The 2022 midterm elections are a critical chance to elect leaders who will fight for our climate, air, land, water, and communities. And young voters feel the stakes of this fight in a unique way.

Aden Berry, 19 years old, is a graduate of Colorado Rocky Mountain School who lives in Carbondale and has been volunteering for Conservation Colorado ever since he participated in a lobby day this spring.

He shares why he’s voting this November—and why you should, too.

Conservation Colorado: What does the ability to vote mean to you? 

Aden Berry: For me, the ability to vote means having your voice heard on a national or local level, and that you are represented in some small way, whether that’s in candidates or in policy.

What are the biggest challenges or barriers you’ve faced in navigating elections and voting?

Frankly, I haven’t had any major issues navigating elections or voting. Colorado’s mail-in ballots and the abundance of information online about candidates and ballot measures makes it pretty easy to navigate elections. However, I have faced more obstacles in advocating for the issues that I am passionate about. Especially when I was younger, I kind of had the idea that you had to be really knowledgeable about policy and all the nitty gritty aspects of it to have a legitimate impact in advocacy. And that’s not really the case.

Last year, I had the opportunity to go down to lobby in Denver with Conservation Colorado, and part of the training we did was learning that you are the expert in your own experience. If you can share your life story in a way that is truly compelling, you can shape the way elected officials think about and vote on policy. 

What are some of the issues you’re most concerned about that you will be thinking about when you vote?

One of the most crucial things is the climate and making sure that we are doing whatever we can to protect our environment, that we have clean drinking water for everybody, that the air is clean, and that traditionally marginalized groups have access to all of those things at the same level that everybody else does. Additionally, I care about making sure abortion rights are codified here in Colorado, as well as everywhere possible. And lastly and most broadly, ensuring access to democracy and that democracy prevails long into the future.

What gives you hope for our future?

I think the fact that there are so many people who are engaged in work—to protect our democracy, to protect the climate, to protect individual rights—gives me hope. And there are so many people who don’t take action who could be taking action. In a weird way, that also gives me hope, because while they’re not leading campaigns or calling senators or representatives, and might not even have voted as much as they could, they believe in the fundamental principle of democracy. If we can find a way to engage them in preserving and strengthening the democratic process, there would be a much larger block of people to protect the things that make America what it is and change it to be a better place.

What motivates you to vote, and why should others vote, too? 

Your vote represents your voice. While that might seem like it’s a very small voice, it matters, because the principle of democracy allows us to slowly create a better country and allow for people to live better lives and move towards the founding principle that we’re all created equal and we’re all endowed with the same rights. And so if you don’t vote, you will potentially give up that principle of democracy. Not voting, especially in this election and this political climate, is a vote against democracy.