July 16, 2019 | News | No Comments
16th Jul 2019
When Greta Thunberg began her school strike for the climate last August, the then 15-year-old could not have dreamed of the global impact she would have. The Swedish teenager has inspired 1.6 million young people in over 100 countries around the world to join in her demand for urgent action on the climate crisis. Thunberg and her peers have achieved what the adults before them could not: bringing the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.
But there is still a lot of work to be done, and it is young activists around the world who are continuing to lead the charge. In fact, Thunberg – whose speeches have been turned into a book, No One is Too Small to Make a Difference – is now planning to take a sabbatical year off school to concentrate on campaigning. “Once you fully understand the climate crisis, you can’t un-understand it; you have to do something,” she tells Vogue.
Spurred on by Thunberg, young campaigners are calling for adults to join in a mass global climate strike on 20 September, in a bid to force politicians and business leaders to act immediately. In the meantime, Fridays For Future strikes are continuing to take place every week and there’s a Youth Climate Action camp taking place in Germany in August – an indication of just how organised the youth movement is.
As well as taking part in coordinated action, a new generation has been inspired to look at specific issues relating to the climate crisis that are important to them. Here, Thunberg and seven other activists around the world, from Mexico to Uganda, share the reasons they are campaigning and the vital steps we can all take now to tackle the climate crisis.
Greta Thunberg on making your voice heard
Thunberg, 16, from Stockholm, Sweden, began the school strike for climate movement – known as Fridays For Future – in August 2018. She has met with politicians around the world, and spoke at the UN Climate Change Conference last December.
“Making your voice heard is what makes a difference; that is what’s going to save us. Yes, we need a system change, but we can’t have a system change without strong pressure from a large group of individuals. That is what needs to happen: an awakening among people.
“I’m trying to influence people so together we can put pressure on those in power. It is especially important for young people to make our voices heard. We can’t vote, [but] we can influence people who can. And that is what we’re trying to do, among other things.
“[The school strikes] has told me that when enough people – especially young people – organise themselves and get together, we are unstoppable. Many think it’s too late to get involved. But what they don’t realise [is] how few people are actually fighting for this. If you start now, then you are one of the pioneers. It is never too late.”
Isra Hirsi on ensuring the climate movement is inclusive
Hirsi, 16, from Minneapolis, US, co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike earlier this year, after initially getting involved in her school’s “green team”. She is particularly interested in climate justice, after seeing how global warming is affecting non-white communities around the world.
“People [are already] dying and suffering today because of the climate crisis, in countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique which are suffering from cyclones, hurricanes and drought. My parents are from Somalia, [which] in the past few years has suffered extreme droughts. When [those affected] are black and brown, people don’t really talk about [it].
“The people in these front-line communities know their communities and the solutions the most; allowing them to lead this movement is crucial. I feel it is important for me as a black woman to use the platform I have to talk about this. People of colour have voices and they deserve to be heard.”
Nakabuye Hilda Flavia on tackling plastic pollution
Flavia, 22, from Kampala, Uganda, is one of the leaders of Fridays for Future Uganda, which has been organising school strikes in the east African country since January. The student also carries out plastic clean-ups every week with other volunteers.
“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest challenges we face. It takes 400-plus years to decompose, [and] is a threat to lives both on land and in water. Africa has many freshwater lakes and if plastic goes into the lakes, it has a really big impact [contaminating the water supply]. During my clean-ups, I find dead fish suffocated by plastic.
“[Although] Uganda has declared a plastic ban, it has not implemented it; we still have plastic everywhere. I would like the government to implement it. Recycling doesn’t bring the issue to an end, [but] there should be globalised efforts to help countries that cannot recycle a lot of plastic by themselves. I also urge [people] to join plastic clean-ups and to reduce their [plastic] footprint. Take personal responsibility.”
Image credit: Getty Images
Asheer Kandhari on stopping deforestation
Kandhari, 15, from Delhi, India, is one of the coordinators of the school strikes in India, and also a member of #DelhiTreesSOS, a campaign group calling for the government to stop deforestation in the capital.
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“Last year, the pollution in Delhi was higher than it’s ever been. One of the main reasons was deforestation on a large scale. A year ago the government ordered the cutting of more than 16,000 trees [in south Delhi]. We climbed the trees and hugged them so the contractors could not cut them down. I think it was one of the most effective things we’ve done yet.
“Deforestation is one of the major factors affecting the climate crisis right now. [Trees are a] natural resource, they take in the carbon dioxide [being emitted]. Pollution is significantly increased; it’s already causing so much harm. It’s not only the humans [affected]; animals are losing their homes. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction caused by humans.”
Natalia Naranjo on moving to renewable energy
Naranjo, 19, from Mexico City, Mexico, is a member of environmental group Nosotros por la Selva, as well as setting up her own local action group which organises litter pick-ups. She is studying sustainable development engineering at university.
“President [López Obrador] in Mexico recently said he wanted another coal-powered plant for electricity. We don’t need that; you have to invest in sustainable energy. I would like the government, and corporations and big industries, to take action [on this].
“Coal is the most polluting way of creating energy. You can use nature instead – the sun, the wind, or water. We want every house to have solar panels, every hospital [to be powered by] wind energy. As part of my university course, we’re learning about new technologies. We have to create new solutions [to tackle the climate crisis].”
Anna Taylor on the importance of education
Taylor, 18, from London, UK, co-founded the UK Student Climate Network, after being inspired by the school strikes taking place in other countries. The group is demanding for education reform, along with a green new deal for Britain.
“Education is extremely important, because [that’s] what allows people to see the real need for action. [One of our] demands is [for the government] to reform the national curriculum, so it addresses the ecological crisis as an educational priority. It should be something that’s taught in every subject; it is the greatest threat facing our future.
“What the climate strikes are doing is actually educating kids. Other children are seeing their friends going and they’re starting to read about climate change. The [wider] public are also being educated because of the strikes.”
India Logan-Riley on protecting indigenous communities
Logan-Riley, 25, from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, is part of Te Ara Whatu, an indigenous youth climate group. She was part of the first indigenous youth delegation to attend the 2017 UN climate change conference.
“For me, climate change is an outcome of colonisation, which has removed indigenous communities’ ability to defend the land and the water. We know that within my lifetime, we will be forced to move inland because our land will be eroded by the sea. We have also seen seasonal droughts, which have become much more severe. We’re starting to see wildfires, too. There’s a very real threat of losing our land, our home.
“It’s really important that the wider climate movement aligns itself with the aspirations of indigenous communities [and] amplifies the solutions that we advocate for. [We have to] address climate change in a way that leaves no one behind.”
Marinel Ubaldo on lobbying governments
Ubaldo, 22, from Tacloban City, Philippines, is Plan International’s youth ambassador for climate change. She was among those who submitted a petition to the Human Rights Commission in the Philippines, demanding for an investigation into the actions of fossil fuel companies.
“It’s important to lobby governments; they need to act now – it’s an emergency. I want them to make laws [to tackle climate change] and own the problem. Governments can get big businesses to follow environmental guidelines, they can implement laws to stop rubbish being burned. They have the resources to [create a] big impact.
“It’s important to get the involvement of local governments, too. The Tacloban City council submitted a letter to the [Philippines’] Human Rights Commission in May in support of the petition we filed [to investigate whether 47 fossil fuel companies have violated human rights due to their role in climate change].
“Protesting is one way of getting attention from the politicians. Writing letters is another way. Invite them to your events to make them realise [the work] you’re doing.”