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Quinn: And the Baby Boomers, of course, are declining because they're old, and that's what happens.
Brian: It's nature.
Quinn: It's sad, but that's nature. In the middle we got generation X. Everybody forgets about those guys there's only about 60 million of 'em. Born in the middle when America wasn't having a lot of babies. But millennials are more demographically diverse, there's more immigrants, there's less attachment to the way things have always been done. They are fairly pissed off about the direction this place is going. But then we get to generation Z, and that is loosely defined as mid 1990's to mid-2000's. So they're an even bigger generation, but, obviously, not all those folks can vote yet. But there is definitely a huge number that have turned 18 since the 2000 election, or will by November. And, certainly, by 2020 if we're still around at that point.
Brian: Oh god.
Quinn: Loose demographics; only 54% Caucasian, which is amazing, 24% Hispanic, 14% African-American, 4% Asian, 4% multi-racial. Just so different than any of the previous directions and how they've looked, which is part of what makes these white Baby Boomers terrified, of course. 'Cause they wanna hold on to real America, which is an entirely separate discussion.
Brian: God, in that way it's so exciting to think about the future. That there gonna be this many people that are not just, fuckin', old white people that have a say.
Quinn: Yep, it's gonna be really different. So you guys grew up with technology. It's part of your life since you were embryos. You have seen a paradigm shift in tech, basically, every 12 months. Which is the good and the bad, as we've noticed in the past couple years. The question is whether millennials, and more especially, this generation Z, whether you guys will turn out to vote. Young folks, traditionally, don't turn out to vote as much as older generations, and basically nobody votes in mid-terms. The challenge on November 6th, is it is a mid-term, and we desperately need all the young people, these newly eligible young people, to vote. That, of course, isn't to say that they are one large homogenous people, of course. Many are Conservative and principled, some probably aren't, of course, but a good number are Progressive and they're fired up. And, as Brian has said a thousand times, we know we fucked up.
Brian: We fucked up.
Quinn: We know we need you, we know we're depending on you, and we're pretty terrified. So we need to know to believe, but we also need to help however we can to turn your activism into votes. So we're gonna get a little more backstory today, so that people will help get on board. How that activism is manifesting from the inside, from you guys, and see what we can do to help. Or the answer, as has been the case a number of times, is get the hell outta the way.
Quinn: So, ladies, let's talk about the revolution. When did you guys realize, I guess as you've talked to a number of people and you've been apart of things over the past year, that you really were gonna, not just with a march, but for the foreseeable future you're gonna have to take shit into your own hands, like a 1980's action hero. That you guys really, honestly, could not depend on anyone older than you to fix this nightmare we've been going on. What is, sort of, the discussion around that?
Emelly Villa: I think when I really realized that it was such a huge issue, I think every day it's kind of like you learn something new and then you realize, "Oh shit, we have to fix that too."
Brian: Seems never ending.
Emelly Villa: I think, especially like that last couple of years, I was in California, and the wildfires have been getting so unbelievably bad. And I think that it just opened my eyes to, they put this on the news, and put all these disasters that's happening all over the world on the news, but then they forget about it in a couple of days. And no one's really solving the actual issues. And so I think just over time I realized no one's actually paying attention to these important issues, and so I think that's so great about Zero Hour, we're addressing the problem before it gets any worse. So, that's pretty much how I really got into it.
Quinn: And what seems to be, again; what is the tone when it comes to the older generations when you guys are organizing together? Is it, "Fuck those guys we'll do it ourself, is it fuck those guys, but if they wanna donate money that'll help," or what is welcomed versus what is what makes you guys feel like you would be better if you just handled most of these things on your own, which is fair.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, for example, when I was in CCL, it was mostly them taking over, just because I was very outnumbered. I was the only youth there. With Zero Hour we really have this platform of kids who have a say. I mean a lot of them are under 18, so they can't vote, and so they don't have a voice in the elections. I think it's been great that they've given this platform where they could talk about what matters to them even thought they can't vote. I think it's great when older generations give guidance and advice, but I also think it's important to let youth have this one. Just let us take over, because we are the ones that have to live in it, and they keep making these decisions for us that we don't agree with, and they don't listen to us, yet we're the ones that have to live with the consequences of what they've done.
Brian: Hey Elsa where are you located?
Elsa Mengistu: I'm located in Greensboro high point area of North Carolina, unfortunately, but-
Brian: We were talking about North Carolina before you got on the line. I think it's beautiful over there.
Elsa Mengistu: I mean I guess, unless you want HV-2 but that's my [inaudible 00:33:57].
Brian: Well, good luck getting out of there then. Emelly mentioned the wildfires being something very local, very real, in her life that jump-started, or kicked off her getting involved. Is there anything like that that happened in your area that made you wanna-
Quinn: Yeah, I guess, how, and if, are you applying your efforts locally, or regionally?
