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Climate activist Artis ’22 featured in Teen Vogue

Artis co-founded Zero Hour, international climate justice organization

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Zanagee Artis ’22 was named one of Teen Vogue’s “9 Climate Activists of Color You Should Know.” The founder of Zero Hour, Artis has organized climate justice marches across the globe.

Zanagee Artis ’22 believes in the power of a single person to be a force for change.

As a co-founder of Zero Hour, an international climate justice organization, Artis has organized marches across the globe to demonstrate the need for climate justice. Although hundreds showed up to Zero Hour’s first climate march at the National Mall, “what I really enjoy about organizing is that even if not a lot of people come, if one new person comes, that’s another person who’s joining the movement and that’s another supporter who can talk to their elected officials, who can organize their own protest, tell friends.”

Artis was just 16 when he co-founded Zero Hour and the organization has since expanded to 24 sister chapters across the United States and many more internationally. For his work with Zero Hour, Artis has been recognized by national publications including the New York Times. Most recently, he was recognized by Teen Vogue as one of the magazine’s “9 Climate Activists of Color You Should Know.”

Zero Hour emphasizes “the need for climate justice, including equity, racial justice and economic justice,” according to the group’s platform statement.

Artis and his three co-founders started Zero Hour in summer 2017, after meeting at a youth political education program called Junior State of America. Artis met with the three other founders to discuss organizing a climate march in Washington, D.C. for the next summer, which would become the group’s first action.

Artis was the logistics director for Zero Hour’s first youth climate march, which he described as his proudest moment with Zero Hour so far.

“(Seeing) that young people actually did care and that we were not alone in this was really awesome,” he said. “Even though the weather was terrible in D.C. that day, … people came anyway.”

Artis said he became interested in climate activism because he believes that “the environment is the issue that really sets the stage for every other issue. I think it’s connected to all the issues that elected officials are talking about right now: healthcare, war, jobs, everything.”

Zero Hour initially focused on addressing elected officials. On the weekend of the 2018 march, Zero Hour also led a youth climate lobby day on Capitol Hill. About 20 of Zero Hour’s core organizers met with almost 40 senators to talk about “what needs to be accomplished to address climate change over the next twenty years,” Artis said.

Since the march and the lobby day, Artis said Zero Hour has shifted to grassroots actions with a focus on high school students. High schoolers have “a unique ability” to work on climate action because “this is an issue that young people really do care about because it is their future,” he said, adding that “addressing the youngest people and then working to build intergenerational connections is what we’ve tried to do.”

Zero Hour’s most recent action was organizing a youth climate summit in Miami in summer 2019 to “educate local youth about climate change and what they can do in their own communities,” Artis said. They hope to inspire young people to “vote for climate” in the 2020 elections. Artis believes that the biggest challenge in climate activism is a lack of action from elected officials.

“But I think that that’s remedied by the fact (that) we’ve seen a huge increase in the public support, even if there isn’t government support behind it.”

With the unexpected demands of being in college, Artis has had to take a step back from Zero Hour to focus on his studies, but he believes that being in college has improved his activism in some ways because he has been able to “dive into environmental studies and political science, which are so connected to what we’re doing.”

“Now more than ever, I’ve understood more about the science of climate and how it’s affecting world systems … because of the classes I’ve taken at Brown.”

This semester Artis plans to bring a Zero Hour chapter to the University. “I want to go to (the Undergraduate Council of Students) and start a student group and hopefully partner with some groups already existing here” like the Sunrise Movement and Climate Action Rhode Island, he said.

Artis’s peers spoke highly of his dedication to activism. Artis, chair of campus life in UCS, is “very passionate about climate change and environmental protection,” said Lijin Dai ’22, UCS treasurer. “He has a lot of good ideas and I think he always finds a way to execute his ideas,” she added.

Arielle Martinez Cohen ’23, music director for Zero Hour,  said Artis is “also passionate about racial equality and gender equality.”

“He’s very gentle and kind but he still is able to get stuff done,” she said.

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