As world leaders gather for the the COP26 climate conference, young people are calling those in power to urgently reduce emissions, increase investment in climate adaptation, and include youth in climate negotiations.
COP is the Conference of Parties, the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that meets yearly to assess and review the progress that countries are making to tackle climate change.
A group of young content creators shared their experiences and collected additional stories of young climate activists advocating for urgent change around the world.
Project by Amy O'Brien (15, Ireland), Victory Ashaka (19, Nigeria), Katie Yu (15, Canada), Doménica Reyes Reyes (22, Ecuador) and Anjolaoluwa Olanrewaju (18, Nigeria) as part of our Youth Mediathon.
A world of activists
Climate change is one of the most pressing global issues affecting everyone. You might think all of us suffer its impacts in the same way, but that’s not true. Climate change affects certain groups more than others, and younger generations have the challenge of preventing its worst effects.
Additionally, they are the most ignored when dealing with policy makers and government. Our spark is not lost though, because we know we deserve to be involved in fighting the climate crisis on a deeper level. That's how our project was born: we wanted to highlight the work young climate activists are doing to fight climate change in their communities around the world, and inspire each other to take action. In the end, we are stronger together.
Read the stories of this group of young advocates from Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Belize, Ireland, Nigeria and India. Discover other activists demanding action and inspiring hope, here.
Katie Yu, 15, Canada 🇨🇦
I’ve lived my entire life in Iqaluit, the capital of Canada’s northernmost territory, Nunavut, around landscapes of sea ice, tundra, and mountains. I became passionate about the environment at a young age. I’ve also advocated for the climate with UNICEF Canada through its Youth Advocacy Program, and I’m currently working on restarting the green club at my high school.
Through my experience, I’ve learned that Northern communities are the least responsible for climate change because our communities are so small, but we’re also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Climate change is thinning the sea ice that many people depend on for activities such as hunting and land travel. These impacts are especially felt by Inuit, whose culture and skills are adapted to the Northern climate, so we need urgent action to prioritize Indigenous rights, reconciliation, and land stewardship.
Climate change has also caused weird and warm weather patterns. Nunavut has had a very warm and wet year in 2021, and we also had a climate change-influenced thunderstorm this summer, which was extremely rare for us.
I’m the kind of person who has many interests, including life sciences, the arts and public policy, so I’m grateful to have had opportunities to learn about the science behind both climate change and climate solutions, create content on climate and the environment, and advocate for the climate with several organizations, my high school, and decision makers.
Being a climate activist in the Arctic has been challenging, as we don’t have a lot of the green infrastructure southern communities have, such as a widespread recycling program.
We also don’t experience super obvious effects such as heat waves and hurricanes. Even though climate change is warming the North about three times faster than the world average, its effects can seem much slower sometimes, and it can feel like the sense of urgency is low. Nonetheless, it’s rewarding to see progress being made on environmental issues in the North, and it’s made me even more appreciative of the local environment and wildlife here.
I will continue to advocate for the climate and the environment here, and the wildlife and people who live here. After all, Nunavut, the territory I live in, translates from the Inuit language of Inuktitut into “our land.”
Dana Jordan, 18, Canada 🇨🇦
In 2019 I was fortunate to participate in the Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) course at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Choosing to be a part of this experience was the best decision I have made in my life to this day; my time at YLS enriched my understanding of Indigenous teachings, world issues (such as the climate crisis) and gave me the tools to be a leader in sustainable living. Furthermore, this experience opened up a world of learning for me and set me down the path I took to be where I am today.
My friends and I got together and organized a climate action rally aligned with the Fridays for the Future movement across from City Hall, where we made our voices heard at local meetings of city council concerning climate action and made the front page of The Peterborough Examiner. Some of us spoke to the city council and in doing so, we were able to successfully and unanimously declare a state of climate emergency in Peterborough, Ontario, as well as later raise funding for the municipal climate action budget.
I had caught the bug. I was selected to be the youth member of the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee (PEAC), the Peterborough Youth Council (PYC), co-chair of a local climate action team working on the United Nations’ SDGs and served on my high school’s student council as the community liaison. While serving my terms for these councils and committees. I also did a summer co-op in environmental law and am a co-author of “How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Reshaped Global Patterns of Plastic Use and the Timing of Regulatory Phase-outs and Possible Progressive Legal, Regulatory and Consumer Responses” an article published by the Ontario Bar Association (OBA).
Environmentalism has opened up a world of learning for me and my activism has set me down the path I took to be where I am today, studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. With my future career, I strive to be a changemaker for a world in which we all do our part to be stewards of the environment.
Antar Abreu, 16, Mexico 🇲🇽
I've lived my whole life in Mazatlán, a coastal city in northwestern Mexico always bustling with tourists due to our "ideal" tropical climate, neoclassical architecture, and stunning sunsets cast over the Pacific Ocean.
