By: Aditya Ajay- a fifteen year old climate activist from Canada working with a local climate group in Saskatchewan and Hannah Posner- Climate activist from USA.
This earth day, we talked with four youth climate activists, Mohab Sherif (he/him), [MS], an Egyptian climate activist operating in Saskatoon, Canada, Chenyao Liu (she/her), [CL], an American climate activist operating in Indiana, USA, and Cooper Gottfried (he/him), [CG] and Ananya Sistla (she/her), [AS], American climate activists operating in Ardsley, New York.
We discussed their opinions on climate activism, their advice for new activists, and how they will be taking action for earth day.
What is an important responsibility/duty for experienced activists and new activists respectively?
MS — The responsibility of an experienced activist is to guide new activists, be more impactful in the community, and pressure change. A new activist should try to observe and learn. They often provide very insightful and thought-provoking ideas from a very unique perspective on the matter. Also, learning from older activists would help them learn and model themselves to be future catalysts for change.
CG — New activists should be aware that climate change is largely the fault of large corporations and not individual consumers. I think it’s important to note that while acting sustainably on an individual level, large corporations are largely at fault.
CL -I think some important short-term goals for new climate activists are to find a passion. When I went to my first climate strike, I was overwhelmed because there were so many people and so many things going on. I went home and did more research, and looked for more ways I could help. Something I’ve always been good at is creating creative content, taking photos and editing videos, which is why I first involved myself through social media and content creation. Once I found my desired area, I was able to know how I could contribute as an activist. I would also advise new climate activists to find a desired area of environmental activism. There are many factors for climate activism: political, economic, humanitarian, etc. I think that it’s important that new activists begin by taking small steps in their areas of interest, so they don’t overwhelm themselves by delving too deep and stepping into the deep end straight away.
AS-I think new climate activists should participate any way that they can! But I definitely recommend starting with hands-on activities like clean-ups, gardens, and rallies.
What do you think the landscape of climate activism would be like in ten years time?
MS — We are aware of the climate catastrophe which might happen in ten years time due to inaction by global leaders. However, we might be aware of new science which will enable us to make better choices in the near future, but we already possess the science we need to understand the severity of this crisis. We must make the impossible possible.
CG — I think we’ll be underwater in ten years at this rate.
CL — That’s a great question! On the positive side, I think that there will be many more climate activists and that the movement will be so much more intersectional. I would like to imagine that the children growing up right now will see this movement and be more inspired to involve themselves. Not even as a major activist but as someone who comprehends the crisis and advocates for change. A bit more negative, but I’ve seen the science and I know that in ten years, the effects of the climate crisis will be so much worse. On our current path of global warming, the effects will be irreversible once we reach an increment of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, which is not too far off. So I think that climate activists will have to become the politicians, the decision-makers, and create drastic change. I hope that the movement will be widespread, and be acknowledged to a greater degree.
AS — I think climate activism will be supported by more people. In ten years, I think the effects will really start to show, and more people will be willing to advocate for change. What are some events related to climate activism that you’re looking forward to this year?
MS — I am looking forward to many events this year that prioritize interactions between global leaders. It is imperative that these individuals give voices to people from MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) and force change. Like the G7 and Biden Summit which will hopefully invite leaders from MAPA. MockCOP is an event that brought about dialogue between 140 countries. Due to the digital nature of the event it was very accessible and amplified voices from MAPA like Philippines, Middle East, and North Africa and made their change most impactful, and to act on promises like the Paris Agreement. Climate activism needs actions not just words. I am looking forward to COY16 which is an event of similar nature and which also further our progress with climate action.
CG — I’ll be looking forward to the Pollinator’s Pathway, a program in my town organized by the Ardsley CEAC.
CL — For one, my local group is currently in the middle of planning a trip to DC. We don’t know if it’ll happen yet, but we hope to visit American politicians and facilitate some meaningful dialogue. Perhaps showing them that we are willing to make this trip and very serious about this issue. I’m also excited about FFF’s next Global Day of Action. The Global Day of Action in September 2019 was how I first got involved, and it’s somewhat my two-year anniversary in this work. Lastly, I’m excited for COP26. I watched a few of the sessions from MockCOP last year and I am excited to see what happens with the global leaders, and excited to see what activists do to make their voices heard at COP26.
How did you get into climate activism?
MS — I was inspired by Fridays for Future, and the people on the front lines in Egypt who suffered greatly from climate-induced disasters, floods, and storms. I asked them how to join and it set me on this path. I always cared about nature so this was a change for the better. If it wasn’t for an organization like that I would’ve never been encouraged to fight this battle and organize digital strikes.
AS — I was already participating in social justice activism and I learned about how climate activism is an important cause. I started by educating myself on the many environmental problems.
CL -I mostly began with phone banking for the Sunrise Movement, which is a political climate movement. I helped to phonebank for politicians that supported the Green New Deal in the US. After that, I got involved in FFFD, specifically content and graphics. A few months ago, I joined the Confront the Climate Crisis organization in Indiana, which is a statewide student-led movement dedicated to declaring a climate emergency in our state and passing environmental policy.
CG — I was pulled into leftist activism in general after George Floyd’s death. Leftist activism inevitably leads to climate activism, I feel.
What are you doing this earth day?
MS — Around Earth Day, the Biden Summit will take place, so a lot of organizations will be participating in a series of events and I would love to join. Hopefully, something productive would come out of this since the window of opportunities is closing and we have to act now.
CL — My local group actually sent our Governor a letter on March 19th, demanding a meeting with him and our deadline for his response was Earth Day, though we’ve postponed a bit to work through the political complications. We’re still doing some social media takeovers and I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes so we can spread the word. Personally, I’m probably just going to be doing some small actions, my school has a tree-planting fundraiser and I’m going to check out a few environmental activist gatherings/seminars (for example the Mock Summit).
AS -Social media is a place where people can easily share information and learn new things. I want to post information about climate crises around the world, as well as link petitions that people can virtually sign to bring important climate legislation.