'I want to help create a paradigm shift in humanity’s approach to climate'

| 27th July 2018
Youth campaigners taking part in This Is Zero Hour have already had a global impact. BELLA LACK, in her first article for The Ecologist, explains why she took part in the London protest and why empathy - with humans and animals - and hope are central to our success

As much as I hate to say it, young people don’t have as much of a voice as we should be permitted.

We stood outside Euston Gardens, gathering placards and people amid the rallying cries of change-makers. I weaved through the crowd reading the signs, ‘the seas are rising and so are we’, ‘system change, NOT climate change’, and ‘last warning, stop the warming’.

Bold red letters conveyed the sense of urgency that we all felt, the urgency that is so necessary if we are to reduce the impact of climate change, which is, I’m confident to say, the defining crisis of our time.

As we set off for the march, the unusually torrid midday sun beat down upon us like a confirmation, further evidence of our changing planet.

We left the brown, brittle grass of Euston Gardens and proceeded on our two mile walk to Parliament Square and, although we didn't have thousands of people, we made up for it in passion as we chanted through the megaphones and flaunted our placards, feeling an overwhelming sense of solidarity.

I know of the stigma that clings tightly to the word ‘activist’ and I have, in the past, even experienced that sense of unease as I watched gaggles of seemingly gregarious activists marching for change.

Yet somehow when you want change you completely forget those inhibitions. You form an intense opposition to any policies that suggest apathy or bigotry and you want people to understand the importance of the issue immediately.

My involvement

I became involved with ‘This Is Zero Hour’ because of my role as a Born Free Foundation Youth Ambassador.

I have always had an interest and love of wildlife and animals in general, yet I only became deeply involved with conservation after being greatly inspired by the wonderful works of the Born Free Foundation.

I saw how climate change was having such adverse effects on so many species and I couldn’t sit back and watch as we walk obliviously into this sixth mass extinction.

Orangutans are being affected by forest fires, amphibians are impacted by temperature change and polar bears by ice melt. In fact, every species on earth is, or will be, affected by climate change.

Fortunately, it’s not too late at the moment and we still have time to take a stand against it. However, people are dissuaded from acting on this issue for several reasons.

Firstly, they feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness because of the immensity of the issue.

Secondly, some deny climate change and deem themselves ‘realists’. They dispute the evidence and hide behind a facade of fallible statistics, yet shy away from hard scientific evidence that proves the warming of the climate system and human influence, which is unequivocal.

Lastly, they feel that they do not have the resources to effect change. However, as written in a previous article by Kathleen Maclay, "implementing measures to reduce the effects of climate change may cost money, but the results of global warming can be far more costly, particularly the rise in natural disasters".

Furthermore, when we talk about climate change  we are not discussing a transient issue that may or may not affect us, this is quite possible humanity’s biggest challenge yet and, for this reason, we need to ensure that everyone is involved in the solution.

Youth involvement

As a result of the need for all-inclusive action, This Is Zero Hour was created as a youth-led movement to empower my generation to lead, or at least involve themselves in the fight against climate change. 

As much as I hate to say it, young people don’t have as much of a voice as we should be permitted. When we formulate opinions, we are seen as ‘indoctrinated’ or ‘influenced’ and this is part of the reason why Jamie Margolin founded This Is Zero Hour.

She is a connoisseur of youth empowerment and has implanted a sense of urgency within tens of thousands of people of all ages. This is now more important than ever.

Just four men own 80 percent of the press in the UK and for this reason it is vital that the voices and stories of those truly affected by climate change are promoted and provided with a platform.

Visceral and personal stories are always more effective than disconnected statistics. The video of a sea turtle with a straw lodged in its nostril began the ‘last straw’ campaign.

The footage of an orang-utan protecting its home from an intruding bulldozer galvanised people to abstain from using palm oil. Now we need to promote stories that will innervate people to act upon climate change.

The march

‘HEY HEY, HO HO, FOSSIL FUELS HAVE GOT TO GO!’

We chanted as we walked through Trafalgar Square. Throngs of people lifted their phones to video our congregation and it was with immense pride that we lifted our megaphones to our mouths and projected our very important message that would now be encapsulated in their camera rolls.

Upon arrival in Parliament Square our group assembled and, while we waited for our microphone and speaker to arrive, we all wrote down why we wanted to preserve our planet and what individual actions each of us was taking to protect it.

My eyes tracked the pens as they busily scribbled upon the papers. The papers contained hundreds of reasons why we should stay hopeful.

Each word bolstered my confidence in the human capacity for change. Once the paper was a vibrant kaleidoscope of hope, our microphone had arrived and I approached the platform with an intense feeling of responsibility.

The next words I spoke would need to be so impactful that they would help create a paradigm shift in humanity’s approach to climate and our planet. I began my speech...

This Author

Bella Lack is Born Free Foundation youth ambassador.

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