Natalie Sweet (11) advocates for climate policy reform with Zero Hour


Abby Beckler, Staff Writer

Natalie Sweet (11) has been fighting for climate policy reform as a youth activist working with the organization Zero Hour for almost three years and has been a major part of this Friday’s climate strike.

Since 2017, Sweet has been working as the Deputy Communications Director of Zero Hour, a non-profit organization dedicated to taking action to end climate change. According to Zero Hour’s website, Zero Hour was founded by a group of teenagers who were frustrated with the lack of action taken by the government to put an end to the climate crisis. “Zero Hour focuses on harnessing the power of youth-led organizations and diverse leadership in forging a path towards a more equitable and safe future for all,” the website states.

“Zero Hour is fighting for and demanding a Green New Deal,” Kevin Patel, Zero Hour CoDeputy Director for Partnerships, said. “Building on the Green New Deal resolution in Congress, this Green New Deal would call for transforming the economy to 100% renewable energy by 2030 while creating jobs and ending leases and permits for fossil fuel projects.”

Sweet first heard about Zero Hour during the summer of her freshman year. “Around April, I went to a conference hosted by the Town School called ‘Sustainability Through Student Voices,’” she said. That conference initially sparked Sweet’s fascination with the world of climate activism. Zero Hour was just gaining momentum when Sweet was approached after the conference and asked to help facilitate the Zero Hour NYC Chapter.

Climate change has been a top priority of Sweet’s ever since the Town School sustainability conference, she said. “I think the lack of attention that’s given to people on the front lines is really the most devastating thing to me,” she said.

Zero Hour focuses on not only the effects of climate change on biodiversity, but the effects of climate change on communities and agriculture as well, Patel said. “We are demanding environmental justice by investing in the communities affected most by poverty and pollution, and we demand sustainable agriculture by investing in regenerative agriculture and ending subsidies for industrial agriculture.”

Sweet is a member of the core team of the movement, which consists of 12 leaders managing over 300 people, she said. Sweet’s job in managing the logistics team means she will be “determining march routes, getting the permits, and, most importantly, choosing speakers,” Sweet said.

Patel believes that Sweet’s role has been invaluable to the movement’s success, he said. “She has a strong work ethic and truly we wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for her,” Patel said. “Natalie is just the best human being— she gets things done.”

Zero Hour has not only given Sweet valuable experience in running an organization but has also given her an amazing opportunity to make a difference, she said.

“It’s very worthwhile to see all the different voices that will come into the discussion on something as broad and diverse as climate change,” Sweet said. “There are so many people that I’ve talked to that I would have never imagined talking to, and I’m really glad that I was able to do it because not only does it help me, but as someone whose job is to amplify the voices of others, meeting new people with new perspectives is something that I always enjoy as an activist.”

Sweet recently attended CNN’s first presidential climate town hall where presidential candidates shared their stances on the climate crisis. “The amount of diversity we got in the question process and the responses were just amazing, and I hope that this continues to be something that happens for every election,” Sweet said.

The communications team at Zero Hour has recently been in the process of organizing their largest project yet: the September 20th Global Climate Strike, which begins at Foley Square and ends at Battery Park with a rally featuring many prominent climate speakers, notably Greta Thunberg and Jaden Smith, who were chosen by Sweet herself, she said.

Both Thunberg and Smith are prominent young environmental activists. Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, is credited with raising global awareness about climate change and coining the term “climate crisis.” Smith, known mostly for his music career and famous parents, created a brand of water called Just Water that is focused on reducing plastic waste from water bottles, Sweet said. “I actually had the chance to talk with Greta last Friday, and she is very excited to be speaking at this event.”

“Climate change is something that we all need to pay attention to, considering the complacency of our world leaders,” Sweet said. “It’s going to be our generation that’s going to be affected the most, and since climate change affects the most people in comparison to any other issue, I think it’s what we need to be focusing on.”