One day, after asking myself the earth shattering question ‘how did climate change begin?’, I did a little internet searching whilst sipping my morning coffee...
I was informed (much to my suprise), that the heating of the Earth’s climate system began in 1850-1900 during the industrial revolution. For any of you that don't know, the term climate change refers to the long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns, which has changed drastically over the past 200 years.
Climate change began due to the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), which generated greenhouse gas emissions.
In simpler terms, fossil fuels act as a thick blanket wrapped around the earth. The gases released into the earth atmosphere make the earth hotter and hotter by trapping our suns heat. Because temperatures are constantly rising, there's no way to cool the earth down.
After considering this concept, I had a racing thought, 'how do we backtrack the pollution of the earth’s atmosphere, if the damage started in the 1800's?' To be quite honest with you, I had no idea!
Throughout school, I'm sure most of us learned that we increase the earth's temperature by using fossil fuels. Or that greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change from driving cars, or heating our houses.
But lets try something new here: I’ll give all of you a few minutes to try and imagine a world without vehicles or transport to get us to where we need to go...
Pretty difficult, isn't it? Not all of us us would be able to make that long commute to work just by walking, or travel to that lovely holiday destination without a plane for transport. Without, life just wouldn't be the same.
Nonetheless, it's important to consider the consequence of this. Examples of climate change include: intense droughts, water shortages, severe fires, rising sea levels, catastrophic storms, flooding, melting of polar ice, and declining biodiversity (too name but a few). Which is why it's so crucial that we all become more aware of the severity of the situation. Global warming matters. Climate change matters.
Over the past 10 years, more and more young people are determined not to be victims to climate change. Children and youth have discovered their powerful voices, holding decision-makers accountable. After all, it's the younger generation that will suffer the most if no action is taken to stop the climate crisis.
To inspire you, here are 3 youth activists leading the conversations on climate change....
1) Greta Thunberg.
Greta Thunberg is a 19-year-old Swedish environmental activist, known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action on climate change. She is famous mostly for protesting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, where she held a sign saying "School Strike for Climate", to pressure the government to meet carbon emission targets. In an article for The Guardian she said, 'every Friday, I miss classes to sit outside my country's parliament, I will continue to do so until leaders come into line with the Paris agreement'.
Her small campaign had a global effect, inspiring thousands of young people across the world to organise their own strikes. In December 2018, more than 20,000 students - from the UK to Japan - joined her in skipping lessons. The strikes were organised in a movement under the name Friday's for Future, as a result there were strikes in at least 270 cities!
More noticeably, in 2019, Thunberg sailed on a yacht across the Atlantic to attend a UN climate conference in New York City. After which, she delivered her most famous speech which you can view here, which took place at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. 'This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here, I should be back in school...', she starts 'yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?', she asserted.
In her speech, the teenager powerfully reprimanded those who she 'accused of ignoring science and being too slow in their approach to tackle climate change'. Thunberg claimed that 'empty words' have caused people to 'suffer' and an 'entire eco-system to collapse', blaming the government for focusing on economic 'fairytales' when political solutions 'aren't in sight'.
Her emotional question, "How dare you?" was widely taken up by the press, making her rise to world fame as a youth leader and activist. To read Thunberg's articles on climate crisis, click here.
Yurshell Rodriguez is a 26-year-old climate activist who studied environmental engineering at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. She lives in San Andrés where her interest towards protecting the ocean began. Rodriguez is part of the native Afro-Caribbean Razial ethnic group, who has lived in the small Archipelago for more than 200 years. For Yurshell, being Razial means having a direct and vital connection with the earth and the sea.
Currently, Yurshell is a guardian of Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO as one of the most important ecosystems for health and sustenance of the world, and the third largest coral reef. Her work centres around the survival of the other inhabitants of San Andrés, because the island is located in a region of Colombia that is the most vulnerable to climate change. Yurshell is an important figure, as she understands 'what it means to be a climate activist but also a climate victim, after experiencing the devastating effects of climate change.
Yurshell explained in an interview that "being from a Raizal indigenous community and understanding the importance that our territory is for us...we are first and most affected by catastrophes in our region, due to our insularity and our geographical position". Alongside this problem, the public politics and corruption in her country "are not in favor of the minorities or indigenous and ethnic groups".
She believes that climate change cannot and must not be separated from the fight for human rights, as the 'impacts of climate change disproportionately affect people who are already most vulnerable to its effects'.
In 2018, Rodriguez sued the Columbian government with 25 other young plaintiffs and the help of the NGO, Desjusticia, in effort to stop deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest, one of the main sources of Carbon dioxide emissions. To find out more, click here. Good news- they won!
Last but certainly not least, 19 year-old- Livia Pinaso became interested in environmental science while studying chemistry in Sao Paulo. After winning a prize for a water purification project, she visited Stockholm, where she noticed how climate change is talked about differently in other countries.
Since then, she released an internal youth-led coalition called The Brazilian branch of Polluters Out, to address failures of COP25 to tackle the fossil fuel industry. This movement demands that polluters be excluded from the United Nations events, and rejects market-based carbon taxing, encouraging industrialised nations to abolish fossil fuel extraction entirely.
"When we deforest the Amazon, to grow feed for cows, we are generating a decreasing [amount] of rain, and it is affecting our food production,” says Pinaso.
Pinaso hopes a new, younger generation of politicians will be more receptive to their demands. “We are doing campaigns, you’re doing strikes, and we are not accepting to be in silence, because it’s our future that we are fighting for.”