Last summer, the UK witnessed unprecedented temperatures exceeding 40°C for the first time in recorded history. Many Brits took the opportunity to top up their tans, host barbecues, and enjoy trips to the coast. But the heatwaves we may have enjoyed are not a holiday brought home but rather a warning sign. Proof that climate change is real and happening, and it’s our youngest global citizens who have been speaking the loudest about the dangers…
It’s a NOW problem
We often hear about how the effects of climate change will affect future generations, making it seem like a far-off problem. But that is not the case. Climate change is already a problem, and the effects of it are ruining lives as we speak! While celebrities parade the skies in their private jets and fast fashion sees landfills which go on for miles, many people have already begun to suffer the consequences. There are people living in poverty BECAUSE OF climate change… It has left them with less food, more polluted water, worsened health, and in many cases has stripped them of their income source. What’s worse is it’s the people who contribute the least to the climate issue who are suffering the most.
But soon we’ll be joining them. If you haven’t experienced first-hand the impacts of floods or wildfires, it can be difficult to really imagine it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already destroyed the lives of millions. And we’re all contributing. IPCC scientists say that there is less than a decade left until the dangers of climate change become irreversible. We are running out of time at a scary rate; we need to act NOW.
A Living Nightmare
Many children experience nightmares – that has always been the case – but the children of today never wake up from theirs. Though climate anxiety can affect people from any generation, it is important to understand the enormity of its impact on young people. A 2021 study surveyed 10,000 children and young people worldwide, in 10 different countries. It found that almost 60% of them are extremely worried about climate change, with 84% being at least moderately worried. 75% of the children and young people said that they think the future is frightening…
And they have reason to be afraid.
If some of the smallest human brains can comprehend the severity of this climate emergency, it is bizarre that so little is being done. Our children and young people do not deserve to live in fear. They do not deserve to have their futures snatched away by the generations who have contributed the most to the climate disaster. Now, its not to say that all members of the adult generations do not care about the emergency we’re facing, or that none of them are trying to make it right. But the above study showed that the children’s fear was in a direct correlation with how they perceived the governments’ responses. They fear that these responses (or lack thereof) are inadequate. They feel betrayed by the adults that are supposed to protect them.
Young People, Big Voices
We’ve probably all heard of Greta Thunberg who, in recent years, has become the face of the Climate Justice mission. The Swedish activist started small by challenging her parents to adjust their own lifestyles. This quickly snowballed and she has but since taken to the world stage on multiple occasions. And she is not afraid to challenge world leaders! From her address at the UN Climate Change Summit to her participation at COP25. Thunberg is certainly a young person with a big voice.
However, Greta is not the only one. Children and young people all over the world are speaking out to fight the Climate Crisis. And they all deserve more recognition. Some of these include Jerome Foster (USA), Anuna De Wever (Belgium), Leah Namugerwa (Uganda), Mya-Rose Craig (UK), and Licypriya Kangujam (India). The latter, Licypriya, is one of the world’s youngest climate activists. The environmental activist from India started campaigning when she was only 6 years old. Two years later, she delivered a TedTalk in which she addressed world leaders. Calling them out for their lack of action regarding the emergency. Among other things, she called for climate change awareness to be introduced as a compulsory component of all school curriculum. And that children should have to plant 10 trees as part of their final examinations. Big ideas from a small person!
These young activists, and many others just like them. Demonstrate that the climate change emergency is a priority issue of this generation. We should all be inspired by them to speak up – their voices might be big, but they’d be even more powerful if we all join together to amplify them.
The Fight for their Future
Young people have proven time and time again their competency, commitment, and passion to fight for and protect our environment. However, in many cases they are still not taken seriously. It’s time for world leaders to not only hear the voices of young people, but to listen to them. It’s time for young people to be given a chance to save their futures.
There are now numerous organisations which target young people and aim to give them a platform to speak out.
Create the Future is a youth-led environmentalist organisation which uses creativity to reach people with their message about climate justice. Though they connect with adults and teachers as well as children, they often work with schools to educate our youngest members of society. From creative writing to ‘postcards from the future’, this team of activists are doing incredible things to spread the message.
Young Climate Warriors is another organisation that sends challenges and activities to children to engage them in climate action. They’re doing incredible work getting the conversation going among children.
YoU-CAN and YOUNGO are branches of two bigger organisations which are now striving to amplify the voices of young people. Firstly, YoU-CAN is the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network which was established in 2019. It gives young people a save space to communicate and generate solutions to address climate change issues.
YOUNGO is the Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC (an international treaty established to combat negative human impact on global climate). It ensures that young people are considered in the decision-making processes regarding these issues. The members of YOUNGO also represent their generations when they observe and report on international climate negotiations.
So, what can we do?
We ALL must do our bit. Start off by watching these young activists, raise your awareness and get inspired. Listen to your own children/grandchildren and don’t dismiss their ideas or fears. Follow the 3 R’s (reduce, recycle, reuse) to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Write to your local MP to demand change in Parliament. We need urgency. We need you.
In 7 years. Just 7 short years the dangers of climate change will become irreversible. We have 7 years to save our planet. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for our young people. They are the future! Let’s leave them a place where they can thrive rather than a legacy of destruction. We take responsibility for our children’s education, diet, and health to give them the best start to life. So, why are we not doing everything we can to preserve their futures?
The problem is real, and it doesn’t just belong to young people. It’s a problem for all of us. But we can be the generation that saved the world! Act now before it’s too late.