'Young people are the heroes of the environmental movement'

Chris Jardine is an activist with Edinburgh Greenpeace and other organisations. Trained as a volunteer Greenpeace Speaker, he delivers talks to people of all ages on environmental issues. In this blog, Chris offers his top tips on how young people can get involved in climate activism.

As a volunteer Greenpeace Speaker, it’s a privilege to meet thoughtful and engaged young people on a regular basis. Whether the audience is in primary, secondary or tertiary education, I’ve never seen people with such impressive environmental knowledge, sound awareness of the intersections between social, economic and environmental justice and, most importantly, an unstoppable desire to apply this to make meaningful change.

Young people have inspired and given hope to environmental activists across the world. You organised yourselves in unprecedented ways, expressed yourselves intelligently and clearly and raised your voices, demanding that those in positions of power put people over short-term profit and protect our environment. You have reinvigorated and reinvented the environmental cause – you are the heroes of our movement.

While many young people I have met are much better organisers and know more environmental facts than I do, I wanted to give a few tips and ideas to those thinking about getting more involved:

  • Check out the Greenpeace website: while you need to be 18 or over to join a local group, you can check out our Take Action page. There, you can sign our petitions, learn how to get involved in campaigning and invite a Greenpeace speaker, like myself, to speak at your school or local youth group. Friends of the Earth Scotland also has a number of Scotland-specific petitions.
  • Get involved with an eco-committee: If your school has an eco-committee, you can join it and help push your school towards being more sustainable. If your school doesn’t have one, you can let a teacher know that you would like to start one. This can also help prepare you for making change on a larger scale! You can find out more information about the scheme here.
  • Get involved in a campaign group: If you are under 18, there are other organisations in which you can get involved, such as Scottish Youth Climate Strike and Young Friends of the Earth Scotland. In such groups (and there are many others), you can meet like-minded people, learn from others and campaign for meaningful change in your local community.
  • Lobby your politicians: Greenpeace is non-partisan, which means that we don’t support or campaign for specific political parties. However, this does not mean that we don’t try to influence politicians! You can write about environmental issues to your local councillors, MP (Member of Parliament) or MSPs (Member of Scottish Parliament). They are there to represent you. Your opinions are just as valuable as those of older people and certainly more important than those of heavily polluting companies! To find out who your local representatives are, you can use this website. The differences between these different kinds if politicians can be a bit tricky to grasp, but the Scottish Parliament has made this useful resource that explains the differences. Greenpeace also has some tips on how to engage with politicians, available here.
  • Get politically active: If you have sympathy for a particular political party, you can join it, get involved and help push its policies to become more environmentally aware. While plenty can be done outwith political parties, the more environmentalists in positions of power, the better!

With Scottish Parliamentary Elections due to take place in 2021 and Scottish Council Elections in 2022, young people are presented with an excellent opportunity to influence political decision-making in the coming months and years. Do your research, use your voice and ask tough questions. We are at a crossroads in environmental history and I am confident that today’s young people have the courage, intelligence and compassion to take us on the path towards a more sustainable and just world.

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