Gen Z on growing up during the climate crisis

Today's young people are angry, frustrated and scared about their and our planet's future. We asked some local Gen Zers their thoughts on the climate crisis. This is what they had to say.

Feature by Katie Goh | 05 Dec 2019
  • Climate Crisis by Ruby Cloughley Rodenstedt, Aged 7

“I’m 13. I shouldn’t be watching the news.” I’ve been thinking about those words a lot since receiving Miya Turner’s contribution to this article. What was I doing when I was 13? I’m near the end of the millennial age range, the generation that likes to blame baby boomers for everything (and, to be fair, they can be blamed for nearly everything). At 13, I was half aware that life existed outside of myself thanks to the internet and half cared about things other than homework and Avril Lavigne. But I was definitely not watching the news and definitely not going on climate crisis strikes.

Today’s young people are growing up in a world that is very different to even mine at that age. The crisis in politics, society and self, that has existed throughout history for every generation, has been accelerated with the invention of social media. We’ve used it to warp our minds and given it to our children. The last few years, it’s felt like we’ve gone through the looking glass and are living in some kind of darkest timeline, something that we’re only just beginning to recognise we created for ourselves. It’s hard enough keeping sane as an adult, I can’t imagine coming of age in 2019.

But today’s youth has turned the internet into a new kind of digital activism. Gen Z are able to gather and distribute information on a mass scale unlike any other generation before them. Social media, for all its flaws, at least has communication on its side, and we’ve seen young people weaponise it, using it to create collective movements. 

Radical youth movements have always existed, most recently the Hong Kong protests, March For Our Lives and Black Lives Matter for all of which young people have played essential roles. But there hasn’t been anything quite as global in scale as this year’s climate crisis strikes. In September this year, six million people walked out of schools and jobs in 150 countries, demanding the world’s governments do something about the impending climate crisis. The strikes were inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who later gave a speech at the UN Climate Action Summit. “How dare you,” were her now famous words. “You come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”

There’s been something jarring in the polarising reaction of adults to the climate crisis strikes. On one side, there are the OK Boomers who don’t or won’t care about children having to protest and on the other side, adults who seem to have pinned all their hopes on the young. Greta Thunberg is (unsurprisingly) right – how dare we ask young people to be our hope. Yes, Gen Z are obviously – and literally – the future, but every single person on the planet who is still alive is also the future. We need to stop the cycle of passing down our problems to a resentful younger generation who will do the same thing. There’s not enough time left for that. 

But to do that, we first need to listen to young people. I don’t have that much hope in politicians, but I do have a lot of faith in passionate, loud, rousing youth movements. So in the spirit of listening, The Skinny asked some local young people for their thoughts on the climate crisis, the strikes and the response from adults. What they’ve written is powerful and nuanced and I hope reading it makes you feel as ashamed and angry as me. [Katie Goh, Intersections Editor]

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I believe the climate crises will one hundred percent be the most troubling issue of our generation, as we could be the last generation who can save our planet. We are the kids, teens and young adults who will have to live with our huge modern world, that we’re burning to a crisp. Now our world could become uninhabitable in our lifetime, it's so pressing and terrifying since now it is our generation’s duty who has to wake up the lazy politicians and investors to finally smell the burning roses. That is so much pressure put on us when most of us aren’t even adults yet, and we are left with the only option to march and take time out of our lives to prove we need to care for Earth better. 

Under most circumstances I would not agree with such a harsh method, putting aside our busy lives and demanding action but we need to act now because we’re already 20 years late. It has fallen to us young people to save our planet – the fear and pressure is huge, but we’re still put down by wealthy businessmen who tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about, when they have known about these problems for ages. We are put down despite our sole intention to save our futures because it has had to come to us to do it, but still some could not care less about us, the ones who will be left with the consequences. It is so upsetting, unfair and scary. To me climate change is the open blaze to my and so many futures. I truly hope all our hard work and stress put on me and my peers can save our planet because the time limit is far too close for comfort.

By Evan Macdonald, aged 16

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I’m 13. I shouldn’t be watching the news. And yet I find myself being fascinated by the latest Trump tweet, telling us all that climate change is a myth, or the latest scientific study estimating that we have only years before the planet is in such a state of disrepair, we can’t fix it.

That’s why I love the school climate marches. They give young people like me the power and the confidence to use our (often unheard) voices and really share our opinions about issues we feel very strongly about. But marches and protests don’t solve international problems. For that you need a truly combined effort.

While the marches have given a great sense of achievement and power to normal people like me, they also make me slightly upset as I know that they can’t solve everything. It wouldn’t be so bad if the people in charge were people who truly cared about the environment. But I can’t say that that is true. At the moment, the future is a really scaring and uncertain time. I hope that we can reverse the effects of climate change, but honestly, nothing is for definite.

