We need you too – now more than ever!
A call to all youth workers to support us in our fight for just climate action – an opinion piece by Johanna Schwarz, Climate Activist and United Nations Youth Representative.
Yes, it might look like we have figured it all out. Initiated by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, my generation and people significantly younger than I started a global movement on climate action. We inspired more than 6 million people to walk out of school, their offices and their homes to jointly express their frustration and anger with the political inaction and the business-as-usual behavior of our leaders. In some countries – like my home country Germany – we even influenced policy making and put climate action on the top of the political agenda.
Yet, we are nowhere close to the implementation of the Paris Agreement – the self-imposed goals the International Community adopted in 2015. The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C is nowhere in sight. Nor are we as youth climate movement as strong and inclusive as we could and need to be to create real political change.
Thus, we need your support as youth workers more than ever!
You are a catalyst to our activism.
Academia as well as my own Master thesis research show how significant role models are for youth environmental activism. Especially with climate change as a holistic and complicated topic, (young) people can easily perceive their own actions as insignificant and believe that only people with more power and expertise can create real change. Having a role model whose behavior young people feel they can copy proves pivotal for their activism. Such role models are often young themselves (or perceived as “young at heart” and most importantly take the concerns of young people seriously.
With your access to young people, you have a chance to inspire youth environmental activism by supporting us emotionally as well as with practical tips and resources, showing enthusiasm for our activism and encouraging us to make our voices heard.
You need to be the bridge between my generation and older ones.
Our only chance to successfully combat climate change is through engaging all generations. As young people, we can’t provide the technical, political and economic solutions to addressing the crisis on our own. Nor are we in a position of political power to create the rules that initiate change – most of us aren’t even allowed to vote yet.
You are in a truly unique position: you have direct access to young people, speak our language and understand our concerns while at the same time you understand the rules of the game in the adult world. You can amplify our voices in places, where we get ridiculed because of our age or the claimed lack of experience. By bringing different generations to the discussion table – yours, mine, older and younger – you can help us to overcome instead of fuel the generational conflict. We need you to be that bridge between generations.
You can help us to make the movement truly inclusive.
Climate action will only be successful if we ensure climate justice, across countries but also within countries. We need to acknowledge that different parts of society are hit differently by the climate crisis and bear different burdens. Unfortunately, these different realities are not yet reflected in our youth movement. The voices we represent are still too white and too privileged (at least if we look at Europe). To many disadvantaged young people do not have the chance to become active because they lack the time or resources or simply don’t see how their personal life is impacted by the climate crisis.
This gap between whose voices will be heard and whose will be neglected in the climate movement unfortunately will only be enforced by the Covid19 crisis. We need to ensure that when we rebuild our world following the pandemic, we will do it in a just and sustainable way. Therefore, we must include all young voices and represent all myriad of young people’s realities that exist across Europe. As youth workers you can help us to encourage all young people to participate and represent the voices of those, who do not have a chance of making them heard.As humanity, we can’t always hand over the responsibility of stopping global warming to future generations – we have to act now to have a future left to live. We need your support in this fight – as youth workers and but also simply as humans.