The Youth Voice on Climate Change: We'll Listen, But Will We Act?

Consider Us UNEP Youth Campaign photo

Image credit: Consider Us

The UNEP's Consider Us campaign is one of those initiatives that has me totally inspired and utterly depressed at the same time. Inspired because the idea of giving youth a voice in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit is about as important task as I can think of. Depressed because we've given youth a voice many times before. Collectively, we're actually quite good at listening to the youth voice. It's just acting on it that seems a little more difficult. From Australia's Youth Decide Climate Campaign to the Forecast Earth Summit for High School Students, the idea that if we could just listen to the children then all will be well is hardly new. And it makes sense. After all, it's our children, and our children's children, who will have to face the real consequences of the climate change we have wrought.

So Consider Us' campaign to collect 20-word messages from the youth of the world, explaining why we must act, and we must act now, is a powerful one. Answering questions like "What is precious about our world?", and "Why is it worth saving?", the messages will be delivered to world leaders at the climate summit.

But while the exercise is a powerful one, it is not enough in itself, as is inadvertently demonstrated by an article about the Consider Us campaign in the UK's Telegraph newspaper. Citing 12-year-old Canadian schoolgirl Severn Suzuki's address to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, authors Deon Robbertze and Paul Clements-Hunt remind us that her treatise received a standing ovation, and compelled its audience to consider future generations at the summit. They were, apparently, "captivated by a child's insight and honesty."

All this may be true, but then why the heck, over 20 years later, are we further down the road to environmental ruin than ever before? By all means, let's listen to the voice of the youth. But let's do more than listen. Let's act, and let's act decisively this time.

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