Elsa Mengistu: That's actually a good question. That's something I'm still figuring out. I didn't necessarily join Zero Hour as, like a, around the clock environmentalist. I was just someone that was like, "Fuck, climate change is obviously real." Like it was just like common sense to me, this shit is human-made,-
Brian: God isn't that wonderful, I wish that was common sense to everyone.
Elsa Mengistu: ... it's here, what are we gonna do. It was just common sense to me I didn't have to read pages and pages of scientific data for me to believe it.
Brian: No, you just had to look with your eyeballs.
Elsa Mengistu: I'm still figuring out what I can do in my community, but something that has impacted our community, it might not be climate change, but it is poor environmental policy. Is like having Duke Energy spill coal ash, or oil, or some fuck-shit into our streams and lakes and have people suffer those consequences, and have elected officials not do anything.
Elsa Mengistu: That's something that really pushed me into caring about the environment. Not necessarily the fact that climate change is here, because I think that should be, that's like water is wet, like we all fucking know that. It was just seeing how disastrous poor policy can be for people.
Brian: It's mind boggling.
Elsa Mengistu: And so that pushed me into caring about the environment, and I've, kind of, been trying to navigate how I, myself, can be active and not fight. Whether it be going to town halls and holding people accountable, or raising donations for people that can't even drink that water comes out of their sinks. That's something I'm still trying to figure out. I think that's something that a lot of us are stilly trying to figure out.
Quinn: So I wonder if there's a version of, and maybe you guys already have this, are there any sort of materials. Because the thing we talk about a lot is, is people both, they see the issues most clearly on their local level. Literally, like you said the water in their area, or the air in their area, and it's also where they can have the biggest effect. You know talking city counsel, or their mayor, or whatever. Or running for office. Have you guys developed any sort of materials, or tools, that are you youth focused that they can use to take that sort of action? To go talk to their city counsel, or their high school, or to start more local chapters of Zero Hour, things like that. Just to give them a headstart on taking action.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, we have. Currently, right now, we're focusing on Congress, because there is a short Congressional break, at least for the House. We've been urging people to go to Town Halls, but we know that can't be our only and major focus, because Congress really haven't done anything since it's been created. I think our focus now is seeing how we get the local level. These are discussions we are having within our own organization. Just figuring out what spaces we can fit in to, and create the most change, and have tangible results.
Elsa Mengistu: We've looking at partnering with some organizations, and going to school boards, or going to speak to city counsels, or visiting your county commissioner. What can you do on a local level? We don't have anything written out, produced right now, but those are avenues that we're looking to go down, because most change does happen on the local level.
Quinn: Yeah, and I wonder if there's something curious about a lot of things, you know towns, and municipalities, and cities, are really focused on is getting young people when they leave high school or when they leave- mostly when they leave high school, to either, they go to college and they come back, or they don't go to college, whatever it is; getting young people to live in their city, or their town, right? And sometimes you come back-
Brian: Go somewhere bigger.
Quinn: -you discover it's a great place to live, or whatever. But I wonder if there's some sort of pressure that can be put on these places by the young people when they go to school boards, or they go to their superintendents, and they go to their city counsels, to say, it's not blackmail, but to be like, "Look, you know, whether we come back and stay in this area, is very dependent on the actions that you're willing to take over the next few years, to make this a healthier place to live, knowing that all these things are coming."
Quinn: I'm curious what kind of fire that could light under these folks as they're weighing the benefits of how they spend their city budgets each year. I almost wonder, like Emelly, what are the things that Whittier would have to do to make you wanna come back and start your own consulting group, or whatever the hell it is, from that area, and be there and raise a family, if you want a family, or whatever. To make you go, "Oh this is a place that is taking action." What are they behind on that you feel like you could push them to do, again, by saying something like, "Hey look, I don't speak for everybody, but I can tell you that nobody wants to be part of a place that's not taking action." What do you have to do? I'm curious about that.
Emelly Villa: So I've spoken multiple times at my city's counsel meetings, and, I think, one of the most important things- or the things they listen to most, is when you put pressure on them. So when you tell them we're gonna be voting soon, or just like you said, if we wanna come back to live here. I know that when I speak to them, I always make sure to say, "I'm going to be voting soon, and if you want my vote you have to pass legislation that's environmentally friendly." And that's when they really start listening, and I know that's how they passed a bill for some solar energy, I'm not quite sure what it was about, but it had to do with an environmental policy.
Emelly Villa: So I know that they've been making progress, but there's so much more that they could do. I know that they tried cutting down some of the trees. And it's just those trees have been there for so many years, and it makes my city the city that it is. That's why it's so beautiful. To cut down all these trees, just ... it's horrible, and I think that's something that they could really do to make people wanna come back and live here. Just put pressure on them honestly is the biggest thing that they listen to.
