Living a sustainable life, advocating for a climate-stable future
Defend Our Future is a national program that engages and mobilizes young people to advocate for solutions to the climate crisis, build political power, and hold policymakers accountable to secure a healthier, climate-stable future. As a project of Environmental Defense Fund, we are the funnel for diverse youth voices and engagement in climate policy advocacy. Defend Our Future is a nonprofit and non-partisan organization.
Defend Our Future’s mission is to train and empower a generation of activists to take meaningful action and participate in the political process to advance environmental justice and climate solutions to protect their communities and everything they love.
Policy Issue Areas
Climate solutions: Fighting for a clean energy future
The transformation to a 100% clean economy is underway, with investments in renewable electricity and electric transit options expanding rapidly in communities across the country. Defend our Future played a key role in helping pass the largest climate and clean energy investment bill in U.S. history, the Inflation Reduction Act. Building on this victory Defend is working on campuses and in communities to demonstrate support and enthusiasm for these investments, and ensure that clean energy deployment and electric transit options are widely available and affordable. We will also work to protect and defend these investments and hold lawmakers accountable who work to undermine progress.
Clean air: Advocating for the right to clean air
No matter their age, race or zip code, everyone has the right to breathe clean air. But according to the American Lung Association, in 2022 more than 40% of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. People of color are nearly four times more likely than white people to live in areas with unhealthy levels of soot and smog pollution. Defend Our Future is part of the Solutions for Pollution campaign, and we are working to secure strong, health-protective federal rules under the Clean Air Act that will slash harmful pollution from power plants, cars, trucks, and factories.
Environmental Justice: Seeking a just and community-based approach to solving environmental and climate crises
Communities of color and low-income communities face disproportionate climate and health impacts. This is due to decades of economic, racial, and societal oppression that has resulted in factories, power plants, waste incinerators, and much more, being more frequently built in those communities. Defend empowers young people to tackle climate and environmental injustice head-on, training campus ambassadors on how to be effective advocates for environmental justice as part of their orientation program. Defend advocates for the implementation of the administration’s Justice 40 commitment, which states that 40% of the benefits from climate investments must be realized in disadvantaged communities. We also are working to ensure that the policymaking process, especially when addressing environmental justice, is inclusive and provides meaningful engagement opportunities for community leaders.
Environmental Stewardship & Accessibility: Ensuring equitable access to clean, green outdoor space and promoting sustainable living
Equitable access to clean green spaces is critical for people living in densely populated cities or suburbs. The World Health Organization lists access to green spaces in its Global Air Quality Guidelines, and their research demonstrates connecting with green spaces – especially in urban areas – strengthens health, alleviates stress, and promotes physical and mental well-being. Green space and tree cover is also critically important for communities on the frontlines of extreme heat and poor air quality, and has the added benefit of absorbing carbon (the major contributor to global warming). Defend’s campus ambassadors host events and service projects on and off campus that connect people to the outdoors, and promote sustainability, conservation, and environmental stewardship.
Civic Engagement: Mobilizing young people to participate in the political process from the ballot box and beyond
Millennials and Gen Z have grown up with the impacts of climate change for their entire lives. As such, we are now facing an epidemic of climate anxiety. As leading advocates for climate solutions, we need to protect our mental health and avoid the burnout that activism can so often lead to. We also know that the best antidote to anxiety is action. So, we provide the Defend community ways to realize their collective power by participating in our democracy — whether in their elected officials’ offices or at the ballot box.
Together, Gen Z and Millennials make up the largest share of the electorate at 37%. Yet, historically, not all young people who are eligible to vote, do. Defend our Future works to ensure that young people understand the importance of voting and help navigate the voting process that in many states is intentionally made difficult. While voting and civic engagement often only makes the headlines every two years, Defend is focused on increasing voter education and engagement on a continual basis – through voter registration drives, helping with voter turnout for local elections, and volunteering at the polls.