A survey of ten thousand youths ranging from 16 to 25 year-old has found that it is an omnipresent phenomenon that people suffer from "Eco-anxiety" (1). The climate crisis is causing negative emotions and adversely affecting the mental health in children and youth due to the lack of action by governments and they think they have limited power to moderate the impacts of climate change. However, for a while now, young people have been taking actions against the climate crisis and you can as well to curb the “Eco-anxiety” phenomenon. This article will discuss the main accomplishments of youth in climate negotiations and how youth can contribute to the future.
Youth Past Accomplishments
There were many milestones’ moments. In early 1992, a girl called Severn with three other girls attended the United Nations climate conference in Rio de Janeiro (2). They sounded the alarm of global warming. In 2018, Greta Thunberg and other young activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every weekday for three weeks against the lax government response to the climate crisis under the name “Fridays for Future” (3). Greta Thunberg continually delivers speeches and participates in many discussions, such as the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit (4), World Economic Forum (5), and TED (6). Her movements influence millions of young people to attend strikes to protest. Apart from strikes, the official Youth Constituency of the United Nations Climate Change, YOUNGO, consists of 200 youth-led organizations and more than 5500 individuals. They organize the Conference of Youth (COY) every year, gather young climate activists and professionals, as well as organize inspirational advocacy workshops to support and empower them to strive for climate ambition. This year, many youth representatives from all over the world joined the 26th UN Climate Change Conferece (COP26) and took part in climate change marches in Glasgow at that time (Photo above).
The Tweets from UNDP Uganda stated that “Young people are contributing as political actors, innovators, entrepreneurs and peace-builders.” (7) Teens respond in many roles and actions by gathering through online and in-person summits, conducting analysis workshops, and streaming live sessions to meet policymakers and experts on climate. To note an example of youth accomplishments, Restless Development has used a youth-led research approach in Uganda to overcome challenges in agriculture, which created agribusiness opportunities. (8) With that, youth is playing a critical role in supporting research, such as assisting in the adoption of agricultural technology in a limited budget. It shows that young people do have the potential to make changes in their positions with adequate knowledge and skills.
How can You Contribute to the Future?
There are many solutions you can adopt to fight against “Eco-anxiety” and strengthen the climate resilience of your community. No matter what subjects you are studying or which professions you are in, you have the power to help build a better, liveable future.
1. Educate Ourselves
Start small by educating ourselves and questioning our perceived knowledge: Are these climate solutions or strategies effective? Is 100 percent of the renewable energy sources in the energy mix feasible in most countries? What mitigation and adaptation would better fit your region? To increase our general knowledge for mitigating climate change, we can facilitate knowledge-sharing within an organisation or any community by distributing resources and sharing recent interesting research or reports among our communities and peers. Moreover, actions could be taken to urge the government to add proper environmental education into the school curriculum, construct more activities and events to let students gain a deeper understanding and arrange informal online programmes. With knowledge, it offers different opportunities and opens doors for everyone. We can apply our knowledge in the future by providing inputs in policymaking processes or helping the citizens who are experiencing loss and damages caused by extreme weather events by setting up a donation drive, raising awareness and utilising our own resources . After gaining knowledge and taking opportunities to practice, we can therefore benefit our society.
2. Start with Small Changes in Our Lifestyles
We should not only be studying the facts and knowledge of climate change, as all of us have seen the pictures of the old and recent glacier, stranded polar bear and extreme weather events, but we can also be involved in making small changes in our daily lifestyles. We can contribute to climate actions by taking individual actions and promoting changes in lifestyles and attitudes, such as consuming more low-carbon food, cutting down food waste and purchasing clothes in thrift stores etc. Indeed, the potential or proportion of lifestyle changes to largely reduce carbon footprints is limited to an extent. However, what is more important is that you will be able to share your experience and influence your peers with your actions, potentially leading to collective actions and attitude/mindset changes in the long term.
3. Spread Positive Climate Action Awareness and Consciousness in Different Fields
Apart from gaining knowledge and taking individual actions, you can also think outside of the box. What we need is a cultural shift in societies and people’s mindsets. For example, Europe's newest digital museum, Borderless Digital Museum, is ensured to be carbon neutral through various approaches, which shows that we can contribute to climate actions regardless of our fields. Whether you are interested in fashion, film, or finance, you can transform all the science and facts into actions in your respective field. As an adolescent, you also have many opportunities to join youth societies and connect with people who have the similar prospects and values as you do. If you have the time and resources, try supporting small environmentally-friendly local businesses, such as Slowood, a small store that provides eco-friendly products from a wide range of brands. With the above approaches, we have the ability to demonstrate our climate action awareness and consciousness, as long as we are willing to take our first steps.
Tackling the climate crisis is complex as it involves the energy sector, economic system, agriculture, transportation and more. Nevertheless, the youth are playing their roles to make themselves heard. Utilize your social media to spread climate-related content as a small step to make sure the generations to come have a safe world to live in.
Start acting now, no matter how trivial you think your contribution is.
1 Hickman, C. et al. Preprint at http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3918955 (2021).
2 ‘severnsuzukiunearthsummit @ www.americanrhetoric.com’ (no date). Available at: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/severnsuzukiunearthsummit.htm
3 Fridays for Future – How Greta started a global movement. Retrieved 20 November 2021, from https://fridaysforfuture.org/what-we-do/who-we-are/
4 PBS News Hour. (2019). Greta Thunberg's full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAJsdgTPJpU&ab_channel=PBSNewsHour
5 Greta Thunberg's message to world leaders at #DavosAgenda. (2021). Retrieved 20 November 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/greta-thunberg-message-to-the-davos-agenda/
6 Thunberg, G. (2021). Transcript of "School strike for climate - save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm." Retrieved 20 November 2021, from https://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_school_strike_for_climate_save_the_world_by_changing_the_rules/transcript
7 UNDP Uganda [@UNDP Uganda]. (2020, Oct 29). [Tweet]. Twitter: https://twitter.com/undpuganda/status/1321667395321319424
8 Youth-led Research - Restless Development. Retrieved 20 November 2021, from https://restlessdevelopment.org/what-we-do/youth-led-research/