The 18-year-old climate campaigner ‘preparing for the worst’

By Maeve Campbell

In some ways, Jamie Margolin is just like any other first year university student. She speaks to me from her campus at NYU in New York city, where she’s studying to be a director for film and television.

“I’m here to learn how to make amazing art and work in the entertainment industry. I have dreams, I have creative aspirations,” she tells me. “Because no little girl grows up thinking, ‘I hope to fight a horrible crisis for the rest of life.’”

“I’m studying to learn how to make things that bring me joy,” she says.

There are likely countless young people with similar career ambitions to Jamie, but the difference is, this young activist spends the majority of her time actively fighting to save the planet. Hope is not something she seems comfortable with, responding “I’m not an optimist, I’m a realist,” when I ask her if she feels positive about the future.

As a young person, it’s a difficult time to plan ahead, smack bang in the middle of a climate crisis – let alone a global pandemic.

“It’s really scary,” she says. “It’s like, oh, plan for 10 years, work on this long-term project, do this, but I can’t see one year ahead of time.”

Jamie got involved in climate activism during the last US general election when she was just 14. She campaigned vigorously against Donald Trump and helped mobilise support for the Democratic party. When Trump won, she felt defeated knowing that the new leader would not be supporting environmental reform and that climate change would only continue to get worse.

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“I fell into a depression for a long time,” she admits. “After a while I thought, I need to take some action – so I started to organise in my local community. I started fighting and pushing for climate action.”