Don't write young people off before you hear their opinions on climate change.
I’m not the most environmentally-friendly person around. I use plastic straws sometimes, leave my air conditioner on for several hours a day, and don’t adopt a plant-based diet.
I was also completely oblivious to the existence of The SG Climate Rally — Singapore’s first climate change ‘protest’ — until I was sent to cover the event at Hong Lim Park on September 21.
This surprised me — while I knew Singaporeans are aware of the banes of climate change, I wasn’t aware that it was an urgent priority for so many.
But I was even more surprised at the negative backlash the rally received on social media, predominantly from older people on Facebook.
What was so ridiculous about attending a climate change rally in Singapore? More importantly, why are youths pushing for climate action taken as a joke?
Hate comments targeting young climate advocates are not exclusive to Singapore.
Climate change directly impacts their generation
We need to reverse the effects of climate change to ensure we have one. As Greta Thunberg said in her latest address to world leaders: “Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.”
Youths do not have the liberty to close an eye on the detrimental effects of climate change and wait until they’re ‘more mature’ to be proactive; The irreversible damage of climate change will not wait for them to be fully grown before taking place.
Youths lead by example
Yes, they still use air conditioners and own mobile phones. But that doesn’t make them hypocrites — fully eradicating technology and electricity use is not a feasible solution for anyone.
Instead, youths passionate about improving the climate are constantly looking for other practicable methods to make change, in both big ways and small.
They are incorporating personal changes to their lives, like reducing plastic use, eating less meat, thrift shopping in support of sustainable fashion, and consciously buying from environmentally-friendly brands.
Their eagerness to improve the environment are not all words and no action; they practice what they preach consistently, and encourage others to follow suit.
Youths don’t hold back
Perhaps the most talked about segment of the climate rally was the die-in, where attendees pretended to die as they fell one by one, domino-style.
The act was judged by netizens on Facebook for being jarring and melodramatic, but I think that’s what makes all the difference.
Youths aren’t afraid to do outrageous things to prove a point. Once they’re passionate for a cause, they go all the way.
And while I’m not the poster child for environmentalism, the sheer passion and determination I witnessed from people at the rally inspired me to do better. It allowed me to fully grasp the gravitas of climate change and its impact on everyone.
Even if you still don’t believe youths are capable of inciting positive change, it doesn’t change the fact that the climate crisis is real. It’s dire and destructive, and it’s happening now.
Youths are taking accountability for the actions of older generations, and pushing for change because others didn’t. The least we can do is be receptive to their efforts while they try to clean up the mess left to them.
Or you could just continue criticising their efforts through a ‘witty’ Facebook comment that will earn you a measly few likes.
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