By Student Delegate Paige Beyer
On August 20, 2018 Greta Thunberg skipped school. Alone, she sat outside the Swedish parliament for the entirety of the school day with a hand-painted sign: school strike for climate. What started as a singular act, soon became a global movement. A little over a year later, climate strikes had spread throughout the world. In September 2019, nearly 250,000 people marched outside City Hall in New York City, and 100,000 people marched on Westminster Abbey in London. A staggering 1.4 million people marched throughout Germany, all echoing Greta’s message: act now.
In the years since Greta’s first climate strike, youth-led movements have increasingly pushed for climate action, questioning the actions (and inactions) of governments. Students flood the streets demanding politicians take meaningful action in combatting climate change, something students argue is jeopardizing their future. From ridges to reefs, the youth has mobilized to affect the change they wish to see.
Youth Lobby, a grassroots coalition of Vermont youth, partners with legislators, nonprofits, and community members to “affect the change younger generations are demanding.” On November 17, 2019, Youth Lobby held the first ever Vermont Youth Climate Congress, a gathering of students throughout the state to pass a declaration that called to divest from fossil fuels and urged policymakers to take immediate action to address climate change. In January 2020, the Youth Lobby testified to the House Committee on Transportation, urging them to support their declaration’s specific recommendations regarding transportation initiatives.
A recent victory for Youth Lobby, and the state, was the Senate’s vote to overrule Governor Phil Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act. The new legislation requires the state to meet its targets for reducing carbon emissions in the coming years. Prior to Governor Scott’s decision, the Youth Lobby sent the governor a letter strongly urging him not to veto the legislation. Writing as the “elusive youth of Vermont,” the letter focused on the need for strong leadership and effective policymaking. Recognizing Vermont’s aging population, Youth Lobby looks to play an influential role in the policies that will shape the state’s future.
In the Seychelles, young people are being equipped with the knowledge and resources to promote sustainable development. The SIDS Youth AIMS Hub, the Seychelles chapter of the youth-led NGO, promotes sustainable development through youth-led projects. Funded by the Seychelles Climate and Conservation and Adaptation Trust, SIDS Youth AIMS Hub launched the Blue Economy Internship Programme (BEIP). The internship focuses on exposing Seychellois youth to the blue economy and established frameworks for sustainable development.
Through diverse projects, the internship teaches the importance of the ocean and introduces ways to protect the nation’s resource. BEIP not only exposes young people to the blue economy but explores the conservation and career opportunities within sustainable development. By investing in the youth, the BEIP helps them imagine a sustainable, “blue” nation empowering them to make the necessary changes to invest in their nation’s natural resources.
While climate activism is not a new phenomenon, the youth involvement is. Young people around the world reject the traditional notion of “adults in charge,” and instead are equipping themselves with the knowledge and resources to fight for a more green and blue future.