Brian: That's really good to hear, that you are actually being heard. Not that they're, or maybe it is, that they are afraid of not getting your vote, and that they're not just writing you off because you're young. Because it's actually a huge strength that you guys have, is that you are the next generation.
Quinn: Yeah, it just almost seems like, again, it's at this point, how do we put the fear of fuckin' god into these people. It's almost like you need to terrify them. To just be up there and be like, "Hey look, old white guy who's been on my city counsel board for 30 fucking years. Here's the deal, I have X followers, I'm part of this campaign, I can and do speak for these people locally, and our votes count equally. As much as anyone else's, any Baby Boomer vote. One vote is one vote. Here's the stakes, these are the table stakes to get our votes."
Quinn: Because, again, talking to a lot of these cities and towns, without considering all this stuff, all they ever think about is how do we get young people to live and work here. And if there's a threat that those people are actually organized in some way, and are not just deciding it based on what they like, or does the town have good food, or whatever. That they're just like here's the things you need to do, here's the list of things you need to do, or we're not coming back, or we're leaving. I mean, that would terrify these people. I just feel like I'm on board, at this point, with whatever gets shit done, 'cause like you said local's where we're going to see the most change.
Brian: It's got to start there. We were talking about this on the last podcast. It's great when something's, you know, a big issue is broadcast on TV nationally and everything. /But when some big issue is effecting, literally, the way you live, and your friends and your family live in your town, like that's what's gonna get you fired up. And then if that keep happening locally, everywhere, then you have a huge group of people, all different localities, that want similar change.
Quinn: Yeah. So are there independent chapters of Zero Hour. I know this is all really new, and you guys have so much on your plates like, for instance, high school, which was hard enough. What are, sort of, the local options for kids who aren't involved yet?
Elsa Mengistu: I work on the partnerships team and global outreach, and I have noticed that we do have a lot of people wanting to start local chapters and clubs, and go for it. It's not something we can necessarily give out our resources to help start up and do stuff like that.
Elsa Mengistu: If you want to use Zero Hour's name and messaging and support our same message, and our general platform, go for it. And do what you see fit for your community. If you wanna start a high school club and focus on issues that you see happening in your school that negatively impact the environment, go for it. If you're a student that's concerned about the dirty water that's coming out of your taps, go for it. Do whatever you want, like our sister actions, like our sister marches, they weren't all marches, they were very specific to people and their needs. I think that's something that's really cool about Zero Hour, like we don't wanna speak for one community, or we don't wanna force the same solution for one, so we have dozens of solutions. Whatever you see fit for your people, do it. And Zero Hour would love to help.
Quinn: I love that, 'cause you are correct, I mean I'm sure there's some repeatable tools that can be used, or platforms, but it is really different in every locality and region, whether you're on the coast or you're not. Or whether you face fires or you don't, or whether your town already has some solar, or has a lot, or has none, or it has wind, or it doesn't have the potential- there's no end of variables. But putting these things down as table stakes and letting them know that you are going to take action one way or another feels like a hell of a way to get things going here.
Quinn: So I'm curious what your guy's thoughts are on all these lawsuits that are out there of the youth that are suing the companies, or they're suing their states, or their cities, a lot of them have begun to get tossed out. Not just the ones from youths, when the cities are suing the fossil fuel companies. There's one tossed out by a judge, I think, in Washington state yesterday. You know they're not working as well as anyone hoped. Do you guys have any thoughts? do you work with any of those, or have talked to anybody on those things.
Emelly Villa: Well, I know Jamie... right Elsa? Jamie was on the-
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, Jamie she's on that, yeah.
Emelly Villa: She was on the-
Elsa Mengistu: It's youth versus gov, I think that's the one that she testified.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, she was on the lawsuit for-
Elsa Mengistu: Jamie.
Emelly Villa: -Washington, right?
Elsa Mengistu: Emelly. Yeah.
Emelly Villa: But I know that that lawsuit was tossed out, and it's really aggravating and I know she had Tweeted recently that saying, I think it was- was it the senator? I don't know who it was, but someone from Washington was talking about how climate change was a huge issue, yet they worked so vigorously to make that that lawsuit didn't pass. And so it's really aggravating to hear so many politicians say, "Yes, it's an issues, and it's so important that we fix it." Yet they do everything in their power to make sure that no change happens. And I think that it's really disheartening to see all these lawsuits be thrown out the window, because it's a game changer to have these pass. It's just it sucks really.
Quinn: Yeah I'm sure you run into that feeling quite a bit, is that it sucks.
