Formation - 7 December 2018

en - Young people and Climate Change

`A child is born to us’. Indeed, God has not given up on us, but have we given up on ourselves ? What will any child born today have to expect ? `The warming of the climate system is unequivocal’ (IPCC report 2007). `The earth with all its life is our only home’ (A warning to humanity 2017) There could be a catastrophic climate crisis in the lifetime of the children today.

Young people today will be at the frontline, climate change will impact on all aspects of their lives, those worst hit will be in the developing countries ; there will be problems with access to water, food, sanitation and security, the basics of life ; many will be forced to migrate. Young people, especially young women, are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts and poverty is inextricably linked to climate change vulnerability. It has been calculated that women account for two thirds of the poor people in the world and 70% of the world’s farmers. Agriculture is already suffering from smaller yields, eroding topsoil, desertification and loss of biodiversity. The young will need courage.

But the young can be energetic agents of change. In the Amazon some young people are working to stem deforestation by changing the agricultural practices of burning and moving on. In the Marshall Islands threatened with sea level rises, they are working against the dependency culture. Young Black Americans are building societal networks of self help. Some are courageously challenging governments and fossil fuels companies for damages done to themselves their environment and future generations. Some are facing the grief of loss of wildlife, the web of life upon which we are dependent. Some have turned this grief into courageous action and campaigns of civil disobedience, since petitions, marches, demonstrations have failed to produce enough political will to act decisively and in time.

The threat is existential and urgent. It could be the breeding ground of all forms of authoritarianism, it could result in societal collapse, it could result in the `survival of the rich’. The young need to be empowered, let us do all we can to give them tools to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, create networks and organise, and strengthen the commitment of young people to combat climate change. Young people have a crucial role. As those involved in the Extinction Rebellion point out, we all, but particularly the young who will live more intensely with it, need to face the grief, step into service, and make sacrifices to create political pressure. There is an opportunity to be committed, to live for something bigger than oneself, a call to work for a sustainable planet with shared resources where the gift of life is treasured. And God, giver of all life, will be with us.

Jessica Gatty r.a.