Young people address climate change in creative ways

Interview with Adam Levy, Antonia Sohns, Devi Lockwood and Theo Constantinou

A generation is entering the climate change fight. They bring fresh ideas and energy to continue the battle against climate change deniers and bad climate policy, and are approaching solutions in new ways. They are employing new and old technologies with a perspective that connects the various dots of our issue focuses. Not only do they understand that pollution, environmental degradation, social injustices, corporate power and money in politics are the driving factors that continue to fund climate change denier politics, they believe that climate change is real and caused by humans. Who are these new players with the environment at the forefront of their minds and lives? Millennials.

We spoke with a few millennials who are figuring out how to address and educate others about the serious impact climate change is having on our present and future generations.

Photo credit: Siân Robins-Grace

Adam Levy is a scientist and reporter for the peer-reviewed science journal Nature. He has a doctorate in atmospheric physics from the University of Oxford and has created a YouTube personality who breaks down climate change in humorous and accessible ways, aka ClimateAdam. ClimateAdam is mischievous, a little lacking in self-awareness and crucially funny. Talking with Adam about climate change and his alter ego he says,

“Climate change is a huge hurdle for humanity, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. Never before have we been presented with such a genuinely global threat, that we have such fantastic tools to overcome. Although it can seem insurmountable, we know now that the solutions are in fact already available.

My YouTube channel is all about making this huge, complex and often an
alienating problem more relatable. I hope to communicate key issues about climate change in a way that reaches and engages diverse groups of people. Hopefully this can help motivate more action on climate change.”

When we asked Adam whether he’s more optimistic or pessimistic that we as a global society will do what’s necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change, he said that his isms fluctuate daily.

We need to keep working to make sure the journey continues.

“We have left things very late, and it’s hard to see how our behaviour at the moment can limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, or even 2 degrees. But at the same time, there have been developments that have given me huge hope. I never thought I’d see a global climate deal, and certainly not one that aimed for 1.5 degrees. And I didn’t think I’d see global emissions stall while economies continued to grow. These are encouraging signs, but they’re just the first tiny steps. We need to keep working to make sure the journey continues.”

Photo credit: Andrew Tanabe

Antonia Sohns is a water-energy analyst and consultant for the Thirsty Energy initiative at the World Bank who has an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management from the University of Oxford. She graduated from Stanford University in June 2010 with a B.S. in Earth Systems, Oceans track. Occasionally, she also writes blogs at Friends of the Earth for our Oceans and Vessels program. When it comes to the scope, the impact and opportunities of climate change, here’s what Antonia had to say:

“Climate change will challenge all regions in different ways. For example, some will be faced with more flooding while others struggle with drought. Countries with more resources will be able to prepare for anticipated extremes far better than those nations that don’t have the same fiscal and institutional resources. The most vulnerable people will therefore be the most affected by the impacts of a changing climate.”

By increasing participation in government and decreasing inequality, efforts to combat climate change will be made stronger.

Antonia sees her role in addressing the many issues of climate change as that of a journalist. She “hope[s] to help those communities prepare for more variable climatic conditions through planning, and in reporting on their situation so policies may reflect the realities already happening on the ground.”

Considering people like Naomi Klein, Pope Francis, Bernie Sanders and others have said that to truly fight climate change, we must also address: inequality, democracy, our global energy economy, etc. Antonia agrees that in order to address climate change we must tackle these issues and ensure a more stable global energy economy. She sees these issues as interconnected and offers this solution: “By increasing participation in government and decreasing inequality, efforts to combat climate change will be made stronger.”

Photo credit: Molly Dektar

Devi Lockwood is a poet, touring cyclist and storyteller who is traveling the world by bicycle and boat to collect 1,001 stories about water and climate change from people she encounters. When she thinks about climate change and the role she sees for herself, she recalls the places she has been and the friends she has made:

“When I think of climate change, I think of Tuvalu. In this Pacific island nation of 11,600 citizens, the highest point is only 4 meters above sea level. The seas have been rising at a steady rate of 4 millimeters per year since the Australian government started monitoring the main wharf in Funafuti in 1993. In the event that Tuvalu disappears underwater, New Zealand has agreed to accept the country’s citizens. A number of Tuvaluans have already moved to New Zealand; not just immigrants, they are ‘climate refugees.’”

She also thinks about her Tuvaluan friends, Losite and Alofanga and Angie and Susey, and wonders “[w]hat will become of their home in the years to come?

When I think about climate change, I think about how the personal is political is ecological. We are all connected.

Social change doesn’t happen in an instant. Attitudes shift slowly. How do we know if a protest is ‘successful’? Progress is cumulative. Movements inspire movements. Social change inspires further social change. I wish you had asked: what movements inspire me and give me hope? The answer: #BlackLivesMatter.”

Like Klein, Pope Frances and Senator Sanders, Devi agrees that to truly fight climate change, we must also address social justice:

“Global climate struggles are geographically unique, yet linked. In one of the great ironies of climate change, communities that contribute the least to climate change are disproportionately impacted. Climate change is a race issue, it’s a class issue, [and] it’s an issue that calls into question the boundaries of nation. As a white woman, I want to make a strong stand against environmental racism, to use my privilege to elevate stories that need to be told.”

Photo credit: Alex Kasstan

As a lover of storytelling and the human experience, Theo Constantinou founded Paradigm Magazine. Paradigm seeks to record and share a living history of the human experience, highlight the diverse perspectives that shape our world and emphasize connection above contrast. Recently, Theo traveled to Bahia El Torito, near Ushuaia, in Argentina to work on a reforestation project.

Theo shared his thoughts on climate change, the scope and impact, and he feels that it “may now be beyond our reach.” He is also deeply concerned about how the Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland glacier melts will and are forcing “citizens located in major cities near water…to become climate change refugees. It seems as though world leaders are already having a difficult time handling the current refugee crisis which is only a fraction of that potential displacement of peoples.” He is also concerned and “fears that those individuals who maintain power and control the world’s energy do not wish to relinquish this lucrative exploitation…corporations need to stop influencing politicians and leaders with money that maximizes their profit [which] doesn’t take into account the toll it has on our environment and people.”

Time is against us but we must persist and lead with our actions.

Even though correction seems nigh, he still has hope through action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. He offers a few solutions to combat this pervasive threat:

“We must work together as nations to find sustainable energy solutions and as
individuals to minimize our energy consumption.

Communicating environmental messages to those I encounter and how they can start being active members in a global ‘fight’ against climate change by implementing…small disciplines into their lives is also essential.”

He also suggests locally educating young people and for all to consider future generations by changing our own behaviors:

“For anything to take long-term shape there needs to be a critical mass of people changing their immediate habits that have a negative impact on the planet. It can be done, time is against us but we must persist and lead with our actions.”

From their individual endeavors and their collective motivation to fight climate change in creative ways, it’s apparent that the torch of environmental activism is being carried by the nation’s youth. Whether talking with Adam, Antonia, Devi or Theo, we gather that they all know in their bones what Theo eloquently shared during his interview: that “it is imperative as millennials that we not only address climate change but also implement long-term solutions to old systems that need to be broken.”

Friends of the Earth Newsmagazine

Every quarter, Friends of the Earth publishes a print…

Friends of the Earth Newsmagazine

Every quarter, Friends of the Earth publishes a print newsmagazine for its members. Some of the articles are featured here.

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Friends of the Earth U.S. defends the environment and champions a healthy and just world.

Friends of the Earth Newsmagazine

Every quarter, Friends of the Earth publishes a print newsmagazine for its members. Some of the articles are featured here.