Brian: For you guys, I mean obviously that is a nightmare situation, and hopefully we can all figure out a different route to take or direction to go with that so that-
Quinn: Or just get better people in office.
Brian: That would be good. Personally, what are the biggest obstacles that you ladies run into while you're fighting for your lives?
Elsa Mengistu: I have to say, people don't care. When people talk about, "Oh this country is so divided. Oh people are so political." Like, no, like the amount of people that are actually political, or actually give a shit about something is so small compared to the amount of people that have apathy towards everything. It's so aggravating. You'll literally be fighting for your life, like to live, or to walk out peacefully, or not to be harassed, or discriminated, or to have clean air to breathe in. People literally just don't give a shit until it impacts them and then by the time it impacts them it's too late.
Elsa Mengistu: That's the biggest road block, in my opinion, [inaudible 00:47:52] I can do. You give me a senator that doesn't give a shit, and is like crappy, and has a shitty voting record. So what? Or you can give me a bunch of crappy people that will do anything in their power to oppose my rights.ut those people, they're so powerful because they give a shit. They're actually advocating for what they believe in and, unfortunately, what they believe in, in my opinion, is trash.But they're doing something about it, and there's just such a huge chunk of the population that doesn't care about anything, that you can't get anything done. That's so frustrating.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, it's really frustrating, 'cause I hear so many people, especially when I was in high school, so many people took our environmental science class, and we had an amazing teacher who always talked about climate change. And there was so many kids that were always like, "Oh my god, the world's going to shit, like it's just horrible." But then I'm saying, "Oh I'm president of our club eco. You should come to our meetings, you should do all of this, because it's an important issue that we're trying to fight." And then no one shows up, and just to hear everyone complain, but not take action is, I think, the most aggravating thing in the world. Because we need people backing us up, and if there's no one backing us up then our voice isn't as loud as it could be.
Quinn: Yeah, and you know, one of the things we try to focus on, someone just mentioned there's a Rolling Stone article that's coming out that's, basically, like, "This is the end of humanity." And it's like, "Oh okay, you know it's not great," but what's interesting is the psychology of, and there's been plenty of research into this, is if you basically just say, "Everything is fucked. We're fucked." No one's really going to do anything, a lot of the time, because nobody really sees in that statement and assessment, an opportunity for progress.
Quinn: But if you say, "Things aren't great, but here's the wins we're having, and this is where we can still have big impact if we do X and Y." That is more helpful, and more constructive. So we do try to point folks in that direction, because, like you said, for whatever reason, when people are just like, "It's really bad." And then they won't even show up to a meeting. That's not really helpful. So that's why we try to point towards action. Do you guys find any apathetic folks from, I mean I guess you were just saying, there's people even within your class. So when everybody who is 40 and white is like, "Oh don't worry generation Z is gonna save us, again, it's not everybody." Not everyone is signed up for Zero Hour. How do you talk to the folks in your own generation to try to get them on board? How is that different from yelling at a Congressman?
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so the way I always approached it was always like, "It's so easy to get involved." For me, the way that I started out, was once a month I went to a CCL meeting, and it's just three hours of your day that could make a change. I went, recently, to go lobby for Ian Calderon, to try to get him to sign on to the SP 100 bill in California.
Quinn: And who is he?
Emelly Villa: Ian Calderon, he's an assembly member.
Emelly Villa: It was a 30 minute meeting. And so there's so many small actions that you can take, and I think that it's kind of overwhelming sometimes. At least, for me when I started out, I felt like, I would watch all these documentaries and read all these articles, and I felt like I just had to change the world. At least, for me it was like I had to tackle it head-on.
Emelly Villa: Once I realized like, no I can do something on the local level, it doesn't have to be huge, but it'll make a change, I think that helped me so much more, because I started doing these little local actions that helped. And so that's what I tell all the kids that I meet that are kind of like, "Oh it takes so much effort though." It's like, "No it doesn't. You just have to show up for a 30 minute meeting, and just talk about the fact that it's your life that's in danger, and you can make a change just from that." I think that that's how I always approach it. It's just a small act that you can do.
Quinn: Yeah, sure.
Brian: Do you find a lot of success doing that? Does that work?
Emelly Villa: Yeah, I mean it's still difficult. You always find people that are always like, "Oh yeah, of course, I'll do it." And then they don't do it.
Brian: Right. Right.
Emelly Villa: But I know that when I always approach people through that, they were always willing to sign a petition or to attend a meeting, and so that's been really amazing to see.
