Who are the young environmental activists fighting for better environmental policy?

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist, has made quite the splash within world politics in recent months; however, she is not the only young climate change activist contributing to the environmental movement. Cameron Leitch (IF Placement) takes a look at three more young activists and their fight to tackle environmental policy

Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most pressing threats to Planet Earth. As a society, we must hold governments to account on their policy decisions, such as ensuring they do not risk increasing global temperatures more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as targeted by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Fortunately, the younger generation are recognising the threat of climate change and many of them, all over the world, are participating in civic activism to have their voices heard. Although many will often point to Greta Thunberg’s environmentalist work, this blog will shine the light on three other inspirational young leaders in their fight for a safer planet.

Holly Gillibrand

Holly Gillibrand is a 14-year-old environmental activist from Scotland who believes that the UK government does not have a “solid plan” to tackle global warming. In order to raise awareness to this passionately held belief, Holly decides not to attend one hour of school class each Friday (in contravention of the legal requirement) and instead chooses to protest outside her secondary school holding a placard with the simple message, “School strike for the Climate”.

Holly forms part of a wider network of young people who have taken inspiration from Greta Thunberg, who in 2018 did not to attend school for two weeks before Sweden’s general election, and instead sat outside Sweden’s parliament with a placard holding the message, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for Climate” – just like Holly’s).

This network has developed into the Fridays for Future movement, with students participating all over the world. Holly is now inspiring Scottish students to participate in these protests, to heighten awareness of the view held by many young people that governments need to take urgent action to tackle climate change.

Leah Namugerwa

Leah Namugerwa is a 15-year-old from Kampala, Uganda, who has been protesting for better environmental policies ever since she witnessed the disastrous effects of the 2017 Ugandan famine, where droughts left Ugandans in desperate need of food aid.

Leah, like Holly, also participates in the Fridays for Future movement and since February 2019 has been striking every Friday. On top of protesting, Leah has also been calling on the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, to ban plastic bags.

Uganda has introduced a series of policies banning plastic bags stretching back 12 years; however, the implementation of these policies has been unsuccessful and has left Uganda with a high level of plastic pollution.

The ready availability of these plastic bags has been cited as a leading cause of cholera, as people without access easy access to toilets will defecate in plastic bags and dispose of them in the same drainage systems that others use to collect water.

It is consequences such as this one that has led Leah to set up a webpage which details the impact of the failed plastic ban policies and has ultimately inspired her to set up an online petition which she hopes will place pressure on her government to implement a full plastic bag ban – which it has previously promised to do. It is hoped that the removal of the plastic bags will encourage residents to use the toilets, which will prevent further contamination of the drainage system.

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier, a 15-year-old from Wiikwemkoong First Nation, is an Indigenous Canadian who advocates for water protection. Even though Canada is considered a first-world country, many Indigenous communities across Canada struggle with access to safe, drinkable water. Currently there are 56 long-term drinking advisories in various states. These advisories mean that the water accessible in these areas either needs to be boiled before consumption or, in some cases, is not to be consumed under any circumstance.

Autumn, following in the footsteps of her late Aunt, Josephine Mandamin – herself a renowned water advocate – has dedicated her life to fighting the issue of safe water for indigenous communities. From the age of 13, Autumn has a consistently questioned world leaders and organisations, from the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in April 2016 to the Global Landscape Forum at the United Nations headquarters last September. During that time Autumn has also been elected as the Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation, representing more than 40 First Nations in Ontario.

Over the past few years, Autumn has consistently fought for the rights of her community, and her actions have not gone unnoticed; she was recently nominated again (for the 3rd time in total) for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation. Despite losing out to Greta Thunberg this year, her efforts within environmentalism are clearly respected and revered around the world.

Take inspiration from their successes

Although this blog aims to raise awareness of three instrumental young activists, there are so many more inspiring young people whose voices should be heard. The impact that the younger generation is having on environmentalism is unwavering, and could – and should – become a precedent for activism in all areas of policy which affect them.

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