How can I make my voice heard on climate change?
My name is Rhiannon Thompson. I am a PhD student researching young people’s mental health and the environment at Imperial College London, and a member of the Climate Cares team. We are running a survey to hear from young people about how COVID-19 and climate change are affecting them.
Climate change and our future
Before COVID-19, I was already concerned about the future. We are not taking care of our planet, and people around the world are already suffering the effects. From my experience speaking to other young people in the UK, and as was previously reported by The Mix, climate change feels like a real threat to us.
Many of us are pessimistic about the future of the planet; it seems increasingly likely that we will live in a future where climate-related problems affect our day-to-day lives.
Therefore, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be making our fears and uncertainties about the future worse.
How has COVID-19 affected young people?
Young adulthood is a time when mental health problems can emerge or get more complex. This is a time when we are already going through a lot of changes and making a lot of choices, whatever path we take after leaving school.
Many of us would like to use this time to lay the foundations for our adult lives and build our futures; studying, getting further education or training, volunteering, taking internships, applying for jobs, and working first jobs.
So, the impact of COVID-19 on society has added greater uncertainty to an already uncertain and anxious time.
With an already saturated job market, the downturn in economy and job prospects is worrying. Those of us who’re working are also more likely than older people to have short-term contracts and we are less established within organisations, meaning we are more likely to find ourselves out of work.
If you’re worried about your finances, visit The Mix’s money page for tips and information on managing your money.
To add to this, the rapid changes and unpredictability with exams were really nerve-wracking and the return to school or university in a post-lockdown world has created a lot of uncertainty.
If you’re feeling anxious about the return to school, take a look at this back-to-school guide.
For many of us, our main source of connection is our friends, so we might feel especially socially deprived by the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing. Young people have also had a lot of bad press during this time, often being blamed for taking risks by meeting up with their friends.
But this misleading – in fact young people are doing so many amazing things to improve the world and make it better for the future. To find out about all the amazing positive things young people have been doing during lockdown, read The Mix’s Kindness Diary.
How to have your say on climate change
So what else can we do to create change? If we are being optimistic, the changes brought about by COVID-19 can be seen as an opportunity. Our society and the economy have to be rebuilt and could be made more sustainable in the process.
Many young people take comfort in campaigning, spending time with like-minded individuals, and channelling their feelings positively towards environmental projects.
How can I get involved?
- Look for local groups, campaigns and projects to get involved with (e.g. Our Bright Future)
- Contact your local MP to find out their position on the climate and young people’s opportunities, and then give them your say!
- Get involved with groups and organisations across the country (e.g. the UK Youth Climate Coalition, Force of Nature).
- Changes don’t need to be large in scale; here are 9 things you can do about climate change
- You could set up an Eco Club for your school or uni to raise awareness, look at how things could be made more sustainable, and call for change
- Read The Mix’s article on how to change the world, for more tips
Your chance to take part in research on climate change
For me, carrying out research that improves our understanding of young people’s experiences has brought me peace of mind. But, there is still a lot we don’t understand about how young people are affected by the changes happening in our world.
As part of a project called ClimateCares, Imperial researchers are looking at how the fast-paced changes of COVID-19 and the slow-acting changes of climate change are affecting young people (aged 16-24) psychologically.
This research will help us understand young people’s responses to these situations and amplify their voices. We are also launching a journal for young people to explore their feelings as a potential tool for support.
To take part in the survey for this research, please go to bit.ly/ChangingWorldSurvey, deadline 30th September.
By Rhiannon Thompson
Updated on 24-Sep-2020
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