Young Voices Dispel Carbon Gloom
July 9, 2012 in Climate Change and Sustainability
Youth coalitions are forming across Australia to take a proactive and mainstream stake in what they see as the environmental change agenda. They are savvy digital natives, backed by a steely determination to ensure the existence of a sustainable future, with a voice that can’t be ignored. Gayertree Subramaniam reports.
In an ever-changing media and political landscape, the sentiment that young people are disengaged from political participation is not a conclusion, but an assumption that needs to be rethought.
This is especially more so, in a time, when conventional forms of political engagement are being shunned by young people, who are instead opting for alternative ways of participating with the system through digital platforms, reflecting a growing generation that pushes for proactive policy through the use of today’s powerful, highly democratic and instantaneous social media technology.
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), established in 2007, are at the forefront of the youth movement on our shores. Established in 2007, they are responsible for running several highly successful campaigns to combat climate change, capturing the hearts of the nation, the eyes of the media, and the ears of politicians, through mobilising and empowering young Australians.
“The ability to connect using social networking tools and internet technology means that young people can do in an instant what would have taken previous generations, months to do! We can send out an email to 70, 000 people, outlining how they can respond, giving them opportunities to act on issues as they arise,” says Kirsty Albion, Campaigns Manager of AYCC.
However, Kirsty understands that this medium is no substitute for the power of being on the ground and having real conversations with people. “At the end of the day, half of Australians still don’t fully grasp the idea of climate change, and a strong grassroots involvement is exactly what we need,” she says.
The University of Melbourne’s Dr Aaron Martin, a lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences with a special interest in political participation by young people in Australia, is sceptical of the power of social media.
“The danger lies in preaching to the converted. You’re not really mobilizing anyone who isn’t already, through social media,” he says of the challenge that faces youth organisations like AYCC.
For Linh Do, founder of Speak Your Mind (SYM), a multimedia initiative led by a group of 10 20-somethings from around the world, wanting to bridge the gap between “NGOs, politicians, mainstream media, and the general public” and dispel the confusion surrounding climate change, was the driving factor in embarking down the path of digital climate change advocacy.
Improving journalistic standards, providing an alternative to mainstream representation of climate change issues, on an international scale, especially at UN climate talks, drives SYM’s existence.
“In my mind the question is, why are we giving each side equal space and talking time when the science is clear, and only 0.03per cent of scientists don’t believe that it exists,” she asserts, incensed by the way the media prefers controversy over certainty.
She is not alone in her crusade to communicate the imbalance in coverage to the developed world about the consequences of their actions.
Lily Morrissey is somewhat of an environmental nomad. Around two years ago, she conceived GroundRoots, a new media travelling project, bursting with optimism and pushing the human stories behind the green revolution.
Exasperated by the sense of despondence and powerlessness to act on climate change expressed by young people, Lily spurred into action, wanting to rectify this sentiment.
“We are the Captain Planet generation – environmentally more aware than any other generation ever was. It’s hard to be optimistic when you don’t have a vision of what the future looks like. The media doesn’t report the positives, only ever the problems. So in order to get that vision, you need to be excited about the future,” she gushes, hopeful and stubborn in her optimism.
Having visited and experienced life in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities has undoubtedly impacted Lily in ways she says have changed her life forever. While in Indonesia, on a snorkelling trip to the Thousand Islands, the last thing she expected was to shed tears for the damage caused by mankind on our natural world.
“I hadn’t been in a tropical reef since I was a kid in the Great Barrier Reef, where everything was so colourful. I got in the water, put on my goggles and everything was just white, just bleached, kilometres of it. I just cried.”
Lily’s admiration for the power of the human nature to combat climate change, is evident through the content of her multimedia work.
Through their continued efforts, they have stirred emotions, shook consciences, and shifted perspectives with their vision being shared by young people who are empowered and inspired enough to hold the government accountable for the security of their futures.
Climate change inaction is a ticking time bomb. Young people are fighting for the guarantee of a future that their ancestors were able to enjoy without a care.
Governments need to start tuning in to young people and placing value on the demands for immediate action.
Gayertree is a final year Journalism student at Monash University and has interned at the UN Information Centre in Jakarta.