Elsa Mengistu: I agree with what Emelly just said, wholeheartedly, but call people out on their BS, that's the only way people care. People will go out of their way to avoid humiliation, or feeling like they're being called out on their BS. That's how you get Congressional members to get in line, and actually do their job. It's the same for average day-to-day people, or not even just calling them out, just showing them what they have been apathetic to impacts them, or how it impacts people around them. Draw the lines for them, because some people won't do it themselves. And obviously, we don't wanna sit down and educate people, or tell them all this shit all the time, because it takes energy and it takes time. But call people out and explain to them how and why this stuff matters. That's in addition to what Emelly just said, that's all I can say. I don't know it's just so confusing, like it's frustrating to me. That's all I can do, personally.
Brian: Yeah, it seems like it makes no sense.
Brian: So ladies, what would you say, how could you help our listeners, and direct our listeners to help your cause? Imagining that they're mostly millennials and gen X, like how can we help, specifically, what do you need us to do?
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so right now, currently Zero Hour is doing the town hall, which Elsa, kind of, talked about. It's such an easy way to go talk to your elected officials and tell them this is something that I'm concerned about. I think people think that they have to know everything about climate change, like all the scientific facts and everything. I know for me, I don't know every single thing about climate change, I just know that it's something that's gonna dictate my future for the rest of my life.
Quinn: It should be enough.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so you just-
Brian: [crosstalk 00:54:29].
Emelly Villa: ... you literally have to just go up there, and just tell them why it matters to you.
Quinn: So do you guys have materials that people can arm themselves with to go and do that? This is what I mean, like let's get specific here, literally what website do they go to etc, etc?
Elsa Mengistu: Go to our social media accounts, This Is Zero Hour, and we have partnered with Sunrise too. We're asking people to take the sun rise, no fossil fuel challenge, or not challenge, pledge. And so Sunrise has created a tool kit with us, detailing where you can go find your representatives, what kind of questions to ask, how to prep for stuff like this. There are a few [inaudible 00:55:11] Instagram, or Twitter, that you can go to look this stuff up and it's simple, it's quick, it's fast. Or you can go to townhall.org and [inaudible 00:55:18].org, and you can just type in your zip code or your district, and it'll tell you most of the events that are coming up, and just choose one and look at the topic and it's okay to ask your questions. It's so simple.
Quinn: Awesome, well that's what we need. I mean we're a bunch of big, dumb animals. So the more you can give us really simple, specific steps is super helpful. What about financial support. Does Zero Hour taking donations, and also how are they used, if so?
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so I know the donations that we go before the march, we largely used that for the march. And, currently, the town hall isn't using a ton of money, but for the next couple of projects that are gonna do, which we still need to discuss, I know that they're gonna take money. So we're all for donations, we'll take them, and it helps us just, kind of, spread the word about our movement.
Quinn: Are there people being officially paid, or is this still all entirely volunteer non-paid?
Elsa Mengistu: It's mainly volunteer based, but we did hire two or three people in D.C. We hired two local committee organizers to go into, under-represented brown and black communities to teach youth about environmental issues and how that stuffs impacts them and what they can do themselves. So more of our advocacy and community outreach aspect, we did hire two people for that. No one on the team is paid, we're all volunteers.
Brian: Is that still happening? Has that been successful?
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, a lot of our- the lot of people that showed up to the march, a lot of people that showed up to our other event, are people, like we've built a base in D.C. and it's like people that we interact with regularly, and it was effective. I think it was, we don't employ them anymore, like the two people we hired, they're actually volunteering on our adult advisory board.
Brian: Nice, that's great.
Elsa Mengistu: They're still with us, and a lot of the connections in D.C. it was just beautiful to see a bunch of brown and black youth feeling empowered, and knowing their rights. And knowing what they can do themselves. So, in my opinion, it was very powerful and effective.
Quinn: That's fuckin' awesome.
Brian: Yeah, that had to be pretty incredible to see.
Quinn: Awesome. Alright, well listen, we're gonna put all that stuff into our show notes, and thank you for the specifics. Again, that's always helpful, so people can sit here on their phone while they're listening and click through and find ways to actively get involved.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, no thank you so much.
Brian: Yeah, this has been fantastic. Thank you very much. Yeah, we are getting close to time so we'll just wrap it up with a few more questions, and we really appreciate you ladies being here.
Quinn: So who else should we talk to? We love to get recommendations from our guests on, again, it's not all climate or clean energy, or whatever. It's awesome good science, or space, or things like that. Who are some people that you feel like are changing the world, or working on specific things that should be talked about because it's effecting everybody else? Anybody else that you'd think would be an awesome conversation for us?
Elsa Mengistu: I have the speakers. Let me actually pull up the speaker's list from the march. We have a lot of frontline youth that are working in their communities, but they don't get the recognition that they deserve, often times. Yeah so some standing rock youth- Emelly did I text it-
Emelly Villa: Oh yeah. Oh I have the list actually I can pull it up now.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, yeah. We had like, youth from Standing Rock. Always reach out to them, if you can, for anything. They're on the front lines, and none of our work would be possible if they weren't fighting ten times harder.
