By Mikaela Foehr March 10, 2023

Young people made climate history by raising their voices to advocate for the passage and signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This law includes the most significant climate and clean energy investments ever – investments that will put us well on our way to achieving our goal of a 100% clean economy and protecting our planet for future generations. However, it takes more than signing a piece of paper to get these benefits to the communities that need them most.  

Defend Our Future is launching Seeding the Future – our campaign to bring these climate and clean energy investments to communities on the ground. The IRA provided $6.2 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and the U.S. Forestry Service to expand green spaces, and Seeding the Future will focus on expanding access to green spaces nationwide with an emphasis on equity. These investments in green spaces will expand community heat resiliency, enhance air quality, and strengthen community mental health, particularly in high-density areas. 

Sustainability starts at home


Nature-based climate solutions have the potential to provide more than 30% of the necessary carbon emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. Many nature-based climate solutions are available to communities of all climates, but trees are particularly beneficial, accessible, and all-around awesome.  

Building a sustainable future often starts at the local level. The Urban Tree Planting program is perfect for young people looking to make a difference in their communities because the benefits are clearly seen and felt right where they live. Beyond that expanding access to green spaces like parks means enhancing the sense of community in neighborhoods and cities. And the more people feel connected to their city, the more people will advocate for it. This is our chance to shape the future of our communities and make it clear to decision-makers that we want our future to be green and clean. 

It’s getting hot in here

As the planet heats up, so do our cities. Extreme heat events have become more frequent and intense globally and are even worse in cities where the urban heat island effect magnifies the sun’s rays. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to live in cities than past generations, making this a particularly salient issue as we build a sustainable future for ourselves. Our cities must cultivate heat resilience to protect people from the numerous impacts of extreme heat, and funds in the IRA can make heat-resilient cities a reality. 

By planting more trees and increasing access to green spaces, we can protect our communities from extreme heat. Shade from tree canopies is the most direct line of defense against heat magnification in densely populated areas. It works by lowering temperatures for those out and about as well as cooling nearby buildings, which lowers air conditioning costs and gives a reprieve to people who may not have access to cooling systems. Through Seeding the Future, young people can help ensure the future of their communities is cool and thriving. 

Equitable access for everyone

Since the benefits of trees are so localized, it is vital to ensure that all communities have equitable access to green spaces and tree cover. Due to systemic injustices such as redlining, communities of color and low-income communities are far more likely than white communities to lack green spaces. These same communities are also more burdened by higher pollution levels and temperatures, making it even more urgent that they benefit from these investments.  

Seeding the Future will prioritize getting the benefits of the Urban Tree Planting program and other federal dollars to the communities that need them most. In many of these communities, there are already amazing organizations doing this work, and we will partner with and assist them in elevating their needs to key decision-makers. Young people know that collective voices are more powerful than single voices, and we will use all the leverage we can to bring the benefits of climate and clean energy investments into our communities.  

Getting started

Signing these investments into law was just the beginning, and now we have to plant the seeds (literally and figuratively) for a climate-resilient and clean energy future. We need to demand local decision-makers make full use of the funds available to them and show them just how big a difference climate investments make in communities. 

Young people have an essential role because our future is being shaped by the decisions policymakers make today. We are the ones who will be building lives and families in communities threatened by climate change. So, we must stand up and speak out for the investments we want to see.  

Let’s get our hands dirty and start growing a genuinely sustainable future for everyone.