Young people believe that the climate emergency is the most important issue facing the world today. Young people have also been some of the most successful at interpreting the key impact of climate change and bringing these ideas to a more mainstream audience.
Last year, we invited climate activists from all over the world to explain how they were raising awareness. They were striking from schools one day a week – until the pandemic hit, and there was no school to go to. The international climate COP summits where they would meet, to learn whether states have been meeting their climate targets, have all been postponed. As we adapted to living with a pandemic, they refused to adapt to living with a climate crisis. 2019 was the most dangerous year ever for environmental defenders.
This year, we’ll be hosting climate activists just days before the most meaningful US presidential election in history on climate action takes place.
Will the US president finally be a climate justice champion?
Let’s be honest: what happens in the United States – the world’s largest historic emitter of carbon pollution – matters for everyone in the world.
The numbers don’t lie: Joe Biden’s $2tn proposed investment in renewable energy and environmental justice for communities hardest hit by the intersections of systemic racism and climate change are the boldest climate agenda of any presidential nominee in US history – even bolder than Bernie Sanders’s 2016 climate platform.
Biden’s plan is no Green New Deal – he’s been very clear about that – but it is a path towards a Green New Deal that will transform millions of people’s lives in the short term. Activists from the Sunrise Movement are convinced they can keep the pressure on Biden to enact an even more progressive climate agenda. So far, the data bears that out.
A new poll of US voters age 18-40 in states where the election is close showed that enthusiasm is much higher this year than in 2016, and climate change is a huge reason why. According to former Obama White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer: “Informing young voters about Biden’s climate change plan is the single best way to increase enthusiasm for him.” Young voters, particularly voters of colour, said they were much more excited to vote for Joe Biden after hearing the following message:
Joe Biden plans to make a historic investment to fight climate change and secure environmental justice by investing $2tn in clean energy infrastructure and jobs, paid for by rolling back the Trump tax cuts.
Being a young person in 2020 is inherently dangerous. Being a young climate activist is especially so – especially in Latin America. Young people are literally putting their lives on the line for a better future.
If there’s one thing you can do to help advance the cause of climate justice between now and the election on 3 November, it’s talking about climate change and climate justice as much as you can with anyone who will listen – but especially with young voters. Here at The Correspondent, we want to hear from them all over the world, and we’re asking:
What stories are missing in the climate debate?
How are young climate activists continuing to find hope in what they do?
Disha A Ravi, India
Disha, 22, is a climate activist based in Bangalore, who started one of the first Fridays for Future chapters while at college in India. She is a business graduate who works with NGOs on plant-based foods. (@disharavii)
Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Philippines
Mitzi is co-founder of a youth climate action group based in Manila, Youth Advocates for Climate Action. (@mitzijonelle)
Belyndar Rikimani, Pacific Islands
Belyndar, 23, is from the Pacific Islands. She is the founding secretary of Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC). She is currently a law student based in Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation.
