Youth are Governing the New Frontier of Climate Activism
By Helen Taylor, Communications Assistant at The Climate Group
The phenomenon of climate change as a global environmental, social and economic issue is ageing - it’s been 40 years since NASA scientists, James E. Hansen, testified to congress about climate and the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Since then, there has been an influx of climate research and reporting, with extreme weather, biodiversity loss and landscape changes largely attributed by a rapid increase in global temperatures.
However, this year we’ve really seen a spark of world-wide outrage – led by the very people set to be affected the most by climate change youth. So, we’re aware there is an issue, but just how pressing is it? Ask a young climate activist, they’ll say very. We are seeing the 'long-term' effects of climate change ‘now’ rather than the ‘when’. What will the planet look like in 10 years’ time, when 16-year-old become 26-year-olds; will coasts be transformed beyond recognition? Wildlife populations endangered to the point of no return?
That’s why youth have started taking matters in their own hands and fighting for their futures by striking from school under the campaign ‘Fridays For Future’ - calling for leaders across the world, in businesses and governments, to act urgently in preventing unprecedented warming in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement. What you might not know is youth activism for climate change has existed since the Rio Earth Summit 1992, where individual youth began participating in international negotiations relating to various environment and sustainability issues. Since 2005, youth have been represented by the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) from each domestic coalition or network within the Youth Climate Movement. However, it’s in the last year that we’ve seen youth leading on the climate marches – across city streets, and more publicly across tv and newspapers (credit to the rise of social media) - urging businesses and governments to do more now, before it’s too late.
The younger generation is taking command of their future – want to know how you can help them? Get involved in one or more of the 30+ events taking place as part of the Youth and Climate Activism program at Climate Week NYC. Home to the highest number of events in all the programs, the youth strand is set to be a huge part of Climate Week NYC. This is a chance to join young people in their activism and discuss solutions.
On the Monday of Climate Week NYC, the event ‘Taking Action’ by the Climate Museum invites people of all ages to an exhibit of work by youth leaders on climate, with interactive installations set up to teach visitors about clean energy and other proven mitigation strategies. By starting from the standpoint of youth, the exhibition emphasizes the intergenerational injustice that distorts our current economy and culture, and honors the moral clarity of the young voices opening up the space for a fundamental renewal of our commitment to humanity and civilization.
Two events by Sustaining All Life is encouraging youth to speak out during Climate Week. The ‘Young People Leading on The Climate Emergency’ event is an open forum, welcoming young people to speak about their personal experiences and challenges, with others benefiting from this unique opportunity to hear directly from young activists. The ‘Young People at the Forefront of the Climate Movement’ workshop will provide visitors with the chance to communicate their understandings of young people’s oppression and vision for young leadership in the climate movement.
You’ll have a chance to hear from a youth climate activist - Executive Director of Future Coalition, Katie Elder, at the ‘Tech and Climate Change’ event, and delve into the world of technology and climate change during the ‘Young Green Tech Annual Presentation’ on the Wednesday, celebrating young entrepreneurs tackling environmental challenges via innovative ways.
Climate change is coming to the classroom during this year’s Climate Week NYC, with events such as the ‘3rd NYC Green School Conference 2019’ and ‘Climate Change in the Classroom’ which aims to provide teachers with the tools they need to help their students evaluate sustainability issues. Parents are also given tips on how to talk to their kids about climate change and encourage the next generation in the event ‘Parents in the Age of Climate Crisis’.
Other events such as the 'Kingsland Wildflowers Festival' and 'Climate Science on the Sand' provide kid-friendly spaces to enjoy the weekend, as well as wellness events like ‘Mindfulness and Climate Activism’ and ‘Go Green on Wellness Wednesday’ – in case you’re finding all the climate-talk a little overwhelming and need some zen! More entertainment in the week comes from the comedic event, ‘136 Funny’ and screening of the film ‘Anthropocene: The Human Epoch’.
There’s lots to get in involved in – check out the events calendar for a full scope of thrilling climate-oriented activities happening around NYC in the next few weeks.