“Enough is enough. We, the youth, believe that #thisisZeroHour to act on climate change. We cannot afford to wait any longer for adults to protect our right to the clean and safe environment, the natural resources we need to not just survive, but flourish. We know that we are the leaders we have been waiting for!”
A lot of our work here at SEEd is around young people; their education; their engagement; their future. We work closely with schools, teachers, NGO’s and other organisations to bring education around sustainability, the environment, the SDG’s, and sustainable development into the forefront of young people’s learning, to enable them to build a better, greener, more sustainable future in which they, and their children after them, can not just survive but thrive.
Climate Breakdown is the topic at the moment; with the latest IPCC report from October 2018 telling us we’re heading to drastically overshoot our temperature target of 1.5°, and with the rise of organisations such as Extinction Rebellion putting on very public displays of civil disobedience across the UK to show that the people want change. People are talking, people from many different areas, sectors, and walks of life; and our youth are a large part of that conversation. They are talking about climate breakdown, about the very real threat that faces humanity and every other species we share this planet with, and they are demanding that action be taken.
Our young people are crying out for us to listen to what we are being told; that we must take action now, that we must make huge, institutional change now, or their futures are in jeopardy. Because this climate crisis is going to happen in our lifetimes, in the next 10 – 15 years, and it is going to affect each and every person on this planet. And so our young people are fighting back; they are fighting to be heard, they are fighting for positive change, and they are fighting for their right to a safe and sustainable future. In this article I’m highlighting just a few of the ways young people across some parts of the world are rallying against climate breakdown.
“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgement,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” –
– U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken
In America a landmark U.S court case is currently underway. JULIANA v U.S – a constitutional climate lawsuit, was filed in Oregon in 2015 by 21 young people from across the U.S, and supporting organisations Earth Guardians and Our Children’s Trust. This case has called to account the U.S leaders, and the fossil fuel companies, and alleges that the actions of the aforementioned parties have ‘caused climate change, violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and failed to protect essential public trust resources’. Over the past three years the case has risen from the Oregon District Court to the Supreme Court, where judges have heard multiple applications from the Trump administration to shut the case down. Due to go to trial on the 29th of October, the case has currently been temporarily stayed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however District Judge Aiken has said that she will issue a new trial date promptly as soon as the temporary stay is lifted. You can find a more detailed breakdown of the case and the process it has been going through over the past three years here.
This case is revolutionary, and has stirred up a fuss throughout the U.S. Despite it’s long and drawn out journey to get to the position it is in now, it is hoped by many that any further delays will be minimal and the case will soon go to trial. These young people standing up for their futures, for their world, their climate, is just one example of how motivated, and how powerful young people are around the future of our planet.
Also across America YOUTH CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT’s have been created, and are running throughout various states. These Summit’s goals are to provide young people with more education around the changing climate, and to empower young people across the nation to have a voice and instigate effective change. These summit’s exist in Marin, Vermont, Adirondack, Western New York, Seattle, and many more. Youth Climate Summit’s have also been run in other countries; Canada, and Scotland have both hosted their own summit’s. More recently, this November 2018, hundreds of Young People have gathered in San Jose to talk about Climate Change in the wake of the devastating wildfires that had recently been raging through California, and the IPCC report released in October 2018.
Elsewhere, the ZERO HOUR MOVEMENT was begun in 2017 by Jamie Margolin; a 16 year old frustrated by youth voices not being taken seriously around climate issues. Jamie brought together a team of friends and created the Zero Hour movement, which unites young people all across America in having a voice in climate issues. The youth at Zero Hour have organised marches and lobby days to tell the government they want to be heard and they want to see action around climate breakdown. On their last march in July 2018 sister groups from over fifteen different states and countries took part, joining the movement in their respective areas.
“UK Youth Climate Coalition mobilises and empowers young people to take positive action for global climate justice.”
Back home in the UK the UK YOUTH CLIMATE COALITION is made up of youth volunteers from all across the United Kingdom who feel passionately about tackling environmental issues in their local and global communities. Their vision is to create ‘a just and sustainable world in which current and future generations enjoy and protect a healthy environment’; and they work towards this through several different projects ranging from education and empowerment projects in schools and communities, to supporting Youth Delegations attending UN Climate Talks. The coalition itself is made up of 30 organisations all working with young people and supporting them to have a voice in their local and wider communities. UKYCC brings out a monthly newsletter that you can sign up to, and they also exist on Facebook. The young people involved in UKYCC are motivated, supported, and eager to have their say, lobby politicians, and get involved with instigating and affecting change in climate breakdown action throughout the UK and beyond.
In fact, young people in the UK have been working together to have a voice in climate issues for years now, check out this article from 2010 about the UK Youth Climate Leaders and their influence.
Bringing us back to the present day again; the Extinction Rebellion campaign that’s currently uprising throughout the UK is seeing a huge number of young people signing up and taking part wherever and whenever they can. There’s a dedicated Facebook page for young people interested in getting involved in the movement, and all of the workshops and events held so far have welcomed the voices of young people. At their recent occupation of five London bridges on the 17th November a huge number of those that attended were young people sporting banners and signs that spoke of their concern for their futures and just how important it is for us to rally together and fight back. There’s more about the Rebellion Day here.
‘I probably should be revising for my mock exams at school, but I really don’t see the point. Climate change is much more important.’ – Amy, 17
Meanwhile the UN continues to hold their Conference of Youth each year before the UN Climate Change Summit; bringing together young people from across the world who are passionate about addressing climate change and building a sustainable future.
And again in the U.S #YouthStepUp is inviting all 18 to 24 residing in the U.S to design a concrete and implementable policy solution, sustainable business, advocacy campaign, land use design, or scientific proposal that will effectively combat climate breakdown. This year’s competition is closed, but it looks to run annually.
Other organisations like ourselves and Eco Schools are working to educate more and more young people in sustainability and environmental issues, but in the face of a lack of education it looks like those that are getting information are doing their own research. And the numbers stack up to a clear answer: Young people are worried about the future of the planet, they are worried about climate change; they are worried that there won’t be a future for them if those adults in high places don’t start to make those changes to policy and politics that we so desperately need to see.
These are just a few of the places where our young people are getting involved and making their mark on the tide of climate change. Just a quick search online will find many more examples of where young people are taking the initiative and standing up for their right to a safe and stable future that will support them and their children to come.
With climate breakdown only reported to be a few years away it’s no wonder that our youth are rallying together and shouting to get their voices heard for the change they need to see. It’s their future’s, and their future generations, that are going to suffer most in any oncoming collapse, and that’s a scary prospect for anyone, let alone young people.
“Youth face some of the greatest challenges when it comes to climate change, but also have the biggest opportunity to make a difference.”