Written by Giselle H. – 350 CO Summer Intern
All over the world, young people are stepping up in creative and vibrant ways to tackle the existential crisis of climate change. Through protests and creative direct action, young people are now more involved than ever in the fight for a clean and sustainable future. Not only are youth climate movements gaining traction all over the world, but through the use of social media, they are becoming increasingly interconnected.
The modern rise in communication and transportation technologies, combined with the global nature of the climate crisis, have given the youth climate movement a distinctly international and network-based character. As a crisis, climate change has been unprecedented in the way it has united diverse communities around a common emergency and towards a shared solution.
The youth climate movement is incredibly diverse, transcending traditional geopolitical, ideological, and identity lines. This is due in large part to the common experience shared by the world’s young people of fearing for an uncertain future due to escalating climate disasters, and a shared frustration at the collective and political disregard of the issue. Globally, there is a growing frustration with the status quo, and a building anxiety at the fact that a majority of global leaders are turning a blind eye to this catastrophe and choosing symbolic halfway measures as opposed to real change.
More than ever, youth leaders are taking a stand and demanding real solutions that address not only environmental justice, but the intersecting issues of racial and economic justice. In his study of youth climate activism, Scott Fisher (2015) highlights the multifaceted nature of youth climate activism, which many youth activists understand to be not only an environmental crisis, but a problem that is deeply intertwined with various social justice issues. Therefore, an emphasis on inclusivity and equality are crucial to building the modern youth movement’s character and connectivity.
As climate catastrophes are increasing, youth climate organizations are growing and becoming increasingly established all over the world. Below, we highlight just a few of these influential international youth movements:
School Strike for Climate
Widely considered the face of the youth climate movement, Greta Thunberg inspired the world last year when she began skipping school every Friday to protest climate inaction at the Swedish parliament building. Since then, she has been joined in her strikes by over 1 million students from all over the world. This year on March 15th, the first global youth climate strike was held in over 100 countries around the world. The upcoming strike on September 20th is expected to have an even greater global turnout, drawing both youth and adults together in solidarity.
With active branches all over the United States, the Sunrise Movement has united with a resounding call for real climate action and accountability from political leaders. The Sunrise Movement has organized rallies, protests, and sit-ins all over the country in support of a nationwide Green New Deal. They have occupied the offices of various political representatives to draw attention to fossil fuel industry campaign contributions and to highlight the severe consequences of political inaction on climate change.
International Youth Climate Movement
Since 2005, the International Youth Climate Movement has grown as a network of youth climate coalitions, now representing young people from over 100 countries worldwide. The IYCM has worked to ensure that diverse voices are present and represented in international climate negotiations, and have helped global youth to become an official constituency at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The IYCM holds a yearly Conference of Youth, bringing together delegates from all over the world to discuss and build a cohesive international youth climate movement.
Zero Hour is a youth climate justice movement focusing on the intersecting causes and consequences of climate change and emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the climate movement. For Zero Hour, climate change is not just an environmental issue, but an issue whose solution is deeply embedded in racial and economic justice. Zero Hour has organized a variety of campaigns to educate communities in the US and abroad about the root causes of climate change. They have mobilized in Washington DC with a Youth Climate March and Youth Climate Art Festival to bring awareness to their platform.
Arab Youth Climate Movement
The Arab Youth Climate Movement is a network of youth activist groups working to address the climate crisis in the Middle East and North Africa. Living in a region of the world that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the AYCM seeks to educate youth and adults about the consequences of the climate crisis for their region and the world. The AYCM has worked to maintain representation in international climate negotiations, as well as coordinating region-specific campaigns to raise awareness and build local activist networks in 16 Arab countries.
Australian Youth Climate Coalition
As Australia’s largest youth-led organization, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition are working to build a social movement of young people demanding real climate solutions and fighting for a sustainable future. With current campaigns to shut down coal mining projects, ban fracking in the Northern Territory of Australia, improve the energy efficiency of schools, and demand justice for Australia’s indigenous communities, the AYCC is shifting the political dialogue in Australia to include the voices of the youth.
Indian Youth Climate Network
The Indian Youth Climate Network is a coalition of youth mobilizing all over India to pursue climate solutions and educate their communities about the regional impacts of the climate crisis. Organizing a vast array of sustainability projects, youth events, and opportunities for political representation, the IYCN has elevated the voices of India’s youth to demand a cleaner environment and a more sustainable future. Their projects include: building clean energy infrastructure in rural villages, auditing the climate impacts of schools and businesses in India, organizing days of mass climate action, and helping youth activists all over the country to network and educate each other.
The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change
The African Youth Initiative on Climate Change currently links over 20,000 youth climate activists in 45 African countries. The AYICC has given youth activists a platform to voice their climate justice concerns at the United Nations, as well as helping to educate young people on climate change impacts and building community resilience. AYICC activists have organized a Climate Justice Caravan to spread awareness through art and music, and circulated many petitions to raise awareness of climate change and demand political change.
UK Youth Climate Coalition
The UK Youth Climate Coalition has mobilized the youth of the United Kingdom to engage in direct action and stand for climate justice. They have organized youth climate strikes and silent protests to hold their parliament accountable for climate disasters and demand a Green New Deal for the UK. A major focus of the UKYCC is to tackle the systems of oppression that underlie the climate crisis, and foster an inclusive and diverse group of youth voices.
Earth Guardians are an international network of thousands of youth climate leaders promoting environmental justice through artistic expression, civic engagement, and legal action. The Earth Guardians have taken an active role in training youth leaders all over the world to take action and promote change within their communities. Through active social media engagement, Earth Guardians have reached over 50 million people with their message and mobilized people all over the world to fight for a healthy planet and a sustainable future.