Young voices demand action on climate change

"People are suffering, people are dying. Entire eco-systems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth."

16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg delivered an impassioned speech at the Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday.

Young people are helping to fuel global action on climate change, demanding that world leaders listen and urging us all to join the cause before time runs out.

Greta Thunberg, Climate activist

"How dare you! " she thundered. "You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up."

The teen climate activist sparked a global movement by skipping school on Fridays to draw attention to what she describes as a climate emergency.

Young people around the world joined rallies on September 20.

With Thunberg as a figurehead, the youth climate movement has been gaining momentum around the globe.
Last Friday, tens of thousands of young people around the world staged what was likely the largest climate mobilization ever. They rallied behind a common cause: urgent action on climate change.

Youth Climate Summit was held on September 21.

The UN gave a platform to some of the leaders of this movement with the first Youth Climate Summit on Saturday. More than 500 young climate activists from around the world were attended.

The activists showed how they’re working to combat the climate crisis in their own countries. They also called for drastic action to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and more opportunities to get involved in the policy-making process.

Although the message in every speech and panel discussion was that the planet is facing a climate emergency, the mood in a chamber was vibrant and enthusiastic.


Mayumi Sato, a 24-year-old from Japan, said she was inspired by other young activists who have been developing innovative ways of tackling climate change.

"They created these apps and mobile interfaces for their communities," she said. "But I can see how I can already start learning from their initiatives and perhaps try to work alongside them or develop something that might work in a Japanese context. "

Sato was born in Japan but raised in several other countries. As a university student, she’s been working for a Bangkok-based NGO which promotes social inclusion and gender equity in forest landscapes in Asia. She spent the last two years in Thailand, where she realized the magnitude of the climate crisis and its impact on people.

Sato says the youth movement hasn’t been as animated in Japan as it has in other countries, so she wants to find a way to mobilize more young Japanese people.

"Ultimately Japan as a highly developed country. We have a huge responsibility in that we control a lot of the finances in terms of where development projects are going," she says. "And we need to find ways to fund projects in many countries around the world that work specifically on climate change. "


Desmond Alugnoa is a 29-year-old from Ghana who co-founded an NGO that produces 100 % sustainable products in Africa.

He told the Youth Summit that people of his generation have to "make some noise."

"We have to make a lot of impact in their communities to be recognized," he said. "Young people are the ones who know how the communities look like and how things are affecting the communities," he said.

Alugnoa ended on a note of optimism, saying he believes that change is already beginning to happen.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that young people are more worried than older generations about climate change, since it's expected to become much more severe over the next 20-30 years.