Making waves with young climate researchers

Amy Calder, Senior Policy and Research Officer at YouthLink Scotland blogs on how Young Heritage Researchers will be examining environmental impacts on their coastal communities through storytelling.

For the last couple of years I have been working with youth groups across Scotland to support young people to conduct research on inspirational women in their communities. The focus of these projects has been young people exploring heritage and collecting oral history to better understand the role that awesome women have played but have been forgotten or unrecognised (https://www.youthlinkscotland.org/resources/engaging-young-people-in-heritage/).

These projects have been so positive and inspiring that I must admit feeling a little lost at the end of them and nervous about developing a new project which would be just as impactful. But, then the school strike movement happened.

Watching Greta Thunberg and young people across the world marching through the streets to fight for a better future for the generations to come, showing adults that climate change is real and needs tackling now, has been extremely inspiring. It also highlights the power of youth voice in holding adults to account for actions that will affect them and future generations.

The need for young people to have a voice in the climate change debate is obvious and supporting young people to be well informed when sharing their voices seems incredibly important.

And so, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in partnership with Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland we have developed On Our Wave Length. In this project young people from Argyll and Bute, Fife, North Berwick, South Ayrshire and the Western Isles will be supported to conduct research on environmental impacts on their coastal communities. As this is youth-led research the Young Heritage Researchers will have complete freedom to explore the issues that matter most to them and their communities whether this be climate change, industry, pollution, impacts on wildlife, oceans and so on. They will be supported by experts including Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) as well as finding local advice in their communities.

To ensure the Young Heritage Researchers findings are shared far and wide, in July 2020 they will hold a national storytelling event at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh and then local storytelling events in their communities. The tradition of storytelling is that stories are passed on and so through sharing findings in this way will help ensure that their key messages are spread throughout Scotland, hopefully for years to come.

During 2020, which is the Year of Coasts and Waters, we will also be launching a national environmental online campaign to further highlight the Young Heritage Researchers findings on the environmental and social impacts on the coasts in Scotland.

We want this project to be part of the wider climate change movement and to further highlight the importance and need in listening to young people.

If you want to help us in this, if you have a story to tell about the impact of climate change in your community or have expertise that you think could be helpful in supporting young people in their research then please contact me at acalder@youthlinkscotland.org

And remember, “It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling” (Greta Thunberg).

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