Youth Climate Activists Share Their Hopes & Plans For 2021
Over the past few years, the environmental movement has broadened and amplified thanks to a new generation of young activists.
In September 2019, their efforts culminated in the youth-led Global Climate Strike, the largest the world had ever seen. Coming off that strike, climate-passionate teens were riding some serious momentum and looking forward to a new decade of taking to the streets to fight for their future. Then, of course, 2020 had other plans.
After months of needing to keep organizing to the Zoom screen, they're looking forward with a renewed sense of clarity and urgency. Here, young climate activists from around the world share the kind of momentum they hope to inspire in the year ahead.
"I hope that in the new year, we will be able to meet again, all over the world, to celebrate the end of the pandemic and fight for our futures."
I'd probably say that my greatest hope for the new year, aside from the hope for the pandemic ending, is seeing climate activists out in the street and in the spotlight again. For obvious reasons, the climate crisis has been sidelined from a lot of the public eye since the pandemic started. I hope that in the new year, we will be able to pick up that traction and attention we are currently lacking so we can remind people just how much of a crisis we are in. So many climate activists have been sitting at home for months, without attending weekly strikes and global strikes. I hope that in the new year, we will be able to meet again, all over the world, to celebrate the end of the pandemic and fight for our futures.
We will need support from as many people as we can get to put this in motion. By supporting us online, you are bringing the spotlight back to the climate crisis and back to young people's voices during a time when we are generally being ignored. It's easy to forget that pandemics like COVID-19 are a result of how we treat our planet, and we need to make that critical connection. We need support so that when this pandemic ends and we can come together once more, we aren't just shouting at the deaf ears of our politicians.
—Saoirse Exton (15 years old), based in Ireland, Fridays for Future member
"I believe that education is the most important tool in empowering youth to take climate actions..."
As we transition to a new White House administration in 2021, I hope young people will continue standing up for climate justice and holding powerful individuals responsible for their actions. I would like to see the youth climate movement continue to grow in size and strength. In order to maximize the impact of the climate movement, environmental leaders will have to prioritize education within grade schools across the country. I believe that education is the most important tool in empowering youth to take climate actions, and by starting conversations around climate change at school, more young people will be inspired to help the planet.
This is why at Climate NOW our mission is to educate young people about climate change and provide them with tools to make a difference within their community. In 2021 we plan to increase the number of school presentations we provide to educators and distribute our student tool kit to youth internationally.
"Stay tuned for artistic and powerful actions from us in the spring and summer—we're definitely looking to raise a storm."
Over the past four years, Donald Trump's presidency has displayed absolute climate denialism, in spite of increasing wildfires, floods, and temperatures across the United States. In terms of climate change, a lot of Joe Biden's campaign has been focused on rebuilding this damage done by Trump—which is certainly important, but we must go beyond just "building back." In 2021, Zero Hour is seeking to build beyond, empowering all of our local chapters across the world to push their governments and communities to fight against climate change.
In the United States specifically, we'll be taking action in creative ways around several demands for the Biden presidency. Some of these include permanently stopping any new fossil fuel projects, investing in front-line communities, and ensuring a just transition to a green economy. Stay tuned for artistic and powerful actions from us in the spring and summer—we're definitely looking to raise a storm.
—Natalie Sweet (17 years old), based in New York, communications director of Zero Hour
"The effects of the climate crisis are already apparent in today's world, and while we fight against the crisis, we must not leave anyone behind."
I am ecstatic that this administration not only acknowledges the issue of climate change but also has a comprehensive plan to tackle it. As a country, we cannot delay climate action any longer. In the first hundred days of the presidency, climate action is necessary. These efforts against the climate crisis must be made with care and conscience.
It is important that the climate plan acknowledges the disproportionate effects of climate on people of color and those of a lower socioeconomic status and does not leave these communities behind. Strides toward comprehensive climate education directed at American citizens, especially youth, should be made because climate action will not be taken if our citizens and lawmakers are largely unaware of the magnitude of the crisis.
I hope that as a movement we can change the "polar bear narrative" about climate. There is so much more at stake than our beautiful planet. Millions of people will be displaced from their homes due to climate disasters, die from working in the fossil fuel industry, and will lose everything.
The effects of the climate crisis are already apparent in today's world, and while we fight against the crisis, we must not leave anyone behind.
—Anisa Nanavati (16 years old), based in Florida, contributor to the forthcoming book The New Possible
"This new year, I hope that through organizing we can create waves of climate mobilization and push for climate justice for vulnerable communities across the globe."
"I hope that this year, we will collectively hold our politicians accountable for their actions and promises and demand change through legislation like the Green New Deal and other policies to make the pathway for a greener and more equitable future. I hope to continue to engage in meaningful dialogues about the climate crisis, environmental justice, and collective action to address the climate crisis.
This year is also the start of a new political term in the United States, and I hope to see our politicians and people in power hold their promises and limit the exploitation of natural resources and carbon pollution. This new year, I hope that through organizing we can create waves of climate mobilization and push for climate justice for vulnerable communities across the globe. Through my work at Zero Hour, I hope to only help grow the grassroots youth climate movement and that through our work, we continue to build our movement and become stronger and more connected than ever before."
—Khadija Khokhar (19 years old), based in Michigan, member of Zero Hour
"I am hopeful because I know our power. I know the impact our organizing can have to make a difference."
"To be honest, being involved in climate activism can be very depressing. Climate catastrophes are picking up, and they're only being met with weak climate politics that ignore science and prevent urgent action. According to scientists and climate professionals, to be able to prevent a temperature rise above 1.5C, we need urgent, dramatic decreases in the amount of carbon we're emitting.
For years, we have been calling for world leaders to declare a climate emergency. Taking the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, when we treat issues as emergencies, drastic efforts will be made to prevent them from becoming even bigger. In 2021, I am hopeful that we would have learned from the pandemic and applied some of our lessons to the climate crisis.
I am certain that the climate movement this year will be even stronger, and I am hopeful because I know our power. I know the impact our organizing can have to make a difference."
—Eric Njuguna (18 years old), based in Kenya, Fridays for Future member
"I believe and hope that 2021... will be a year in which we fight to protect and defend not only our planet but those most vulnerable to climate change."
"I believe and hope that 2021 will be a year of climate action and global mobilization. It will be a year in which we fight to protect and defend not only our planet but those most vulnerable to climate change. This will require us to keep pressuring global leaders and politicians to pass just climate legislation and to recruit as many people as possible to join our movement while centering the voices of BIPOC and those from the most affected places."
—Regina Loayza (17 years old), based in Ohio, Re-Earth Initiative member
"With the power of my future in your hands, open your heart, shatter the ego, and let‘s work together to change this world."
"Last year was supposed to be the year of change, but the pandemic delayed our goals, even the COP26. So the youth movement did the work of our global leaders with MockCOP26. I hope this year I will sit in Glasgow and watch our leaders implement our treaty to finally tackle climate change. We are the generation of change, and we are taking justice with our own hands. As Greta always says, change is coming whether you like it or not. Please, help us and if not, step aside. With the power of my future in your hands, open your heart, shatter the ego, and let‘s work together to change this world."
—Dom Jaramillo (21 years old), based in Ecuador, Re-Earth Initiative member
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.