Katie Eder, 20, who is executive director of a nonprofit that helped nationally organize digital Earth Day activities last month, remembers Congregation Shalom of Fox Point fondly.
“There was a song that everyone learned that talked about tikkun olam,” she recalled. “I think about that song a lot.”
Eder is a key player in a worldwide movement to hold strikes in protest of climate change. Her dream is to see the strike movement gain enough power to make enforceable demands.
Let’s say you digitally attended the nationwide Earth Day Live. Suppose you saw a politician speaking. Well, that person is there in accordance with guidelines agreed to by a variety of climate groups. And those guidelines got agreed to after Eder attended meetings, gathered up what leaders wanted, communicated with various stakeholders, and helped hammer it all out. Such is the daily life of a young activist who lives in Los Angeles but misses Wisconsin coffee shops.
L.A. has nothing on Wisconsin. “Between Colectivo and Stone Creek, we are pretty good,” she said. “I love Wisconsin. I definitely have a new appreciation for Wisconsin.”
Eder attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School and graduated from Shorewood High School in 2018. She says the Milwaukee Jewish community’s commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world) has been a major influence on her and she is “definitely a product of Jewish Milwaukee.” She is out to literally repair the world as best she can.
Stanford in the fall
At first, she was on a one-year gap year before Stanford University, then extended it to two years. She is to start this fall.
“One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve gotten is the best things that we can build can exist without us,” she said. “It definitely is going to be an interesting transition.”
Last month, Earth Day Live was a 72-hour livestream that aimed to “engage people across the country and the world in collective action to protect our communities,” according to marketing materials. It was originally envisioned as a people-powered strike, with millions of people in the streets, before the coronavirus changed everything.
“We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect our futures. We will stop going to school. We will stop going to work. We refuse to participate in a society and economy that is actively destroying our generation’s chance at a livable future,” says one the websites of Future Coalition. Eder is the executive director of Future Coalition.
“We describe ourselves as the organizers of the organizers. Our job is to coordinate all the groups,” she said. “There are different layers to it.”
The core coalition is a group of nine youth-led groups, she said. They are a steering committee that keeps things youth led. Then there are concentric circles of involvement moving out from there, involving plenty of non-youth led groups, too.
What’s next for climate strategy?
Southern California’s coronavirus precautions have had Eder staying home in Los Angeles, but also thinking about what’s next.
She asks: “Are we going to use this as a wake-up call?” She wonders: As we rebuild in the aftermath, can structures be rebuilt in a way that reframes our values? Can we put planet over profit and power?
“This is a really scary time for a lot of people,” she said, adding that the movement can “paint a picture and a vision of what our future can look like.” She said: “We’re offering hope.”