Young people at the forefront of the climate crisis

by | Sep 23, 2021 | Blog, News and Updates, Season of Creation | 0 comments

Young people are at the forefront of the climate crisis, as they showed in this Laudato Si’ Movement and Season of Creation dialogue.The Laudato Si’ Movement hosted a unique webinar featuring young panelists from all over the world who came together to discuss the role of the youth in leading the demand for climate action.

“We’ve had cyclones in Mozambique, floods in New York and Western Europe, record-setting wildfires in Siberia, Greece and California. I never thought we would come to a point where we use the term ‘record-setting’ for anything other than Kenyan athletes, yet here we are, talking of record-setting wildfires,” said Mercy Ikũri, the event’s moderator, in an opening statement.

“If all this is the opening act of the climate crisis, then the show cannot go on.”

The panel was a spectacular catalogue of young leaders with a myriad of experiences that made for an interesting and enriching dialogue. 

Linda Makau, a Biodiversity and Climate Crisis intern at the Laudato Si’ Movement, set the ball rolling by presenting a light-hearted video on youth reactions that mirrored a Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, which gauged how U.S. teenagers feel about climate change.

Nearly all — 86 percent — believe the consensus of the scientific community. Fifty-seven percent of teens say climate change makes them feel afraid. Fifty-two percent feel angry. Forty-three percent feel helpless. Only 29 percent feel optimistic.

The first panelist to make an address was Allen Ottaro, the founder and Executive Director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), based in Kenya and which currently has chapters in 10 African countries.

He touched on bridging the gap between environmental policy and practice, as well as the active participation of the youth in various policy dialogue platforms. He also highlighted the potential of Africa in all this as the continent has more young people than anywhere else in the world.

Sofía Velasco Ayala, a sociologist and lawyer from Ecuador who has contributed locally and globally to research on educational and environmental policy, spoke of the climate movement as a social movement with new perspectives and new actors making use of technology to self-organize.

Using the case study of nine Amazonian girls who put an end to the oil industry’s gas flaring in the Ecuadorian Amazon, she also spoke of the new wave of litigation where young people are taking governments, countries and companies to court over failure to respond to the climate crisis – and winning.

“I think any agreement should be more than words. I think that we have had many agreements already made but if they are not complied with, we have nothing… it’s all but empty promises and we already have enough of that. If we had more ways to demand authorities and actors in general to comply with these agreements, that would be amazing. To do something effective towards our planet, that would be the most necessary thing to do in an agreement,” Ayala said.

Also featured was Chen Ming from Friends of Nature, China, which was one of the earliest environmental protection social organizations in China and is dedicated to rebuilding the connection between man and nature.

Ming addressed the audience’s questions on China’s vow to stop building coal plants overseas and what this would mean for the domestic market as well as the fact that China will be hosting COP15, the United Nations Biodiversity conference in October this year (online) and April and May (in-person) next year.

Michael Khaduyu, a Policy and Governance Research Associate at AGNES-Africa (the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support), talked about the implications of cutting global emissions for economies and how suitable local laws can support the quest for climate justice in courts.

To wrap up the event, Fr. Stephen Makagutu, a member of the JPIC (the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation) Capuchins, called on everyone to be the change they wish to see in our world by joining the divestment announcement on 26 October and signing the Healthy Planet Healthy People petition ahead of the United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Sign the petition today

Laudato Si’ Movement
Laudato Si’ Movement

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