By Miya Turner, aged 13

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You probably grew up with questions. We all do, the future is a great unknown available for each individual to make of it what they will. No one’s future is certain, right? Love, work, family, travel, luxuries, pain, struggle, heartbreak. There are so many roads one may follow, it is an almost impossible task to navigate the twisting and turning of life’s many paths. 

However, you probably know at least one thing for certain. You probably know that our planet is inhabitable, that the food is consumable, that the land is liveable, that the water is drinkable.

Maybe now you have children, you’ve fallen in love, you work and you’ve seen the world. Maybe now you’ve achieved the goals your younger self once set. Maybe now you look to the future once more to see what the next chapter holds. You look to the future side by side with the youth, and this time you’re not looking in hope, but instead in despair. We were not granted the good fortune of looking forward with youthful hope as you were. We have turned to our elders for support and for a solution, yet were granted neither. Now we must stand alone to battle the monster, a monster created by people we love, a monster we can only pray is tameable.

One day I intend to have a family of my own, and for them to look forward with the hope you once had, with the hope I currently do not possess, yet dream of attaining. A careless, unlimited hope to live without fear of the danger we have created through greed. A hope to live on a healthy planet just as you have done.

By Ella McGregor, aged 17 

One day, children may ask to see a polar bear, but in about forty years there may not be any polar bears to talk about. 

I want people to open their eyes and look around them, to see what we are doing to Earth.  

Rubbish is lying on the streets and floating in the ocean. Climate change impacts on everyone and everything. It is not only adults, but also people my age who protest and go on strikes. 

There hasn't been much on the news about climate change, about how it damages the planet, and one of the reasons is the coverage of Brexit. 

Governments all over the world are often focused on different things. It seems people want to find out more about space and other planets and forget about ours. Billions of dollars are wasted looking into space. Billions that could be used on Earth and on humanity. If we could pause, and focus on Earth, there could be a chance of saving it.

If we can save our planet, I still feel this catastrophe can happen again. I think that some people just don't get that in order for something to work, you have to repeat the process several times. It's like taking only one tablet of a medicine when you need to finish the course to make a lasting difference.

By Sanya, aged 12

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We have no choice but to take climate change seriously.

This is OUR future, OUR responsibility and OUR burden that has been left behind by those before us who haven’t addressed the issue adequately.

It is unnerving and even more frustrating to believe that today there are people that still deny the climate crisis, and yet it feels like every other month we are breaking records for 'highest temperatures recorded' or another abnormal natural disaster is on the horizon.

Awareness of the issue at hand is where the resolution could begin, freeing myself of the excuse that your effort is just a tiny drop in the ocean was a start. This is about doing my part and encouraging others to do the same. I do feel I have adopted this outlook, though in admittance I could still be doing more.

2019 has been a start for addressing climate change. Having taken part in my first beach clean-up this year, I’ve felt inspired to take the matter into my own hands as it is all too easy to expect someone else to be proactive in dealing with our climate change issues.

I’m without any doubt that I’m not alone in my genuine worry for this planet. What the future holds is something that is evidently becoming an issue of increased concern for me. If the impact of climate change is having an effect now, what about our future children’s lives and their children? Do I want to raise a child in a world with little hope for the future? Will big business and co-operations ever prioritise sustainability over profitability? Are we choosing suitable world leaders to tackle such issues? I have a multitude of questions due to the uncertainty over the future that we unfortunately cannot answer at the moment.

By Matt Rose, aged 20

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When I first heard of Greta Thunberg I assumed she must be an adult. When I realised she was only three years older than me, it made me feel that my generation could actually make a difference but people like Donald Trump get in the way. The only way he engages with her is to mock her on Twitter. She‘s more of an adult than he is. 

Every time I find out a new thing about Trump my opinion gets worse. In 2016, I thought 'the wall' was a joke. I then heard he said he would date his daughter if she wasn't his daughter. Someone in my class at the time got in more trouble for saying pussy than Trump did when that tape emerged. Then, last summer, I found out one of his wives had written in her autobiography that he raped her. 

It doesn't shock me that someone like that ran for president. It shocks me that he won. It shocks me because America is one of the leading countries in the world and millions of people voted for a racist, sexist pig. 

I get the feeling that some people don't take the time to think about their vote. My grandpa says things like: "Brexit will take 50 years to sort out" and "It won't be sorted out in my lifetime." He voted for Brexit. He voted for my generation to clean up the mess.

By Lauren Hunter, aged 13