Young people, perhaps more than any other group, wear their heart on their sleeve and want to say it as it is. They can translate information into human emotions and responses and add some imagination to our actions.
If I’ve been reminded of anything in recent times, it is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report, published last autumn, is a rallying call for everyone. No-one is off the hook. All of us have a responsibility for creating a sustainable yet thriving world. They say ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ are required. That means we each have to find our ‘voice’ and our way of making a difference, both individually and corporately.
One of the great things about ICN’s initiatives with young people is that they enable them, not just to learn facts, but to become more confident as forces for good – people who can become climate ambassadors more able to challenge wrong decisions, bolster good ones and demonstrate their commitment through action.
I work in the arts and cultural sector and their responsibility is as profound as anyone else’s. Some of the young people ICN work with may well become scientists, teachers, engineers, politicians and influencers in other fields. Some, no doubt, will pursue a career in the arts where they will have the power to delight, educate, stimulate and inspire at a time, let’s face it, of increasing division and inequality. Young people, perhaps more than any other group, wear their heart on their sleeve and want to say it as it is. Greta Thunberg is a wonderful example of that. They are not content with just the scientific facts, but like artists, can translate information into human emotions and responses and add some imagination to our actions and the actions of others. That sincerity is powerful in a world of spin and cynicism.
Today I’ve been preparing an exhibition of cartoons by the renowned Norman Thelwell who, amongst his prolific output, did over 1500 cartoons for Punch and 60 of their covers. He had a passion for the environment and in 1971 published a book of cartoons entitled ‘The Effluent Society’. His cartoons, commenting then on pollution, congestion, waste, development and the like, though funny, are profoundly sad when one considers how little has changed in the last 50 years.
We can’t wait another 50 years. In fact, one young person I met today expressed their frustration by saying ‘we can’t wait another 50 minutes’. ICN’s projects demonstrate young people’s willingness to grasp the facts and their potential to be effective advocates. Everyone needs to build on this and to encourage young people to fearlessly take action and to hammer the message of urgent change home.