This is why young people are key to keeping the planet cool

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Nina Rubakha

I am 24 years old. I am a member and activist of the Plato NGO, which deals with climate issues in the city of Lviv, Ukraine. I study in the Department of Geography at Ivan Franko National University, where I focus on climate change as part of my master’s thesis. I also study human resources management and labor economy at Lviv Polytechnic National University. I am interested in climate education, nature-oriented solutions, labor migration and vocational guidance. I love to learn about the world through my travels with a tent and a backpack. I love people more than cats.

Climate change affects everyone. Young people and old, students and environmental activists, small-town mayors and world leaders, you and me.

In recent years, almost every citizen in my country of Ukraine has experienced the reality of climate change. Floods, temperature changes, unbearable heat in summer, fires and droughts have all been part of our daily lives lately. Now, at last, the rising humanitarian and economic costs are forcing people to talk about the environment, and not just about cryptocurrency or flights to Mars.

Last year, I remember how drought in the Volyn region of Western Ukraine turned the top layer of soil into a dry cracked crust. And how a storm later lifted it into the air, forming dust clouds. I remember my grandmother cleaning the dirt from the windows of her house, telling me she had never seen this in 65 years of her life. It was at that point that I realized climate change is already here. Now, every day, I worry about the chances of a happy existence. Mine, yours and the whole planet’s.

My worries about the future are what drive me to fight climate change. They are also why I am participating in the 26th UN Framework Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. This event is very important to me, because it will give me the opportunity to join the global dialogue, which may be the start of a green transformation for many countries.

COP26 will be a kind of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis exercise for Ukraine and other countries, helping to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in their fight against climate change.

Taking part in a global initiative will also help me to make a difference in my hometown. I will be able to use my knowledge to explain to neighbors why they should not burn leaves in fruit garden and interact with local authorities to implement the municipal climate policy.

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Nina Rubakha
COP26 is very important to me, because it will give me the opportunity to join the global dialogue, which may be the start of a green transformation for many countries.

In Ukraine, like in other countries around the world, young people are becoming increasingly aware of the climate crisis. As a student, I believe climate education should be integrated into academic curricula, because it will further inspire them to take action. Young people are a powerful force and we can have a big influence on decision-making.

The last few years have seen us make big strides in this direction. Most notably, in 2018, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg inspired students and schoolchildren from around the world to join the Fridays For Future demonstrations, calling for decisive action on climate change. Slogans like “We do not have a planet B!” and “If you don’t act as adults, we will” helped to galvanize others.

We are responsible for the future of the Earth. I am convinced that the youth of today can create a greener tomorrow. Through education, science and technology, we can come together to influence political processes and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. The future is in our hands.

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