This just in: You are already qualified to be a climate activist
The Green Fix on youth activism and why and how you (yes, you specifically) can take action today.
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Not tomorrow. Not in an hour.
Not after I’ve refreshed my email inbox for the fourteenth time and checked Instagram.
I refuse to wait to act on the causes I care about. I will not wait for the world to provide a convenient moment for me to make a difference. Activism will not slot neatly into a handy half-hour gap in my Google Calendar.
Nobody else will give us the time or the tools for change, unprompted. We must decide we have the time.
We must decide we have the power to make a difference - and the rest of our lives will have to adjust to accommodate that.
In my job, I am constantly meeting people who are doing incredible things for the planet. Most started just with curiosity or a general desire to make things better - and they’ve started a chain reaction of good things.
I have a new team of motivated, creative volunteers (that you’ll meet soon!) who reached out just because they want to help. It is incredible to me the potential that we have to make good things happen, if we let them.
You don’t need to be an expert, or have loads of money or some masterplan. Just do anything. And do it today.
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What’s Going On?
Devastating floods in Belgium and Germany kill at least 70 people.
Relevant: Which countries have been most affected by extreme weather events?
Hitting a global climate target would create 8 million jobs in the energy sector, new study shows.
Relevant: How can we have a ‘just transition’ away from fossil fuels?
Focus On… Youth Activism
You’re young. You’re desperate for more climate action and nobody seems to be doing anything. What can a youth activist do?
Enter CoalitionWILD, a network of activists running programmes training young people in leadership skills to benefit their local communities. Since launching in 2013, they’ve trained over 1,500 leaders in 120 countries.
I spoke to Crista Valentino, CoalitionWILD’s founder and co-director, and Diana Garlytska, co-chair of the Steering Committee, to find out what keeps them going - and what we can do.
How did you get involved in CoalitionWILD?
“I founded CoalitionWILD eight years ago,” said Crista. “There was an invitation to create a youth delegation for the 10th World Wilderness Congress, because they wanted more young people at the conference involved in decision-making.
Me and the other people putting together the youth delegation realised there were no organisations in this sector that were run by youth, for youth. So I thought ‘why don’t we do that?’
Diana said: “I’m Head of Science and Research Division at a private college in Lithuania. I was looking for a community of people who were as passionate about environmental protection as I am and came across CoalitionWILD.
Four years ago, I joined the CoalitionWILD 9-month leadership training EXELerator program and launched my @green.story IG project. After completing the program, I joined the Steering Committee.”
Why do we need to involve young people in conservation?
Crista: “Traditionally, jobs require you to rise up the ladder and you have to put time in before you can influence decisions.
But now, decisions made decades ago are now affecting us every day. The climate crisis affects you whether you care about it or not.
Decisions are affecting the people who aren’t in the room. And people are saying ‘I want to matter because this affects me.’”
What keeps you going in your roles?
“I am driven by people,” said Crista. “It brings me so much fulfilment when I meet someone at the beginning of the program and watch their progress and their ability to understand how they can affect the world. It motivates me because I also have that capacity to evolve.”
Diana: “As a lecturer, I love seeing that young people I work with get a holistic picture of how business activities impact the environment. They are better equipped to build businesses, having learnt about the connection between social, economic and environmental aspects of business operations.
I see that Gen Z truly cares about making a difference and I find their genuine interest in my digital storytelling course very fulfilling.”
What is storytelling? Why is it important in climate action?
“I suggest viewing storytelling as performance art in the first place,” said Diana. “Storytelling creates a bond between the teller and the listener, and feelings of empathy and loyalty.
It has a practical application too. Many apply storytelling in the film industry, journalism, marketing and sales. Storytelling is an effective tool for campaigning, fundraising, raising awareness and community building as well.”
Related: The power of storytelling advocacy.
I don’t know anything about conservation. How can I start protecting nature in my local area?
Crista: Firstly, the biggest thing is that you care and are asking. Secondly: I don’t know the answer. There’s a million things but if they don’t care about any of them, it’s not going to be effective.
Flip the question - what do you care about? Animals, species, trees, water? What’s happening in your local area, what is your community doing? The more tied to it you feel, the more inspired you feel to work on it.
We can’t all be the beach cleaners and nothing else. We need everyone doing different activities.
Diana: “Start talking about environmental issues to everyone: your family, friends, classmates and acquaintances. They will also become your system of support. Individual activism is very important, but also look on social media for local communities that support green causes.
It’s hard to believe I will make a difference. Do young people actually have a say in the future?
“If you come to me and say I can’t lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, I’d tell them you’re probably right,” said Crista. “But you can’t tell me you can’t create change on some level in some way.
Look at your circle of influence and your community. If you feel like you can’t influence change, you’re thinking too macro. Think micro. You are a rock in a bathtub, not a rock in the ocean. Greta Thunberg started micro by sitting alone outside the Swedish government. But that rippled out to a huge movement.”
“A few months ago I represented CoalitionWILD at IUCN Global Youth Summit,” said Diana. “It was a huge event that gathered over 15,000 young people over two weeks. I was amazed to see how experienced and knowledgeable young people are. They surely have the necessary skills to make a difference.”
Crista concluded: “Collaboration is not only necessary, but young people are more excited to collaborate. Climate action is not a competition. We can move in that direction together. We’re so focused on the doom and gloom that we miss the other side of it - the solutions and collaboration.”
So Now What Do I Do?
If you only click on one link in this newsletter, make it this one: What can I do? Anything.
Check out CoalitionWILD’s action toolkit for protecting nature in your local community.
Tune in to this new podcast Outside/In, which explores how humans use the natural world.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Extinction Rebellion Milan is inviting artists to send work that illustrates a new way to communicate the climate crisis, for an international art exhibition in September. For info email email@example.com
Write your own ‘letter to the earth’ to submit your vision of the future.
Submit a proposal for a contribution to the People’s Summit for Climate Justice, taking place this November. Deadline is 30th August.
CHANGE THE SYSTEM
Sign this petition to ban fossil fuel advertising on social media.
Closing today! Apply to be part of the virtual Conference for Youth, organised by the youth delegation of the UN Climate Change.
Generation Climate Europe is looking for young people to join their Clean Mobility working group. Apply before the 14th August.
If you have a topic you want the Green Fix to cover, fill out this feedback form & tell us your idea!
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