Quinn: Yeah. That's incredible.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, they work so hard.
Brian: Man that's inspirational.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so we had them, and we also had Havana who I loved, if you get to talk to her she's amazing. How old was she?
Elsa Mengistu: I don't know she was like 8 or 10
Quinn: Oh jeez.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, she's called the tiny diplomat on all her social media platforms. She's, kind of, went viral for being the one, like she was the only kid in her entire school that did the National Walkout for Gun Violence Prevention.
Quinn: No shit.
Brian: Yeah, a ten year old.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, she went viral for that. She kind of started working on gun violence prevention, but then she goes around the world and she raises money for girls' education, and her speech about climate change at our march was how women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. And how she's seen women have to do most of the laborious work in the communities she's been too, and so with climate change that only makes things worse. She's so smart, and she just has a passion to change everything, and she's half our age, it's crazy.
Brian: How cool was that? Not only are you girls doing this, but people half your age are also already getting involved.
Quinn: Yeah. I hope that makes you girls feel very lazy.
Brian: It's like how you make us feel.
Quinn: Nine and ten. I mean I remember my uncle giving me a Nerf gun at ten, and me being like, "I'm pretty awesome."
Brian: Yeah, "I'm gonna be good with this for a year."
Quinn: Yeah, "This is gonna keep me busy." Oh god. Alright girls. Ladies we have a few last questions that we ask everybody. It's, kind of, like a lightning round, sort of.
Brian: A little bit.
Quinn: Sort of.
Brian: It gets there eventually.
Quinn: We'll get there. Alright so, each of you when was the first time in your life, when you realized you had the power of change, or the power to do something meaningful?
Elsa Mengistu: Seventh grade for me.
Elsa Mengistu: It was my Social Studies class, and I live in North Carolina, so it can be pretty Conservative.
Brian: I remember you talking about how much you love it.
Elsa Mengistu: And there was like this one overly homophobic kid in my class, and I would just argue with him everyday. I don't even know why the teacher would let it happen, like it would take up 45 minutes class time everyday, no break. People like they wouldn't be homophobic, but they'd be like on the fence and by the end of like a few weeks, they'd be like, "Yeah don't be homophobic."
Elsa Mengistu: And that's when I realized that when you actively speak up for something, no matter how annoying you can be-
Brian: Maybe that's better.
Elsa Mengistu: ... it does influence people. That class went from being, "Oh I don't mind gay people, just keep it away from me." To like, "Stop being homophobic!" Like, "What's wrong with you?" There was like a cultural shift. Like it may have been small, but you could see the shift between people, and that was when I was like, "Fuck people have power and they have influence, and that's when I was like," What can I do?
Brian: That's incredible. To learn and have that.
Quinn: That is super cool. Do you remember, in your flashes of rage, what some of the arguments were that you used to convince these people?
Elsa Mengistu: Well the thing about me when I get mad, my mouth takes over-
Brian: You don't say.
Elsa Mengistu: ... like I don't remember. They'd be like, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." And I'd be like, "That makes no sense. Like what are you talking about?" I would just go off like that. I'd talk about the Bible, because that's what they- I go to like a country school. They'd be like, "Leviticus said it." I'm like, "But Leviticus also mentions you can't eat shell-fish, you can't eat shrimp, you can't ripped jeans, you can't have more than one type of cloth. Like what are you doing? You have committed 17 different sins from the same passage that you're critiquing someone else." I don't know, that what I would do.
Quinn: That's awesome.
Brian: Sounds like it's what you have done. Keep it up, please.
Quinn: I love it man. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that thing. Alright lady, it's your turn Emelly.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, so mine was more fairly recent, so sophomore year, I think it was sophomore year, my high school has a pretty strict dress code, which I really don't mind, I've never violated it. But it was so sexist towards girls.
Quinn: How so?
Emelly Villa: The boys just had two things on the list and the girls list of things they couldn't wear was just super long. And I remember, it was summer school, I took an art class in the summer, and I just had the most amazing teacher, and she wanted to do a project where we spoke about something, like a social justice change. We just chose to talk about our dress code, because it was within the school, and we thought, maybe if we do something really kick-ass that they'll pay attention and they'll change it.
Emelly Villa: So what we did was we got these huge pieces of paper, and we'd wrote down a huge list of everything that was on the girls' dress code and wrote the guys' list on a separate sheet of paper. And the list was just humongous for girls and then the guys' list was really short. And we hung it up in the front of the school, and we weren't allowed to, so eventually, our principal came out and he's like, "What are you guys doing? You guys aren't allowed to do this. We didn't give you permission." But there were so many people standing outside, just watching what was going down, because there was like a huge crowd of kids. And I remember we all wore tank tops that day,-
Brian: Which I assume, yeah, is against dress code.
