Sometimes it takes the clarity of youth to capture a moment.
Izzy Raj-Seppings had that clarity when she stayed out of the Australian Prime Minister’s residence despite being ordered to move in by riot police.
He was part of a small group protesting then Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s inaction on the climate crisis as the country suffered unprecedented bushfires across the Southeast.
A photo of 13-year-old Izzy, with tears streaming down her face, as a police officer told her to move, catapulted her to the forefront of an emerging generation that has been disappointed by its leaders and public institutions.
It wasn’t planned this way – it was only the second time Izzy had gone to a protest. But his moment of defiance played with a rising global youth movement, largely inspired by the protests of Greta Thunberg School Strike 4 Climate.
The Guardian provided a platform for these activists as the movement, often led by articulate and authoritative young women, evolved and expanded. In a piece written between school commitments, Izzy summarized her attitude towards the political class: “Their denial has gone on for too long. I’m tired, tired of lies and misdirection. I’m tired of looking at my future, that of my friends and family, our whole future, burn before our eyes “.
Miranda Whelehan, an activist with the Just Stop Oil activist group, expressed similar sentiments in April after being ridiculed by a British morning television presenter in a scene that may have come straight out of the satirical film Don’t Look Up.
Whelehan told the Guardian that he understood why people thought there were parallels between his experience and that of the characters in the film played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. Both have suffered from interviews with presenters who “think they know better than the chief scientists or academics who have been studying the climate crisis for decades, and refuse to hear otherwise.”
“It is voluntary blindness and it will kill us,” Whelehan wrote. “We will not continue as generations before and we will allow our actions today to have devastating consequences on those of tomorrow. It’s time to break that cycle and stand up for what’s right. “
Different activists are going down different paths to try to achieve this goal. For Bella Lack, 19, an activist turned climate author, advocating for what’s right was achieved by finding young people around the planet who were working to make changes in their communities that help improve the world and can inspire others.
The stories collected by Lack have become a book, The Children of the Anthropocene. They include a hunger strike by two sisters that convinced the governor of Bali to ban plastic bags and a campaign by a young Mumbai lawyer that led to a community campaign to clean up thousands of tons of plastic washed ashore on a beach. .
Lack told the Observer that rather than telling people abstract stories of destruction that were hard to relate to, he believed the way to bring about change was to share stories that align with an old environmental campaign adage: think global, act local. . The goal was “to try to get people to engage emotionally with what is happening.”
Vanessa Nakate’s struggle is to try to ensure that Africa receives its fair share of global attention. Africa is responsible for less than 4% of global emissions, but is disproportionately at risk from the climate crisis. Interviewed by the Guardian last December, Nakate, 25, discussed being cut out of an Associated Press photograph of young activists at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos.
As the only non-white activist in the photo, it was her omission that illustrated her point. “Erasing our voices is literally erasing our stories and what people care about their lives,” she said in another recent interview.
Nakate’s argument was simple. If the climate crisis discourse does not include African activists, it will aggravate and exacerbate existing injustices. “It is important to recognize that the climate crisis was caused by the global north and it is the global south that is suffering. This creates a huge responsibility for the global north to act, to ensure climate justice, especially for communities on the front lines, “she said.
The Guardian continues to follow youth activism as it enters a new phase where the crisis is no longer a problem of the future, but a real phenomenon of the present.
For Raj-Seppings, now 16, it meant joining eight teenagers’ lawsuit against the Australian government who claimed they had a legal responsibility to consider the climate impact on future generations before approving a mine expansion. of coal. A historic victory for teenagers was later overturned on appeal.
But Raj-Seppings still felt the campaign had been useful. He did what activism sets out to do: build towards change by reshaping the conversation about the government’s legal responsibility to tackle the climate crisis. The debate has intensified since the new Labor government was elected in May.
“You can’t win all at once,” he said, clearly, in a recent interview with the Guardian. “You have to take the small wins and keep pushing.”