Our Comment: Youth action and our Young Director

Around the world, climate and climate change is becoming ever more the centre of discussion. We’ve seen how in Europe young people are realising that unfortunately, they will inherit a world and a future, savaged by greed, in the pursuit of profits. We’re beginning to see the response of the younger generations, who are unsatisfied with the actions, or lack of, from current world leaders.

Young leaders from all over the world are working to make sure their voices are heard. The inspirational teenager, Greta Thunberg, who is now on the 32nd  week of consecutive climate protest outside Swedish Parliament, is one amongst many who have given a voice to a generation previously hushed and unheard. We’re seeing the difference between generations. We’re seeing the growth of consumer conscious purchasing with vegetarianism and veganism on the rise, palm oil products being left on the shelf, and single-use plastics becoming enemy number one.

At Sustainability West Midlands we believe that it is essential that young voices are heard. One way we do this is by reserving space on our board for a ‘Young Director’. We introduced this position three years ago and have since worked with hugely successful and dedicated individuals such as Ruth Corral and Matt Beveridge, who has just finished his time as our second Young Director. We are very pleased to announce that we have this week recruited our third Young Director, Christopher Brown from Herefordshire Council. We also provide opportunities for to students to work alongside us, developing their skills and understanding as well as their passion for sustainability. This is a route I chose, starting with volunteering and subsequently securing my full-time position of Sustainability Adviser. I am now helping to develop our visions and goals by updating our Roadmap and spreading our message and reach as far as possible.

Other organisations are doing great things and offering many brilliant opportunities for young people. Uprising, offer a range of leadership programmes aimed at young people, one having a particular focus on environmental leadership, touching on topics such as food waste, zero emissions, green spaces, sustainable living and more, helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow. Groundwork UK operate and consult a Youth Advisory Board and are recruiting young trustees to join their Federation Board.. Are there opportunities for your organisation to provide similar opportunities for young people?

With this said, this generation took their inspiration from somewhere. Their parents, their teachers, their friends and family; we owe a lot to those who’ve guided us to this point of action. Campaigners such as Sir David Attenborough using their platforms such as Blue Planet have shone a light on serious issues impacting our environment, resulting in a global effort to change the way we live. Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, former president of the Republic of Ireland and now chair of the ‘Elders’ spoke recently, condemning climate change deniers as “malign and evil”.

If one thing is clear, young, old or somewhere in between, we all have a duty to protect and care for the environment and leave it a better place for those who will come after us.