If you are 12+ this letter about protecting your future is for you
We’ve got a situation here. The planet is warming above safe levels, and we have to increase our efforts to protect our climate and keep it cool for your safe future. As renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says, “Climate change is real. It’s us. It’s bad. But there are all kinds of solutions.”
One of my friends has a 12-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn. Her dad told me that she was worried about the state of the world. So this is my way of letting her and other young people know what I know about the current state of the world, why I am inspired and hopeful about the future, and the many young (and old) people protecting it. I also share ways that young people can get involved in protecting their future.
But first, why haven’t the adults already fixed up the climate? And why aren’t enough adults paying attention to their climate? You probably hear about climate change science in your school classes these days. Most adults, like myself, didn’t learn about climate science and solutions through school so we have had to learn about it through the news, friends, community groups, university, etc. I used to think that the impacts of climate change on our planet were far off, centuries in the future, and that our governments were working hard towards finding solutions. Australia even had, in 2013, a world-leading, federal carbon pricing or “Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).” But over time I witnessed that our governments were not all meeting their obligations to protect the future, with some even ignoring climate science, through what is called climate science denial.
I had two little girls, born in 2014 and 2016. They are my whole world. And the heat on my back as I took them round the streets in their buggy felt uncomfortably, disconcertingly hot. So I finally made the time to educate myself about climate science and solutions, and what I can best do to help. From educating myself I now know that we are already seeing the dangerous results of a changing climate, and climate action is extremely urgent. As we hear of heatwaves across the globe and droughts that may lead to food shortages, it seems that it is crunch time now. We have to keep calling on governments, industry and society to reduce fossil fuel use to net zero by 2050, if not before.
Protecting our climate is difficult because it still requires big changes in how we use resources as a society. A great place to start to learn about solutions is through a book called Drawdown by environmental writer Paul Hawken, who got some of the world’s best researchers and scientists to help determine the 100 best solutions to reverse global warming to protect our safe climate. You can also check out the This Is Zero Hour youth platform for protecting the climate for a great list of things to ask for when speaking with your politicians, parents and friends. You could educate yourself, your friends and family about ways to take personal actions, and raise awareness for climate solutions through an eco-challenge like Drawdown EcoChallenge 2018.
When I first learned that my children’s future was in danger, I was scared. But I found taking action, and connecting with others who were taking action, the most powerful antidote. One of the most powerful ways I can recommend to protect your safe future is joining a movement with others, where you can learn to lobby your politicians and speak out for your future. I have interviewed some young climate activists who share their stories below. You can also use your creativity and knowledge to explore new solutions and ideas, like the special, climate change resilient houses: https://www.earthshipglobal.com. You could get inspired by some of the young people mentioned in this video by Katharine Hayhoe: youtube videos. As a young person in Australia, if you would like to speak up as an advocate for your safe future, you can get involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia, but you might also find like-minded young people through organisations like Switched on Schools (Australia) switchedonschools.org.au, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC, www.aycc.org.au) and Seed (www.seedmob.org.au).
Young people, you deserve a safe, habitable planet. You are so loved by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, etc. and I can assure you that the adults that understand the climate challenge are doing all we can to protect your safe climate. As well as the stories by young people, I have included additional links at the end of the article to inspire you to take action to protect your future. I would love to hear from you about the actions you take to protect your safe climate and liveable planet. We are all in this together.
Young people’s voices and actions are some of the greatest forces for change:
Here’s a few quotes from young people like yourself that I have had the pleasure to interview about their own climate action.
Emelly Villa, This is Zero Hour
Emelly Villa, a 17-year-old working with the youth climate movement
ThisisZeroHour.org shares her thoughts with me on when and how children should learn about climate change: “I had always heard about climate change growing up, but I had never really understood it up until two years ago. Two years ago I happened to come upon a documentary talking about the dangerous effects climate change would have on our future. There, climate change was depicted as an issue with no solution which led to me feeling very overwhelmed and unaware of how to do my part. However, after doing my own research and witnessing our youth come together, such as what is being done in Zero Hour, I’ve learned that while there is a lot of work to be done there is still hope.”
Jamie Margolin, This is Zero Hour
Jamie Margolin, the 16-year-old leader of the ThisisZeroHour.org youth movement and a plaintiff on the Washington state “Youth v. Gov” climate lawsuit uses her writing, community building and many other skills to inspire climate action. You can read her article in CNN here, where she ponders the big IF of what the future holds, and inspires leaders and people everywhere to act. She’s a very inspiring speaker and you can hear some of her thoughts in this podcast. Zero Hour even have their own platform for protecting the climate. One of her many quotable expressions from a recent TV interview on HVN was this: “The problem with society not taking climate action is not denial. It’s apathy.” She shared with me how she became aware of the need for political action on climate: “My grandpa was a Jew who fought in WW2, so I grew up watching holocaust and WW2 documentaries and more War time movies than I can remember. My dad and grandpa are both aviation engineers so I also grew up watching documentaries about space, the cosmos, and most importantly the environment and the planet. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a political consciousness and cared. I’ve always cared and been invested in the events and issues in the world.”
And she had this advice for young people keen to take climate action in her interview with Ultimate Civics: “Just get started. Attend a community event and start talking to people there and work your way into that world. That’s how I got started and my involvement snowballed from there.”
