Special article : One of the sessions of the CliMates International Summit took place 100% online, as a truly unprecedented experiment of what collective intelligence can do. Thanks to a simple shared document we provided an original answer to the question « How is youth climate mobilization changing the world?« .
While global leaders are expected to take action on climate change at COP21 in 2015, youth movements are getting involved to create the necessary anticipation and expectation that often act as the first spark of momentum. Youth movements driving action will determine the dedication and energy with which their own generations will protect the planet when it is their turn to lead. Often accused to stay sat behind a computer screen, young activists defiantly reject the image of being passive leaders in a digital era. In their own words: ‘We are not clicking. We are fighting!’ That spirit will also be felt during this week’s climate summit. What is the youth approach to pick up the fight?
Youth mobilization is to climate action what permafrost is to climate change
Thawing of permafrost is often given as an example of a feedback loop regarding climate change: when this frozen ground melts due to warmer temperatures, carbon is released in the form of a powerful greenhouse gas, methane, worsening climate change. I don’t really like the comparison between youth mobilization and permafrost. However, it is a good metaphor to show young people understood the matter of urgency. As Desmond Tutu argued in an interview for The Guardian last week: ‘We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.’ Because they are more affected by climate change impacts, young people engage in the discussions to begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy. They are also able to find innovative ways to deal with this unprecedented issue.
Their strength to stamp out injustice has a positive impact to protect human rights and the environment. They dare to dream of an alternative society working in a different logic. Some of them aspire to make the dream comes true but the lack of funding may delay their sustainable projects for climate action. However, youth will succeed on this steep path by linking different fights together. Just as green parties have been a trigger for more democracy and transparency in Western European countries, youth mobilization can be that enhancing piece to climate action. By linking climate change to poverty, migrations, conflict, economic growth, they can go beyond the traditional ‘big picture’ and solve local challenges. While the planet’s future is in danger, some major industries are trying to get youth not to think about the consumers’ society excesses. They orientate their marketing strategy in targeting children in a very early age. This perverse logic should be reversed by youth consumers if they use their power to reject unethical practices and products.
Is the internet more than ‘clicktivism’?
The youth perspective to climate change is unique: it challenges their peers, leaders and professors to take up action by saying status quo is not possible. Do you think the transition to a sustainable world is not happening fast enough? The good news is, we can fix it! Making up one quarter of the world’s population (1.8 billion adolescents and youth according to the UNFPA), youth are the biggest generation using internet. That also means the world is more relying on social media use to get and spread information on climate change. They are different resources available online for literature reviews, ongoing issues in different regions or the events going on worldwide. Young people grew with internet as the most powerful communication tool that can help in rising awareness, sharing best practices, doing surveys and campaigns. The internet is allowing them to engage in a worldwide sustained and meaningful conversation, something that could not have been done 30 years ago.
Nowadays, ‘selfie’ campaigns are helping raising individuals’ voices and increase transparency by asking governments and companies to be accountable. The current iteration of internet-based activism through mass petitions is effective in that individuals are exposed to causes, and feel engaged on a personal level. It can have an important role in spreading information especially to empower poor communities. It also helps initiatives or ideas to spread faster and to reach people who might not been interested in the first place or not aware of something happening. If this feeling of engagement resonates strongly among youth, they may be driven to take more ‘concrete’ actions. On the other hand, a cause may suffer for lack of true action because people feel as though they are contributing, when in fact the impact level is negligible. Protecting the climate must be a long term commitment while it seems that most internet actions are ‘short living’.
40% of the world population has an internet connection today (Internet Live Stats 2013) meaning its access is not a reality in all corners of the world. Moreover, here’s the paradox for youth in developed countries. While we are living in the digital age, they still lack an effective communication between projects that, either tend not to be followed, or be redundant. Making sure that young activists from one structure do take part to another structure’s public event is important to unite actions. Gathering training materials, contacts and tips on one pool platform sounds also essential instead of each structure having to do one on its own. While ‘adult’ groups do it because it is a matter of survival for their organization, youth volunteers may not always see the value of it. You feel like you can lift mountains on your own, but it is so frustrating to see the amount of positive energy that is wasted by young activists for lack of cooperation and benchmarking.
Time is now for youth to keep using the great potential of democracy 2.0 without losing sight of implementing concrete initiatives and engaging with other groups in the real world.
Curious about our process ? Here’s a look back at some of the ideas that were exchanged online during these 24 hours !
About the author: This article does not only have a single author, but for the first time ever, more than 25 authors contributed to it ! And thanks to Cécile Pilot, here are the ideas all put together.