Now or never: ChangemakerXchange focuses on climate action

April 22, 2022

By Nick McGirl, Greta Rossi & Tariq Al-Olaimy

THE CONTEXT

The triple planetary crises (climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution) is likely the biggest existential threat humanity has ever encountered. The most recent IPCC report has described the situation as ‘now or never to stave off climate disaster’ and the climate talks at COP26 were tersely summed up by Greta Thunberg as atwo-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah”. 

These crises are disproportionately affecting society’s most at-risk individuals and regions and accelerating a plethora of interdependent social challenges, including gender inequality and systemic racism. Our dependence on fossil fuels also contributes to many of the conflicts we witness today. 

'Climate justice is the key to all justice.’ - Jamie Margolin, 18-year-old youth climate activist. 

Young people today are naturally the group which will be most heavily affected by the crises in the future. But they also experience the highest levels of anxiety about the issue now with an Avaaz study showing 75% of children and young people feel the future is frightening. They are also the demographic who are moving the needle on the climate crisis, holding leaders to account like never before. Take the Fridays for Future movement for example – they have mobilised tens of millions of people into climate action and hosted over one hundred thousand strike events.

Beyond the crucially necessary protests, young people are also offering solutions. Examples from our global ChangemakerXchange community include people like Mutetelenu, who trains Southern African children to be climate change ambassadors; Tariq, who co-authored this article and who helps us learn from and collaborate with nature through Public Planet Partnerships; or Vera, who recentlyjoined Germany’s Federal Ministry for Climate Action as a special advisor. 

THE CHALLENGES

However, choosing a route to climate leadership can be a treacherous path, particularly for those who start young. We identified four key challenges youth climate leaders face.

1. Burnout 

Many youth climate leaders describe having experienced burnout, risking both their personal sustainability and the sustainability of their initiatives in the process. Our global research with The Possibilists also backs this up, with 59% of young changemakers having experienced some degree of burnout during their work on their initiatives. This risk of burnout is even higher among women and non-binary folks, and changemakers between 16 and 24. 

“I don’t want to be burned out, to already be tired of fighting when I’m so young.” - Sena Wazer, 17-year-old climate action changemaker. 

2. Inclusion and Access 

Youth are often tokenised and not given meaningful platforms to air their grievances or present their solutions. Those from historically marginalised communities andthe Global South are often even more excluded from the key conversations despite experiencing the most direct threats of climate change. COP26 was framed as the whitest and most privileged ever and constant disparities are pointed out in media coverage of climate activists in the Global South vs. North. 

3. Personal Finance & Organisational Funding 

Our research shows that only 9% of young changemakers can compensate themselves properly through their initiatives. They are chronically underfunded and are often forced to look elsewhere for financial compensation and security. This only exacerbates the lack of inclusion in spaces such as COP where young changemakers struggle to fund their participation. Young people with powerful ideas for local climate action are not supported with the resources to implement them at a meaningful scale.

4. Need for Collective Action 

Young people are creating collective action everywhere we look, but with the dominant narrative of changemaking often centred around one individual - the ‘hero/heroine’. The United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) has also spoken of the dangers of the individualisation of youth engagement, and. This focus on individuals often comes at the expense of collective impact and leads to the misappropriation of youth representations in institutional avenues. Addressing the planetary crises we need to move beyond the dominant narrative of the individual towards a more collaborative – and systemic – approach to changemaking. 

CXC'S CLIMATE ACTION INITIATIVE (WATCH THIS SPACE!)

As ChangemakerXchange, we have spent the last months reflecting with our community on what can be our own response to these challenges.  

We are now in the final stages of co-creating (together with young climate leaders from around the world) a big global intersectional climate action programme. This will build community and capacity of young climate activists and changemakers around the world and will be our core focus in the immediate future.  

We are in exciting conversations with stakeholders across the ecosystem about bringing this to life and believe this has the potential to help the youth climate movement become more connected, collaborative, and impactful.  

Watch this space for more news as we will launch in the next couple of months! 

WALKING THE WALK

While our approach to climate action is rooted in systems-level change, it is complemented by the belief that individual action and embodying our own principles and values is crucial.

  • We have developed a Sustainability Manifesto that guides our sustainability efforts and ensures all our activities minimise their negative impact on the environment. For example, this includes the use of 100% renewable energy for our servers and our office, a “vegan only” office policy, and sustainable stationery. 
  • All our staff have the option to devote 10% of their time to climate action initiatives, including joining protests and supporting local grass roots initiatives. 
  • We offset the carbon emissions of ALL our historic, current, and future activities, but also acknowledge the limits of traditional offsetting and we have reframed them as ‘Climate reparations’ and we will make direct donations to youth-led climate action in the Global South. 

JOIN US!

Reach out if you are an organisation working to support youth climate leaders and would like to find out more about our upcoming efforts 

Join the waiting list for the programme if you are a young climate action changemaker anywhere in the world.

Check out our list of climate action resources for changemakers where you can find everything from ‘navigating climate grief’ to tools to assess how well your company or country is performing on climate measures to digital storytelling toolkits for climate activists. 

This is our ‘now or never moment for humanity’ – let’s all step in and step up to support those young people who are leading the way to change the course of the climate crisis.