Interview with a youth climate activist: “Young people are being empowered”

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 12.04.2019

Last month more than a million students took to the streets to protest inaction on climate change. In order to help give a group local to us a louder voice, Good Energy handed over its Twitter account to a striker in Bath.

Today—as the strikes take place once again—we speak to Tom Wilson, student and climate activist, about his involvement.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a Year 13 student at King Edward’s School, Bath. I am studying for my A levels which are in a couple of months and I am studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths. I am planning on going on to uni to study Natural Sciences.

What spurred you to get involved in the school climate strikes?

I was already involved in quite a few environmental organisations around Bath, and so as soon as I heard about the Youth Strikes across the UK I knew that we needed to start one in Bath. A group of us got together and started making a plan of how we would make it all happen, and that group has now evolved into Bath Youth Climate Alliance, and we organise a monthly strike on the first or second Friday of each month. I have always been shocked at how little some people seem to care about the environment and the planet we live in, but I think these strikes are really starting to show the older generation that things have to change.

Why do you think the school climate strikes are getting so much attention?

I think the key to the strikes is the fact that it is young people. Often when people think of a climate activist, they get quite a specific stereotype in their head. The fact that the strikes are made up of all kinds of young people is really powerful. It’s amazing to see so many of my generation becoming engaged in such an important issue and showing the world what we are capable of achieving. Adults go on strikes and protests all the time, but the fact that so many students are willing to miss school, and often get in trouble for doing so, shows just how much we care about this issue.

What do you think is the cause of such lack of action on addressing climate change?

My main concern is the fact that we simply do not talk about the climate crisis anywhere near as much as we should be. As Greta Thunberg keeps repeating: this is a crisis, so why aren’t we acting like it? Often, it’s quite easy to get caught up in our daily lives and not think about climate change. Especially since a lot of people think they can’t see the effects of climate change directly, and they don’t really understand what it’s doing to our planet. 

Action against climate change also takes time, and money and energy, something which our governments in recent years have been totally against. We will have to make sacrifices in the way we live now if we are to combat the effects of climate change. No politician wants to stand up and acknowledge that. It’s easier to just carry on as we are, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. All change is hard, but it is entirely necessary, and I think we are finally waking up to that.

What is your response to the people who think that young people are better off sticking to their studies rather than protesting about climate change?

Something I have learnt from my own education is that the actual studying part of school, should form only part of our education. It’s so important to also become engaged in issues which affect us and our local communities. The protests aren’t just giving my generation a voice but they are also teaching us really valuable skills. By protesting young people are being empowered, and given confidence. We are being shown that we are not alone and that together we can make a difference. That confidence that is instilled in us, is far more important in our education, than actual studying. The skills that we are learning in organising protests like this are really useful transferable skills. Anyone who thinks that in going to these protests we’re sacrificing our own education is wrong — we’re enhancing it.  

Who are the people you respect and listen to on climate change?

There are so many people that I look up to as role models, many key environmentalists. But the people that I respect the most are my peers. When I see thousands and thousands of my generation taking to the streets to protest about climate change, it just blows me away. I feel so proud to be a part of this climate movement.

Of course Greta Thunberg is a huge inspiration as well. This is a movement which she has started and for her to start alone, with no one else supporting her, and then somehow managing to galvanise thousands of people to rally around her is amazing. But the people that I listen to most about climate change, are the scientists. The people who have actually carried out the research. The people who are telling us that we have 12 years to limit global warming. These are the people that we should all be listening to a lot more. We need to be investing in new technologies, in new research which will help us achieve a carbon neutral planet.

Anyone who thinks that in going to these protests we’re sacrificing our own education is wrong — we’re enhancing it.
We need to be investing in new technologies, in new research which will help us achieve a carbon neutral planet

What are the specific things you would like to see action taken on, and by whom?

I would like our government to actually recognise and validate the youth strikes to begin with. I want them to acknowledge our voices and actually listen to what we are saying. We are the people who are going to be voting very, very soon, and we are telling them what we want and yet they still aren’t listening to us.

In the meantime, I want to see actions from businesses. A lot of power lies with them and if we as the consumer show that we want the way in which our products are made to change, then businesses will have to listen to that. We need to be swapping out fossil fuels for 100% renewables.

I want to see actions from businesses. A lot of power lies with them and if we as the consumer show that we want the way in which our products are made to change, then businesses will have to listen to that.

I also want to see action taken on a more local scale. There are so many things that we can all be doing in our own communities. I want to see schools taking on new green initiatives. I want to see more and more councils declaring climate emergencies. I want to see more and more people taking ownership of their own carbon footprints and thinking about what they can do on a day to day basis to cut down on their emissions.

Where would you like to see the youth climate strikes go next?

I want the strikes to just continue to grow. I want them to start creating spaces for really meaningful conversations. We have an opportunity here to start creating links between all of our communities and to start actually bringing about change. Let’s not just protest and talk about it, let’s actually take decisive action too!

Is there anything else you’d like to say to Good Energy customers and blog readers?

All I want to say is that we will not stop striking until decisive climate action is taken. We need all the support we can get, and we are so grateful to businesses like Good Energy for helping us get our voices out there. If anyone wants to get involved with the strikes, and help support we would really love to hear from you.

You can show your support for Bath Youth Climate Alliance on Twitter @Bath_Youth and @SummitClimate, or via the Bath Youth Climate Summit website.

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