A hot topic among young people in recent times is climate change. In the last few years, we have seen a large number of millennials and Gen Zs voicing their concerns over the challenge we face as a society. Consequently, the devastating present and future effects of climate change on the environment and the global economy has resulted in “eco-anxiety” among young people. Eco-anxiety is a term used to describe the anxiety experienced due to probable effects of climate change, such as environmental or ecological damage and disasters.
The wake up call
‘The clock is ticking’, ‘we don’t have a planet B’, ‘save water, save life’... The the late 90s and 2000s kids have grown up reading and seeing these slogans. Hence, the first wake-up call for the environment and nature was in school, learning about global warming, greenhouse gases and excessive carbon emissions. By 2010, documentaries about the climate crisis became the focal point for youngsters. But the turning point was in 2018, when a young Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, sparked a global conversation and movement on climate change with her protest outside the Swedish parliament. She became an icon for climate activism and has inspired thousands of students across the world. Today, the foremost action young people are taking is educating themselves on the effects of climate change, the policies designed to mitigate them and the steps we can take on an individual level to preserve the environment.
Social media and sustainability
Being an inherently 'woke' generation, many Gen Zs are taking actions within their own capacities to contribute in the mitigation of climate change. While several youngsters are choosing career paths in sustainability to channelise their interest, some are opting to work with companies that fulfill certain environmental standards. Recent studies on the consumption pattern of content revealed that Gen Z interacted with content related to climate change and activism significantly more than their older counterparts. Gen Zs are using the power of social media to read and amplify concerns related to climate change more than before.
Not just digitally, these youngsters are creating impact on grass-root levels as well. Take for example, 18-year-old Dwishojoyee Banerjee, who runs an organisation, The Soft Movement, which provides paper bags made from recycled newspapers to vegetable vendors. “A few years ago, when I saw everyone talk about climate change and environment, I realised it was all words and no action. Which is how I started The Soft Movement, an effort to make a difference, albeit a small one, towards an environmentally-conscious society. I believe taking action is equally important as spreading awareness,” she says.
Another young girl, Anushree Pratap, 19, along with her friend, founded Nitara, an organisation focused on creating greater climate literacy. Talking about her work, she says, “There is so much when it comes to climate literacy that we often don’t even realise its vastness. In order to tackle climate change, its imperative to understand the issues and policies surrounding it, which is what we aim to achieve with our campaigns. My first introduction to the climate crisis was learning about the human-wildlife conflict as a child. Over time, I have realised the power of educating ourselves and mobilising the youth towards achieving climate justice.”
The real deal
But it's a long road ahead. Even with major international agreements, summits and conventions on climate, which have resulted in the formation of policies to control emissions and damage to the environment, many believe it will take more than 'talks' to mitigate climate change. Multiple studies are stating we have less than seven years before irreversible damage is done to our environment. It calls for urgent action, but most importantly, a degree of seriousness towards this pressing issue.
Khushi Jain, a 21-year-old student said, “It's a very real and a very concerning issue. Every day, I read and see news about the damage caused across the globe due to erratic and unpredictable weather. It is imperative that we collectively, as a society, take rightful action towards fighting climate change.”
Another student, Anushka Shah, 21, mentions the power of collective voices. “Social media has provided us with a powerful tool to voice our concerns, and several individuals, celebrities and commoners alike, are using it to create awareness about climate change. The more people we educate the greater the pressure on governmental bodies to take timely action,” he says.