Childhood memories of family and friends drinking hot chocolate with Rosca de Reyes around our fireplace in the winter or feeling cool breezes flowing through the house on summer nights are ones that I hold very close to my heart. And yet, I realize now that due to noticeable warming in my city, these memories are far in the past.
I was introduced to climate change at a very young age and grew up hearing about it my entire life. Even so, I always thought about it as this distant, futuristic problem that would only start to affect humanity far past my lifespan. And yet, here we are. I can't remember the last time we used our fireplace, and AC had to be installed in 2 rooms to prevent sleepless nights in the hottest periods of summer.
Sadly, these lifestyle changes are insignificant compared to what other members of my community have experienced. Mazatlan and its surrounding communities have suffered through the worst drought the region has faced in 58 years, AND severe flooding all in this year alone!
As I became aware of these changes and looked further into the climate crisis, realizing just how dire our species' situation is hit me like a truck. As a young person, I believe our voices are our most powerful tool. Communicating the Earth and youth's needs and demands to public representatives through national summits, international events, and a local wildlife conservation group are some of the ways I've been able to get involved.
I've learned so much from meeting incredible people who have become inspirational figures and mentors in my life. And with their guidance, I'm now developing a research project, working with young people all across my country to analyze water-related problems in vulnerable communities. There is so much I can gather from what I've learned this past year. I have found my passion, and many others I've met have found theirs too.
Doménica Reyes, 22, Ecuador 🇪🇨
I was born in the Middle of the World, a climatic paradise. Being born in Ecuador, I felt like I always enjoyed a privileged climate. Yes, the coast usually faces the El Niño phenomenon and our summers, although arriving late, are getting hotter in the Highlands. But all in all, our climate was always stable. I was sure climate change did not hit us hard here. And then I moved to Canada.
I went from living in a climatic paradise on the equator to the cold, Atlantic Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The snow was fun and all but during my third winter in January 2018, Western Newfoundland experienced an unusually warm 13 °C (55.4 °F) temperature one day. It was so warm that I went for a walk to enjoy the weather. Little did I know, while I was chilling in the park, a state of emergency was being declared in the news.
People were suffering. We thought that was the worst thing that could happen but two years later, we got a storm so big people called it Snowmaggedon. Its 76 centimetres of snow and winds of 130 km/h forced us to stay inside for at least a week.
The pandemic forced me to move back to Ecuador. I had to leave Newfoundland abruptly, leaving half of my stuff behind. When I finally got home, almost 6 weeks after the border closures, this place looked different for me. The sun was hotter, I could feel radiation penetrating my skin, the air smelled like smog, and the snow-capped peaks that decorated the horizon my whole life were nowhere to be seen. Soon, I found out my hometown, Quito, was running out of water because of the rapid melting of glaciers.
Somewhere along the way I had become oblivious to my own country’s reality. I was too comfortable in my situation before moving, enjoying life in a resource-rich country.
I want to create awareness before it is too late, I want to teach new generations how to stand up for our planet. That’s why I started a blog called Talk on Climate, a safe space where all voices matter. It doesn't matter where you come from or what you do for a living, only that you have something to say about the climate crisis. I want to amplify the voices of those who share my purpose, because words are one of the biggest weapons against climate change.
Chelsea Frutos, 22, Belize 🇧🇿
I come from a very small yet beautiful country and I was raised by people who love the environment. My dad taught me from a young age that it is us who depend on the Earth, not the other way around. I’ve always kept this in the back of my mind.
Growing up in a country filled with reefs, rainforests, and abundant flora and fauna, I've always felt connected to nature. I feel pretty lucky to have been born in a place like this, to be honest. So for me, climate change means taking care of that.
Although I’m studying abroad and I plan to continue after I graduate, this place will always be my home. I’ll always come back. Climate change means that all the beautiful things I love about my country are at risk. I can’t have that.
Climate change for me means taking action so that the future generations of my country can also live off of, love and appreciate what we have. Climate change for me means standing up to bigger countries who contribute to the majority of GHG emissions, while the smaller countries are the ones suffering the consequences. Wherever you’re from, I hope you love it well enough to want to protect it.
Anjolaoluwa Olanrewaju, 18, Nigeria 🇳🇬
Nigeria is filled with green leaves, rich soils flowing with milk and honey as they say, blue skies, beautiful birds and very vast rainforests, just to mention a few. This is what every normal human can see, this is what every ignorant person would say about Nigeria’s environment without taking a look at his/her surroundings.
I used to see my country like the picture I painted earlier, but after I heard the words "climate change" in 2017 and did my research, my perception changed toward a lot of things involving the environment since then.
During the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, I was chosen by an organization called the Creative Youths Community Development Initiative (CYCDI) to create 17 masterpieces with some of my colleagues about climate change, relating it to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the virus.
