digital portrait on a dark teal background of a teenage Black girl wearing an orange shirt and playing the trombone. the trombone extends past the edge of the circular portrait frame into the teal background
Illustration by Megan Rizzo

IMAGINING OUR FUTURES is an as-told-to Prism series that started with a simple question: how do young people navigate the emotional and mental toll of climate change? With each conversation, the gravity of the question revealed itself again and again, this time in the form of hopes and dreams for the future, a place that young people have no choice but to imagine into existence. Climate features reporter Ray Levy Uyeda spoke with three young people to hear their perspectives on how they are making sense of the changing world. Check out their stories here.

The last year has brought many transitions for Gabbrielle, including the loss of a sibling and her middle school graduation in Savannah, Georgia, where her family settled when she was 2 years old. 

She is looking forward to what the next year will bring: high school, jazz band, a larger school campus, and the opportunity to get involved with social issues she cares about, like climate justice work. 

At 14, some of Gabbrielle’s past school curricula addressed climate change—and she’s already feeling its impacts, mainly in terms of Savannah’s hot summer weather. But with two more years until she can get her driver’s license and four until she can cast a ballot, she’s aware that the power to address climate change rests largely with adults who she says need to learn from the fearlessness of Gen Z-ers.

The aspiring musician wants to attend Juilliard and become a professional jazz musician and more broadly, “help bring change to society.” After all, jazz is all about change. She’s already making strides toward both goals. This summer—in between practicing her beloved trombone she’s named Bruno—the talented musician attended a youth leadership program with the Deep Center’s Freedom School. In mid-July, Prism spoke to Gabbrielle about her introduction to climate change and her frustrations with adults.  Here she is, in her own words:  

When I go to high school this coming fall at the Savannah Arts Academy, I’ll audition for the jazz band as a trombone player. The school doesn’t have a marching band, and I’m so glad about that, actually. It’s getting hotter and hotter, and I don’t want to be outside walking. The uniforms are hot, and the hat looks pretty heavy. 

I chose the trombone as my instrument when I was in the fourth grade. The instrument itself is very hard to play. It can be very frustrating. But my parents and my band teacher kept urging me to choose band. Eventually, I did. I’m glad I made that decision because now I love the trombone. I can’t live without it. I actually named it recently, and since then, I’ve felt so connected to it. 

When I go to high school this year, I’m hoping to become more involved with climate change organizing. I hope that there’s a club I can join to help teach others about climate change and the need to lower emissions. I’ve been thinking about other ways to get involved, too. I feel like I speak pretty well, so if I have an opportunity to talk to people about climate change, I can do that.

Young people realize the problem, see the solution to fix it, and then act on the solution … I think adults could learn from young people about how to step into a new world.


I first learned about climate change in middle school. We had a Socratic seminar in my seventh grade science class where we talked about climate change. My first reaction was like, “No wonder it’s so hot.” In Savannah, the temperature can feel like it’s over 100 degrees because of humidity. On hot days I don’t go outside at all. Something has to change. 

As a class we talked about the high price of gas and how car emissions and power plants contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. We also talked about how we can solve those issues by using different ways of transportation, like carpooling, buses, and electric cars.

I worry about the future. I worry that I won’t be able to go outside. I worry about how many trees will burn. The climate is in crisis, and climate justice, like racial justice, has social justice tied in with it. We have to solve them all together. 

I feel like adults talk about climate change a lot, but they don’t really do anything to solve it. I tell my parents to do stuff to cut down on emissions, like carpooling, but they love to do stuff their way. With adults, it’s almost like they’ve been doing this for so long they don’t want to change. I think people are scared of change. A lot of people just want to drive their own cars, get their own gas, and use the car they’ve had for about 20 years now. 

I think young people, especially Gen Z, are less scared of change. Young people realize the problem, see the solution to fix it, and then act on the solution. They always act on the solution, and they won’t stop until they get it. I think adults could learn from young people about how to step into a new world. I feel like adults are so behind on things, and they need to catch up. They need to realize that this is not the same world that they grew up in. This is the world that we are going into.

It’s sometimes frustrating because I’m 14—I can’t do anything. I don’t have a car, I don’t drive, I don’t contribute to society’s emissions that much. Adults do. Adults can help in some ways. Why won’t they? Adults can be the first ones to complain how hot it is outside, but they’re not doing anything to change that.

Ray Levy Uyeda is a staff reporter at Prism, focusing on environmental and climate justice. Find Ray on Twitter @raylevyuyeda.