The Youth Care About Our Future and We Need Adults to Care Too

Phia Honey

We are scared. The conversations I have with fellow teenagers about climate change are conversations rooted in fear. We fear the extinction of up to a million animal and plant species. We fear the death of 153 million people due to air pollution alone. We fear that the planet will become uninhabitable in 30 years. But most of all, we fear that we are the only ones who care enough to do anything about it. Personally, I find an uninhabitable Earth far less terrifying than the fact that only 50% of Americans aged 50 and over find climate change to be a serious threat.

So yes, we are scared, but we are also hopeful. We're hopeful that we are the first generation to collectively agree on the severity and urgency of this issue. 89% of youth respondents to a UN survey said they believe young people can make a difference on climate change.

When the youth global climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg hit in September 2019, I remember walking out of class with the entire high school, taking the metro to Downtown LA, and feeling immense pride in my generation as we spent the day marching with thousands of other students from across the city.

We have all heard of Greta, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who founded the Fridays for Future youth climate strike movement and inspired more than 1.6 million young people around the world to march with her. But she is not alone in the fight to protect our future. Xiye Bastida is an 18-year-old climate activist from Mexico who sits on the administration committee of the Peoples Climate Movement. Isra Hirsi is the 16-year old co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike that emphasizes the importance of intersectionality in the fight for climate and social justice. Leah Namugerwa is a 14-year-old member of Fridays for Future Uganda who strikes every Friday for environmental justice. I could go on for pages listing the young climate activists that give me hope that we can still save our planet. They are the reason my conversations about climate change aren’t all fe ar and frustration, they are also hopeful. In the words of a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who is already my generation's hero, "I've learned you are never too small to make a difference."

While I'm inspired by how young people care about saving the planet, we can't do it alone. We need the older generations to care too. When older voters, aged 50 and up, were asked if in the past year or two they have had a conversation with younger people about climate change, 77% said no. But when asked how they would react if a young person in their life wanted to explain why climate change is an important issue to them, 90% said they would be willing to have the conversation. So it's that easy. All we need to do is talk. So how do we do that? 77% of older voters said younger advocates are most persuasive when they have done their research and present solid facts. The survey also found that the most effective way to persuade older voters to care about climate change is to have a two-part argument: reference both facts and research as well as how we owe it to ourselves and future generations to try.

I’ve struggled with feeling that my personal actions weren't making enough of a difference, which is why I decided to join World War Zero as a youth volunteer. This role allows me to further educate myself and others about the severity of climate change.

As important as it is to reduce our personal carbon footprints -- such as using sustainable transportation, limiting the use of lights and air conditioning, recycling, and reducing meat consumption -- we are in desperate need of structural changes. While the passion of youth is inspiring, we don't yet have the power to vote. I urge people of all ages to vote for officials at all levels of government who take the threat of climate change seriously and have genuine intentions to save our planet. And for those who can't vote yet (like me until 2 months ago), I urge you to encourage the adults in your life to take this seriously and join one of the many organizations all over the world that are fighting alongside World War Zero and others.

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