Chante is 24, from Melbourne, Victoria. She is the Victorian Schools Co-coordinator for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). I asked her what inspired her to get active in protecting our safe climate? “I think that climate change is the greatest threat to society at large, the greatest threat to my safe and happy future and the safe and happy future that I want for my children that I want to have. I want future generations to love and enjoy the planet just as I have.”
Grace Vegesana, AYCC
Grace Vegesana, at 18, is the NSW State Leader for the AYCC. I asked her about a place special to her that she wants to protect from climate change. She shared a beautiful, local, personal story: “It’s the deciduous London Plane tree in my neighbour’s backyard that I watch most carefully. Ever since I was a child, I’ve watched excitedly as that tree transforms from its uniform shades of green, to intensely sunset coloured the moment Autumn arrived. Today, 13 years on, it is Winter, June 5th, and the same tree has not shed a leaf, and is still as green as it was in Spring.”
She also shared her thoughts on when we can discuss climate with children.
“A really tough question. As an 18 year old, full time climate activist, I joined [AYCC] because I felt a sense of absolute and utter urgency, but I understand the need to maintain youth innocence, so kids aren’t having 1/4 life crises at 18 like I did…[but] there shouldn’t be an age limit on when you can start learning, especially about climate change, which children inherit from previous generations’ mistakes.”
Sarah Plaut, Asheville High School, Drawdown EcoChallenge winner
Sarah Plaut, a 17-year-old, was a student at Asheville High School, North Carolina, USA. Her school group won the Drawdown EcoChallenge in 2018. I asked her what inspired her to get active in protecting our safe climate: “Throughout my life I noticed temperatures rising by the year and strange weather patterns. Seeing hurricanes crash into the Caribbean year after year is terrifying. [In] science classes I started to learn the science behind climate change. This year specifically, hearing about drawdown, I began to realize there are things that we as individuals can actually change.” She offered the following advice for kids (and adults) wanting to do more to look after our climate and our planet: “Your actions can make a difference. Everyone thinks just because the problem is too big it can never be solved. However, small actions such as reaching out to your government officials or eating less meat actually do make a huge impact.”
Here are some resources to help you on your way to becoming a private or a public advocate for your own future (and your parents might find these helpful too!):
A) Fact-checking and critical analysis:
One of the issues raised by young people in a recent ABC Behind the News QandA (https://twitter.com/BehindTheNews) was how to tell fact from fiction in the news. Young people in the show wanted to know how best to develop critical analysis skills. Here are a few ideas and resources to help with this for climate awareness:
- Stick with the global authorities and internationally recognised voices to start with. Just as there are climate science deniers, there are some people who believe in climate change but speak of doomsday scenarios. However, the majority of respected climate scientists, such as those listed below, say that reversing global warming will be hard but is do-able. Then once you get your confidence up, you can venture online and further develop your own opinion – but try to focus on the solutions!!
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC, www.ipcc.ch) is the leading global authority on climate change. However their output generally consists of detailed reports. I would love to see them share more infographics and simple, accessible information.
- Alliance for Climate Education (ACE, acespace.org/the-deal): head to their website and learn how climate change is “simple, serious andsolvable”. This website provides climate science and action resources for kids
- Look for peer reviewed articles, from scientists trained in the relevant area. (See my list at the end for some of my favourite climate scientists and activists that you can follow on twitter, etc.)
- Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science: a) Google it (do an internet search to check for corroboration), b) check Snopes.com, c) look in an encyclopaedia, d) ask a professor in that field
- Reliable climate news in Australia can usually be found at https://www.theguardian.com/au/environment and https://reneweconomy.com.au
- Learn basic chemistry/maths/critical analysis so you can make up your own mind as new climate topics/solutions/actions come to light
- Emily Willingham (Forbes, 2012) offers some more ideas to tell real news from fake news: “10 Questions To Distinguish Real From Fake Science” https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2012/11/08/10-questions-to-distinguish-real-from-fake-science/#65ece90d146c
B) Advocacy and education for young people:
- Switched on Schools switchedonschools.org.au (Australia, via AYCC)
- AYCC (www.aycc.org.au) (Australia)
- Seed (seedmob.org.au) (Australia)
- Alliance for Climate Education (acespace.org) (USA)
- ThisIsZeroHour org (thisiszerohour.org) (USA)
Youth Climate March Washington DC July 21 2018 + sister marches
- Parachutes for the Planet (for kids of any age):
- Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia: ccl.org.au (sign up with your parents!!) (Australia)
- My site: https://climatekiss.com/creative-environment-kids/and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CreativeEnvironmentKids/
- Learn more about solutions to climate change that are good for our communities now: Project Drawdown: (drawdown.org/solutions)
- Look after yourself!! Reachout mental fitness: https://au.reachout.com/mental-fitness
- Start your own movement or find your own solution: Katharine Hayhoe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PslL9WC-2cQ
- Greta Thunberg’s climate strike from school in Sweden: https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg
- How to talk to kids of different ages to engage them on climate change and environmental issues (my article): https://climatekiss.com/2018/05/16/how-to-talk-to-kids-of-different-ages-to-engage-them-on-climate-change-and-environmental-issues/
Politicians speaking up for climate:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, USA:
Cool climate scientists:
Michael E Mann:
Leading Australian climate scientists via the Climate Council
About the author:
Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)