Emelly Villa: ... so we were kinda just standing up against it.
Emelly Villa: I remember we asked him, "Why is it so ... sexist? Why is it so ... primarily geared towards girls." And he was like, "Well I will admit like a lot of it is outdated." And then we were like, "Well if it's outdated, then why do you still have it on there[crosstalk 01:05:02]"
Emelly Villa: And so I remember eventually he let us schedule a meeting with the school board. And we kind of each gave a little speech where we were like, "We don't understand why ... it is what it is." Like there's no reason why we couldn't wear ... a shirt like tank tops.
Quinn: Fair enough.
Emelly Villa: They're not distracting anyone, right.
Emelly Villa: And so after that they changed it, and I remember that was the first time that I really was like, "Whoa, they actually listened." And, I think that was a big moment for me. But I will say, even in D.C. which was in July, it was like a month ago, marching with everyone and just chanting. I think that was really, that really opened my eyes too. Like, whoa, we can actually do something.
Quinn: That's awesome.
Brian: It's a wild feeling when there's fire flowing through your veins.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, it was pouring rain, and everything so, it was really bad ass.
Quinn: Oh, that is awesome, that is awesome. Alright ladies, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your efforts in the past six months?
Emelly Villa: I will say, the people in CCL. I love them to death, they're so sweet. And, they are older, so a lot of times it's hard for me to connect with them, just because I'm the only youth.
Emelly Villa: But, it's great because I've seen so many times, like elderly people just talk down to a youth. As say like, "You don't know what you're talking about, you're so young"
Emelly Villa: But, at least with the people in my CCL chapter, they are so uplifting. And they always try to make sure I'm the first one to speak and that I get my chance to talk. And, I think that's been really inspiring, and I know that whenever I see them they're always like "I'm so proud of you, and the work that you're doing." So, I know that a lot of times when it was getting really difficult and I was like, "This is so much work," I always remember that they are backing me up and they are so supportive of me. So they've been really awesome.
Quinn: That's awesome. Elsa?
Elsa Mengistu: I don't think I have a specific one person. I think everyone I meet, whether it's good or bad, like in any organization I've ever worked with, I feel like I've learned something from them. Like something meaningful. And it's often people that are overlooked, and people with marginalized identities that they are so uplifting of other people. And they fight with everything in them. And so it's not one specific person, but different communities that I've learned so much about activism and interpersonal relationships. And, just being alive and actively fighting for what you believe in, that's where I've learned the most. And those are the people I look up to. Like, it's never been one specific person-
Brian: Like you want to fight for.
Quinn: That's awesome, that's awesome.
Quinn: So, you know, you guys sound ... things are not awesome, but you're fired up and you are actively making change here. But, I'm curious, what do you guys do specifically when you get overwhelmed by all of this?
Quinn: Some people say they go for a walk outside, some people play video games, some people hang out with your kids. I hope you guys don't have that answer.
Brian: One guy drinks a beer. I also hope you don't have that answer.
Quinn: Yeah, one guy drinks a beer. We won't tattle on you, but you know. What do you do, how do you deal?
Elsa Mengistu: It is kind of really bad, but I shut down. Like, activism is so hard, it's emotionally draining to constantly be activating ... not activating ... what's the word, constantly be fighting for your right to live. Or just to exist, it's so draining. I just- whenever I'm an activist I always, I'm just like, "Think from the heart," or something. But no, I have to emotionally cut myself off. I know in my head, I'm on autopilot. I know what I'm advocating for, but once you get your heart too attached, it's like, it is so heart wrenching, because there is no one solid win. For every win, there is like five steps back. So it's unhealthy, but that's what helps me. I just kind of just shutdown. It's really bad, don't do it. That's what I do.
Brian: Well hopefully while you're shut down you are ... re-centering, and if you're pissed off, calming down. And you know, just getting prepared, because you know that when you get back into the fight you gotta be level headed, and you've gotta be smart about it, because you have people to influence. And if you went into that, just in your pissed off shutdown mood, that wouldn't help anything.
Quinn: Right, absolutely. Alright, Brian, let's finish them off.
Brian: Alright, just a couple more questions, girls.
Brian: How do you consume the news?
Emelly Villa: Sometimes I just choose not to watch it.
Emelly Villa: It makes me so mad, kind of like Elsa, it just ... it's so difficult to watch it sometimes, because you just want to scream at the TV.
Brian: [crosstalk 01:10:07].
Emelly Villa: Yeah ... but I think it's what makes me super passionate, just seeing all these people, that I don't agree with what they're saying, I think it just makes me want to speak up even more.
Quinn: Elsa, what about you? How do you consume the news?