The paintings were officially launched in September 2020 by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed. This was my first action to tackle this menace after 4 years, the first step I ever took to talk about climate change. Since then, I have grown to teach, preach and advocate for the climate through my artwork. (You can see some of them below.)
I also joined an NGO called Green Janitors, an initiative that focuses on keeping the environment clean and sustainable to further help my surroundings the best that I can. Personally, I also started to pick up littered plastics around me, which I have been storing in my backyard for proper recycling when the time comes.
Climate change is a pandemic on its own, looking for more places to affect and destruct. Let us not wait until we don’t have houses to stay in, or animals and vegetables to feast on.
Victory Ashaka, 19, Nigeria 🇳🇬
While growing up, I discovered some environmental challenges that threaten our very existence such as the rippling effects of carbon emissions, overwhelming floods from improper waste disposal, and the adverse effects of climate pollution. Gradually, we are losing our forest and people are going hungry because of drought.
My advocacy journey was inspired by hope for a better world to live in, because climate change is a catastrophe happening and we have got to take responsibility to save the planet and its ecosystems. If we don't act now to save the planet, we may bear the brunt of the adverse effects.
My decision to save the planet started from my community, by being conscious about enlightening people about the climate crisis, properly disposing of waste and encouraging use of biodegradable materials for sustainability.
I was also able to volunteer with major organisations such as Solution-17 to create video content, pictures and creative art pieces – to call on local and national policy makers to act now and significantly reduce climate pollution to build climate resilience.
Read Victory's poem below.
Amy O’Brien, 16, Ireland 🇨🇮
My name is Amy O’Brien, I’m 16 and I’ve always lived in Ireland. I really got involved in activism when I learned to care. What do I mean by that? Well...
I love reading and when I was about 8, I started picking up more (and more) feminist books and learning about the inequalities people around the world faced. So many people never had this choice to opt in or out of just knowing about inequity. I also took the time to read about the people who live in Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA) by climate change and experience these realities.
In primary school, I was part of my Green Schools Committee where we encouraged students to turn off lights and the tap; habits which I later connected to climate change. I’ve loved being in nature since I was a girl and felt part of it in a way that we've been so discouraged to feel but is rooted in our history: climbing trees, picking blackberries and my Grandad taught me how to grow our own vegetables. So when I joined my Cork County Comhairle na nOg, one of the local youth county councils in Ireland, I built a foundation of simply caring for humanity and the planet which is all, I think, you need to begin making a difference.
Through Comhairle, I was offered amazing opportunities to go to environmental events, consultations and the National Youth Council of Ireland’s (NYCI) Future Generations project where I learned about the term ‘climate justice’ in conversation with 5 other young people. I started the Sustainable Sleepover Club podcast and I am part of the Instagram team for Girl Up International, which is a UN initiative to empower girls worldwide. I've also worked with Youth Against Racism and Inequalities and Fridays for Future, where I have become active at home and internationally as a newsletter editor.
I still ensure that I have time to write and reflect so I can continue learning. My understanding or even basic awareness of topics has changed but as someone who holds layers of privilege, I know that reading, listening and questioning must be lifelong commitments. Too often in the media we are presented with a victim-villain scenario in which we don't identify with either, rather than looking at the ways we are living in a system born of colonialism and patriarchy. So then, we are limited by the ideas of current society and say ‘I’d never do that’ rather than looking into the depth of ways that that system has reproduced in your language, beliefs and actions. So I would definitely say that unlearning is part of my activism and needs to be.
There is so much injustice in the world today caused or further aggravated by the climate crisis and along with unlearning and listening, each person reading this can join the climate movement in some way. I’ve learned from my activism that it is true, we are stronger together. Love, not hatred, is fuelling our fight, which is why the little girl in me who cared was already on her way to being part of the revolution.
Theresa Rose Sebastian, India 🇮🇳
For me, my journey began in 2018 with the floods in my native home of Kerala, in India. These floods were extremely dangerous and unfortunately took the lives of hundreds and left more missing. I was lucky and only had financial losses. But the fear of wondering what will happen when I wake up, is a fear I haven't forgotten.
When I returned to Ireland, where I study, I knew I had to do something. I was extremely privileged being able to return to Ireland "unscathed" when my home was in ruins. I educated myself and decided, if this is the fight to protect the land and people I love, then this is the fight I shall fight.
I have been working in this sphere for 3 years now. My journey has taught me the importance of communities and grassroot actions. It has shown me the power of education. I have learned skills of negotiating, planning and organising - key skills I wouldn't have picked up otherwise.
It has shown me how important my values are to me and the circles I engage myself in. My journey has also given me the opportunity to have met, worked with and befriended some of the most beautiful, inspiring and passionate people I have ever met. I wouldn't change a thing!
