ActNowFilm: Young People’s Experience with Climate Change

Representatives from countries all around the world gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the twenty-sixth Conference of Parties (COP26). The conference is hosting discussions on key issues surrounding the debate on climate change such as greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature rise, unprecedented weather events, and much more. 

The conference also raises the question of whether negotiators can make progress on these issues or if conversations will continue to stall. One way in which the COP26 summit is trying to urge change is through the amplification of unheard voices on the topic of climate change. 

The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research and Cambridge Zero, as part of the COP26 Universities Network, premiered a short film bringing together clips of young people from around the world highlighting the direct effect climate change has had on their lives. 

ActNowFilm called for people, ages 16 to 30, to submit a video of themselves talking about or showing how climate change was impacting them, what they personally were doing to make change, and messages to deliver to the COP26 summit. 

“We knew we wanted to find real and impactful ways for these youth voices to be heard and that involving young people was essential,” said Amy Thompson, head of policy programmes and communication at the Institute of Policy Research at Bath University. She also went on to say that she hoped the project would become “a piece of social history recording the views and wishes of young people during the COP26.”

Amplifying Young Voices 

Young people from all around the world recorded videos of themselves outlining how climate change has directly affected their lives, what changes they hope to see, and messages they have for the climate negotiators and decision makers attending the climate conference. 

Taylor Downs, a fourth year undergraduate in geography at the University of Glasgow introduced the film by saying, “This generation is like none that has come before in terms of the ideas and the real drive and the real passion to make things happen.” 

As the film begins, individuals representing their country speak on why climate change matters to them. One woman named Stella from Zambia said, “Climate is important to me because I believe it affects every aspect of our lives from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the habitants all around the globe, our ecosystems, our health and above all, our future.” 

Infographic by Carrie Jordan

Multiple youths featured in the film describe climate change as a climate emergency or crisis. Changes in the climate pose an extraordinary threat to the planet and all its inhabitants. However, less developed countries are disproportionately affected by the effects of the climate crisis. 

Jessie, a resident of China said, “Some people from the least developed regions who yet have the smallest voice are already bearing the consequences of these tragedies.” 

Another participant featured in the film also brought up the humanitarian concern associated with climate change. 

“Climate change is not just a climate crisis, it’s a human rights crisis. Many of the basic rights which we hold fundamental are already being threatened around the globe,” said Imogen from the United Kingdom. 

After highlighting some of the direct consequences of climate change, the participants in the ActNowFilm addressed negotiators and decision makers at the conference and pledged to make change in their own communities. 

Hope for the Future

Younger generations will bear the brunt of the climate crisis. Because of this, the participants in the ActNowFilm believe that younger voices must be a part of the conversation on how to take action. They also agree that action needs to be taken now. 

“Turn your words into action,” said Kehkashan from Canada. “It is no longer enough to just declare a climate emergency.” 

The effects of human-caused global warming are “happening now, irreversible on the timescale of people alive today, and will worsen in the decades to come,” according to research done by NASA. The effects are observable in the sinking of glaciers, plant and animal ranges shifting, and sea level rise. Additionally, global temperatures will continue to rise and more extreme weather events will occur. It is safe to say, the entire planet is being affected.  

“No single country can or should stay out of it, and it’s about time we talked about concrete actions that penetrate straight to the root causes of climate change,” said Samson, a resident of China.   

The question is, what changes need to be made? 

Chloe from Germany said, “The most important change we need to make to address this issue? Treating it like the emergency it is.” 

Kehkashan from Canada also urged attendees of the conference to “turn your words into action” because “It is no longer enough to just declare a climate emergency.” 

Each participant featured in the film also pledged to make changes within their own community. From teaching people about sustainability to advocating for change on the global stage, these youths are devoting their time and effort to ensuring the future of our planet.

Nadia, a resident of Germany best summarized the driving motivation of the ActNowFilm and the COP26 summit as a whole. “Humanity is constantly advancing, and I’m proud of its breakthroughs in many ways, but isn’t all human striving in vain if we no longer live in a functioning world?”

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