Quinn: TV, Twitter, never.
Elsa Mengistu: Very mindfully. I don't watch the news on the TV. Like very rarely, unless something big is happening. It's really unfortunate, but a lot of our generation gets our news from Twitter. We shouldn't but we do. I don't use Twitter as my main source of information, but that's how we keep up to date. So, I just use social media to keep up to date, I guess.
Brian: As long as you're careful, it can be a good idea.
Brian: Alright ladies. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would it be?
Quinn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Emelly Villa: That one book or, reasons to love Donald Trump and every page is blank.
Brian: Sure, you could just make that book and send it to him.
Quinn: But is there any book, and we've had recommendations from Science Journals to Winnie the Pooh to ... You don't have to assume he's going to read it, or that he knows how to read, but if there's something that you would just love for it to be consumed by him, in some way. That you would love to know is on his bedside table, what would it be.
Emelly Villa: There's this book that I read, my sophomore year, for my biology class, called the 666 Extinction.
Brian: Yeah, that's a good one.
Emelly Villa: Oh my god, I fell in love with it, so much. I don't know, I'm very passionate about animals, and so reading that book just like kind of ripped my heart apart because, it's so heartbreaking to read about what we're doing. So I think just sending that to him. And just be like, "You could do so much."
Emelly Villa: Yeah.
Quinn: Elsa, anyone's besides the coloring book full of blank pages?
Elsa Mengistu: Honestly, this is kind of cliché, this was my freshman required summer reading. To Kill A Mockingjay ... or Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird ... what is it called?
Quinn: To Kill a Mockingbird. Yeah.
Elsa Mengistu: Yeah, that book is like so cliché, but it was just recently added to a list of books to be banned, and the only reason it was banned is because it made people uncomfortable. I just think it is a book everyone should read to have some kind of context of the world. So you can compare past history to the contemporary. And like, it may not do that, but I just think it's important for people to have context of the history to understand what's happening now. And I just think it's a book everyone should have read one time in their life.
Brian: It's definitely important to feel uncomfortable, also. You shouldn't just be living a comfy life all the time.
Quinn: Right, right.
Quinn: Good news is wildfires is going to make that impossible now.
Brian: Ladies, can our listeners follow you online? Keep up with you, and This Is Your Hour?
Emelly Villa: Yeah. So for all our social media where This Is Your Hour?
Emelly Villa: Yeah. And then, I don't have Twitter or Facebook, actually. The only Instagram I have is just my full name, Emelly Villa.
Quinn: That's probably a great decision.
Quinn: Elsa, what about you?
Elsa Mengistu: All my platforms are Elsa Mengistu. Just everything.
Brian: Rock and Roll.
Quinn: Listen, we can't thank you guys enough for everything you're doing, and for spending already, so much of your youth. You're "innocent years," working to fix this shit hole. And this shit show we have so wonderfully created for you.
Brian: [inaudible 01:13:57].
Quinn: And laid in front of your feet. So thank you for that. Thank you for making the time, today. And for everything you guys are going to do. I do firmly believe we're going to do this thing, and we're going to make a hell of a lot of progress. And the world is going to be a very different in five, 10 years.
Quinn: But it is definitely going to require all of us. And especially you guys, to lead the charge.
Brian: Like I said before, when I was 17 and 18 years old, and it wasn't my own fault, completely, but nobody was telling me about ... nobody was talking to me about doing anything important like this. Or if they were, I was not listening, because I was an idiot. And it's just so incredibly inspirational to talk with you, and know that you are spending so much time fighting for everybody that is your age, and younger than you. And just thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. It is so incredibly important. And I hope you never get swayed to stop.
Quinn: Don't give up, never give up.
Brian: You gotta keep it up.
Emelly Villa: Yeah, thank you so much for all the support. It means a lot, when we get a lot of-
Brian: Yeah, we know we're old, and white, but we are on your side, and we will do whatever you need.
Quinn: If you're like, "Shut up, stop talking, go away," we're very good at that.
Quinn: Alright, guys, we're going to let you go. Ladies, we really appreciate it, and we look forward to hearing more from you soon.
Emelly Villa: Thank you so much.
Elsa Mengistu: Thank you so much.
Quinn: Take care, guys.
Brian: Bye, girls.
Emelly Villa: You too.
Elsa Mengistu: You too.
Quinn: Bye, bye.
Elsa Mengistu: Thank you.
Emelly Villa: Bye.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guests today. And thanks for all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish washing, or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant.
Quinn: As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species. And you can follow us all over the internet.
Brian: You can find us on Twitter @Importantnotimp.
Quinn: Just so weird.
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Brian: And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on. Thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website: Importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally to, most importantly to our moms-
Brian: For making us.
Quinn: Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks guys.