Youth in revolt - The climate change activists making their voices heard

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Youth in revolt - The climate change activists making their voices heard

Cities around the world have been buzzing as climate change activists took to the streets in a series of protests recently, hinged around the visit of the 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg. The message of the protesters was clear - societies need to act now in order to deal with the problems facing the planet.

There has been a marked aggression in the new protests to tackle climate change - the international social movement Extinction Rebellion has organised resistance events around the world to get their aggressive message across. It is an intensification which has followed the November 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which said that we have just 12 more years to take control before we see catastrophic climate change.

So who are the young figures that are leading the charge against climate change?

We have just 12 more years to take control before we see catastrophic climate change.

Greta Thunberg

Probably the most high-profile young climate activist today, the 16-year old student from Sweden started the School Strike for Climate movement. When Greta, who has Asperger's Syndrome, first learned about climate change she found it difficult to understand why the problem was not being addressed. Because of her autism, she says she sees things in black and white and finds it difficult not to focus solely on the problems that affect the climate. At one stage, she became hospitalised with depression because of the lack of will to change from world leaders.

When she recovered she went on strike, sitting outside the Swedish parliament with a placard demanding that urgent action be taken. Eventually people started to join her - since her strike in August 2018, her activism has spread across the globe with students in Europe, South America, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa now regularly striking to demand that governments take action.

In this TED Talk she reveals more about what compelled her to take action and why she won't be giving up.

Greta Thunberg’s really become a star. Thousands of youths around the world have since joined her cause. She’s been invited to take a stand and speak her truth to politicians, investors and society. Her statement at the World Economic Forum 2019 of “Our house is on fire” shook everyone up.

Recently, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) leaders have felt under attack by her growing influence, a sign that she is having a remarkable impact.

Earlier this week, she talked to the French newspaper Libération ahead of her speech to 162 parliamentarians at the French Assembly next week (23rd of July).” I have received many invitations to address parliaments (…) I had to decline a lot” but this time “it seemed like good timing for France” stated Greta during the interview.

Even OPEC leaders have felt under attack by her growing influence, a sign that she is having a remarkable impact.

Flore Vasseur

US filmmaker and writer, Flore Vasseur, has made films for TED and profiled Edward Snowden and Julian Assange but has most recently turned to the problems with the environment to produce the Bigger Than Us documentary. Inspired by the young people taking steps to tackle a warming climate and social equality issues, her film is documenting their fight to take control.

Inspired by the young people taking steps to tackle a warming climate and social equality issues, her film is documenting their fight to take control.

The project follows eight young activists and their pursuit of solutions to the current problems. Amongst them is Melati Wijsen (18) from Indonesia, who has been lobbying to ban the use of plastic bags in Bali, as well as organising clean-ups, hunger strikes and petitions. She co-founded Bye-Bye Plastic Bags with her sister Isabel and their actions are already having a real impact as plastic bags in shops have been banned in Bali's largest city, Densapar. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (18) from the US meanwhile is an indigenous climate activist involved with a group that has filed charges against the US government for failing to implement the changes needed to protect the environment for future generations. He is youth director of Earth Guardians, which educates and empowers young people to take political and environmental action.

The film also follows activists fighting for social action to halt child marriage in Malawi, to create schools and provide healthcare in refugee camps, and to end poverty for street children in India.


Laalitya Acharya

In 2017, when she was just 13-years old, Laalitya Acharya was a finalist in 3M's Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for her invention that could revolutionize energy in developing countries by using vehicular motion to generate and harness clean and affordable energy. She was inspired to do so after her family visited India and she saw children who have no power in their homes, huddling near dangerous fires.

Based on piezoelectricity, which is an electric charge that generates when pressure is applied, her idea is to install piezo generators in the roads so that as traffic continually passes by electricity is created to power the homes and businesses nearby.

Her invention could revolutionize energy in developing countries by using vehicular motion to generate and harness clean and affordable energy.

Although it wasn't that year's winner, Laalitya is now working with the council and a local engineering firm in her home town of Mason, Ohio, to trial out the technology for future commercialisation.

Boyan Slat

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat (24) is tackling one of the biggest environmental threats our seas face with a technology to rid the oceans of plastic. He founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft in Holland. His action was inspired by a diving trip to Greece where he saw more plastic waste in the sea than fish.

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat (24) is tackling one of the biggest environmental threats our seas face with a technology to rid the oceans of plastic.

The Ocean Cleanup team is working on a solution that can remove the huge amounts of plastic that is clogging up the sea and harming marine life, focusing on the eastern part of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch', which floats between Hawaii and California.

The technology Ocean Cleanup has designed is essentially a large floating scoop, which has a skirt hanging down from the surface of the water to capture the plastic debris and hold it in place so it can be removed by boat.

You can see it in action here:

The test version launched in Sept 2018 and while many of the technology's features behaved as expected, there was a major issue revealed - the plastic it caught was drifting away before it could be collected. The system was brought back to shore at the end of 2018 and Ocean Cleanup have since been working on resolving this issue. In March 2019, they revealed that they have found the solution - in order to retain the plastic the system needs to move faster than the garbage patch does. The system is now being updated and will be deployed again soon.


A brighter future

So while the future we face is uncertain, action is being taken that can make a huge difference. Momentum is gathering and young people across the globe are demanding that we stop ignoring the issues the generations that came before them created.

Change needs to happen in all of our lives if we are to avert climate disaster. Policies need to be implemented to protect the planet and businesses urgently need to divert investments into green technologies and initiatives if we are to have any hope of averting climate disaster.

The UK government has declared a "climate change emergency" following Greta Thunberg's visit. More recently, Sweden, home country of the young activist, cancelled its fashion week due to environmental concerns.

It seems that the young people's messages are starting to be heard. The sustainability revolution is underway providing investment opportunities that can be at the forefront of change.

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