The climate crisis will be most harshly, most directly felt by the youth of the world. When you look at the majority of the activism and protests being done for climate change, it is youth driven and youth oriented.

There seems to be a disconnect between the older generations and the ones upcoming, when it comes to the issue of climate change. The youth, rather than being born into a time of relative stability, with the promise of a secure future, are being bombarded with existential crises, the threat of a dangerous, climate unstable future. Social media, and the vigour in which young people consume news, debates and opinions have catapulted us into a realm of constant noise and chaos. With regards to the climate crisis, it feels like an especially daunting type of chaos. There is a certain powerlessness that comes with watching live updates of oil spills, fires and general environmental degradation from the palm of your hand. Youth activism is rooted in a need to change this feeling of powerlessness, to let our voices be heard and to reach out across generational waters to help the older heads finally understand the grave danger the future of humanity is in. Youth advocate Katrina Khan-Roberts has worked with NGOs and environmental organisations for the past 10 years including the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network and understands this fact quite well. She says environmental awareness is on the rise among youth but it is sometimes side-tracked by life experiences. She notes, “Youth have unbridled potential but sometimes it is very difficult to recognise that potential. Environmental awareness in Trinidad and Tobago has been rising over the past 10 years, but when someone is preoccupied with survival with all the other difficulties within life, it is difficult for them to prioritise environment as a thing that you are going to be putting your energy into. Youth have the ability to do so much but sometimes the pressures of life and sometimes the experiences that we have can kind of taint our environmental capacity.” Of course, with the daily ins and outs of mundane tasks and tribulations, it is easy for many, even the youth, to forget that we exist within the environment, that our issues, problems and daily activities are set against the backdrop of this greater setting that is the earth. Khan-Roberts optimistically noted however that increasing awareness is tied to demonstrating the links between behaviours and environmental impacts. Once greater awareness is integrated in not only the youth but in the older generations and the consequences of the climate crisis and its gravity are understood, then, people’s actions will begin to change.

“Environmental issues impact everyone” Khan-Roberts continued, “ but sometimes it’s not a hundred percent apparent how those things affect you. So it’s important then to create awareness and create linkages between the people themselves and the environmental issues.” She spoke of the policy formation and various treaty agreements that governments are signatory to, “Sometimes on a higher level you have these MEAs and they are available to the public to see. But if a public person is not a hundred percent vested in the environment itself they are not going to then go forward to create a linkage with that MEA. The solution then is to ensure that it is integrated into the education system as well as give incentives to people to follow the rules and the legislation.” MEAs or Multilateral Environmental Agreements are a series of protocols and binding agreements relating to the environment. They are typically aimed at broad scale policy change, and encouraging countries to make shifts in their sectors to accommodate certain environmental goals, as a result, the jargon and terms within these agreements might be a bit unreachable for the general public. “The scientific and the high-level nature of these MEAs, kind of make it unreachable for the layman. Something that has to be done is that it has to be brought to a level where everyone can experience and synthesize the information. So for example, I would paint a painting of an endangered animal to be able to bring environmental awareness of the animal, I would write a poem that would be able to bring my feelings about the ecosystem to someone who is reading that poem. I would make a video, I would create something that creates a feeling in someone and that will then create their behaviour change” Khan-Roberts advised.

The climate crisis is not a single generation issue, dealing with this crisis will require a sense of altruism that transcends the now, that transcends the bounds of ‘me-first’ ideology. For the youth to be heard, the older generations will have to stop seeing the climate crisis as something that they just won’t have to fix, and youths must get involved, understand the environment as not something in the background, but something we exist within that needs our care, respect and attention.