But I do not want to be campaigning for climate justice when I am supposed to be teaching my kids how to draw. I do not want to be organising talks and strikes when I should be preparing for my wedding day. I do not want to have to pull an oxygen mask over my child's face as I show them the leftovers of what used to be my home in India.
I want the future to be clean, to be sustainable. I want a future without injustices, without fossil fuels and where communities are taking the lead. I want to reinvent the way we see our political systems - with more circular communication styles. I no longer want to see profit and greed over the good of the people. I want a justice oriented world, a justice filled future.
Oluchi Nwaokorie, 22 Nigeria 🇳🇬
Climate change is the nightmare that is creeping in, clouding my blue skies, polluting the air I breathe, blocking the sound of nature, preventing me from seeing magnificent creatures and threatening my future.
I was twelve years old when I realized I could indeed make change and cause impact with my talents and words and that was a beautiful feeling, it propelled me to do more to speak to the world majorly through my artistic talents, tackling national and global issues and being awarded for it.
I looked at my immediate community and saw that a major contributor to our climate crisis was “Waste”. It is everywhere, from our streets, to our gutters, clogging up waterways, causing pollution and contributing to climate change. That gave birth to the idea of “REFORMERS”, a company centered on waste management and circular economy. In 2019 I finalized the draft and gathered a team of youths and shared my dream with them and REFORMERS SDG13 was created in 2020.
Reformers is currently registered and has over 30 youth members all with a passion to solve the climate crisis and give back to our community through awareness creation to secondary school students, cleanups in traffic areas in our community and recycling of waste to produce innovative products and services. We also have the support from amazing partner companies like “Solution 17 for SDGs” and are the recipient of the UN Unconditional Basket fund by the United Nations Development Programme.
Oluwaseyi Babalola, 20, Nigeria 🇳🇬
Bold climate action is what we need as we do not have a planet B unless we plan on following Elon Musk to Mars. Globally and personally, we all should work towards reducing our carbon footprints on the earth and its resources.
At age 18, I came across a paper on climate change that spurred my interest and made me knowledgeable about the subject. Before then I was just a Crafter and a craft trainer who makes craft from waste and local products without fully knowing the benefit.
My knowledge of climate change was then applied to my skills and I started the journey of educating people in my environment about the need for a sustainable lifestyle, how to achieve a zero waste lifestyle and the need to tackle climate change. In my journey of educating people, I discovered many people have heard of climate change but they are not fully aware of what it means.
There is a need for people to fully understand the climate system and know how to apply that knowledge in their careers and their day-to-day activities. Also, there's a need for young ones in primary schools and secondary schools to be knowledgeable about climate change and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprints.
My major challenges in being an environmentalist and a climate change activist include lack of funds to implement projects and poor implementation of government policies that gives constant fear for the future.
Ashade Abdulsalam Abiodun, Nigeria 🇳🇬
I live in a coastal area in Lagos-Nigeria, a place called Badagry, a historical town surrounded by water and nature. I found out that many times when I visit the beach, our waterways are filled with plastics. These are solid wastes that take thousands of years to decompose, and of course they endanger our aquatic animals and indirectly affect us too because we consume these animals.
So, I launched a Project called “Pick the Plastics' through my initiative - Green Janitors Sustainable Initiative. Our mission for “Pick the Plastic'' is to create a change mindset by showing people where their garbage goes, and to help reduce the marine pollution problem by education and removal, in order to reduce flooding and plastic pollution that emit to our precious oceans and waterways and promoting the culture of recycling in a long run to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Amongst all the projects I've been involved in, I still face challenges which have ranged from funding, people's perception, environment and the government’s involvement.
Art for climate action
As part of the 'Solution17 for Climate Action in Africa' project, 18-year-old Anjolaoluwa Olanrewaju from Nigeria collaborated with other artists to create 17 paintings about climate change. The theme was “Lessons learnt from COVID19 to fight Climate Crisis: A Race We Must Win”. Discover some of Anjolaoluwa's artworks here:
A POEM FOR THE PLANET
Against the sting of poverty on humanity.
Unemployment and lack of basic amenities prevail,
The economy is increasingly frail.
The land is fertile and green to enhance planting,
To provide food for all, so no more waiting.
Clean water heals man's soul and quenches thirst,
Sanitation spurs healthy living and sanity at first,
In pursuit of sustenance, equality is a priority,
Everyone should learn and earn with no inferiority.
The wheel of production must be accelerated,
For maximum consumption, we must be committed.
The oceans are more acidic and rising,
Creatures must thrive, humans must keep living.
The earth is warming, carbon levels are absurd,
Climate change is everyone's problem amidst all odds.
Let's win this fight together without lifting a sword,
Let's leave no one behind for a better world.