Laura Verónica Muñoz, Colombia
Laura, 23, is an activist for Fridays for Future Colombia and Pacto x El Clima. She has been involved in the process of adjusting the global climate movement to the Colombian context. (@_lauraveronica)
Coral Estefania Alonso Garcia, Mexico/US
Coral is an environmentalist from Mexico City, studying nursing in Colorado, US. She is part of the Sunrise Movement as well as the 350 Colorado organisation. "We are currently experiencing the worst fires in the history of the state," says Coral, of a time when Coloradans should have snow on their mountains. "I want to give a broader perspective on how an immigrant sees climate change destroying the landscape in the US, and how much impact this country has in how others might take action." (@Soy_fani)
Ahmed Saba, Egypt
Ahmed is a journalist and climate activist from Egypt. He founded the Al-Manakh platform in Al-Arabi as an independent media platform aimed at raising awareness of environmental journalism in the MENA region. "In Egypt, we are still talking about our experiences and reality in the absence of figures and statistics, and we, young people, are unable to release our ideas and opinions very freely." (@ahmedsaba47)
Collette Warona Levy-Brown, Zimbabwe
Collette, 18, is a climate justice activist from Zimbabwe, passionate about conservation, wildlife and respecting Indigenous peoples’ rights. She is involved in the Cop26 as a volunteer and the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. She is currently setting up a ZimYouthVoicesForClimate movement to empower and educate young people about climate and environmental issues that affect them and the impacts they are having in the Global South. (@collette_levy)
Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti, Kenya
Elizabeth, 24, is a leading voice in the climate debate in Kenya. At 19, she founded the Green Generation Initiative to encourage young people to connect with nature by instilling a tree-growing effort, and growing food forests for forest security. "A livable world is your future, and when that is denied, you must rise up and fight for it," she says. (@lizwathuti)
Munnira Katongole, South Africa
Munnira, 17, is part of the South African Institute of International Affairs, an independent public policy think tank advocating for sustainability. As a member of its youth policy committee on climate and gender, Munnira argues for more climate stories of Black African women to be told, adding: "We are the ones we’ve been waiting for." (@afrikanmunnira)
Ricardo Andres Pineda Guzman, Honduras
At 21, Ricardo was recognised as one of the UN’s 100 Youth Climate Champions. He is currently helping the Honduran presidential office on climate change on a national decarbonisation plan. Ricardo studies sustainable development engineering in Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico.(@Ricardo_Pineda1)
Maureen Damen, Senegal
Maureen, 16, is co-founder of Fridays for Future Senegal, and founded international activist network Rise Senegal. Senegal, where two-thirds of people live on the coast, is at danger of rising sea levels, and its agricultural and livestock production is threatened by climate change. Maureen has been raising awareness about Bargny, a city polluted by a coal plant, creating climate refugees. (@damenmaureen15, @for_senegal)
Sahar Mohamed, Yemen
Sahar is a Yemeni freelance journalist interested in environmental and humanitarian related issues. She works as a media project coordinator for a gender programme. (@sahar_mohm)
Sofia Hernández, Costa Rica
One of Sofia’s demands is for Costa Rica to ratify the Escazu agreement, a legally binding environmental rights pact for the protection of environmental defenders. "Costa Rica has not yet ratified the agreement because the state is invested in open pit mining, trawling, and the search for oil in our oceans. If we want real climate justice, we must put an end to these practices," says Sofia. (@sofia_realhs)
Kaossara Sani, Togo
Kaossara, 25, leads the Act On Sahel Movement. The Sahel region has become vulnerable to drought caused by climate change. She asks questions such as: why aren’t international climate summits held here? The Togolese activist raises awareness of fighting fossil fuel interests, campaigns for clean water in the region, and for the wellbeing of the Sahel people. (@KaoHua3)
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For Spanish-speakers, we’re having a parallel event
In 2020 alone, 80-90 people have been murdered for environmental activism in the Americas. US Hispanics are the group most likely to fight climate change. And in general, the Central and Latin American region does not act as a group when it comes to fighting for climate policies.
Our climate colleagues at RED/ACCIÓN, a member-funded media platform in Argentina, will bring a pan-Latin speaking perspective to this debate. They will contribute translations in text during the chat, as they watch and comment on this event over Zoom video chat with scientists and activists including:
Nicole Becker is an Argentine climate activist and co-founder of Jóvenes por el Clima Argentina. (@nickibeckerok),
Judith Pereira, 20, is a member of Fridays For Future Costa Rica and the youth and climate change network of Costa Rica. (@judi_pv)
Larissa Vejarano Branco, 21, is a Brazilian climate activist from Engajamundo. She studies international relations at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) in Rio de Janeiro state, and is a researcher in security and development.
Karin Watson, 23, is a Chilean activist for human rights and climate justice with a focus on gender equality. Karin studies design & art history, has campaigned for Amnesty International Chile, and worked as part of the Latinas for Climate project.
Lilia Roa, professor of ecological restoration at the Pontifical Xavierian University, Colombia
Argentinian scientist Inés Camilloni is one of the authors of the IPCC’s special report on global warming of 1.5°C, professor at the University of Buenos Aires and independent researcher at the Sea and Atmosphere Research Center. (@InesCamilloni)