Young People and Care of the Environment

At a recent young people’s workshop, I decided to do a class on climate change and care of the environment. I had talked a bit about this topic at other young people’s workshops but had never dedicated a whole class to it, so it was a new challenge.

I talked about the dual and contradictory messages that young people’s oppression gives us on this topic. Firstly, discouraged adults tell us that climate change is our problem to deal with because we’ll be around when things get worse. Being hopeful about the world is left up to us,1 and we don’t have space to ever feel discouraged. Secondly, adults aren’t backing2 our leadership. They give us the message that we don’t know enough and aren’t smart enough to lead in this area. Adults need to discharge their discouragement so they don’t give up on fighting for the environment. They also need to follow and back young people’s leadership. Young people have a lot of strengths that are needed to end the destruction of the environment. Having had less time to accumulate distress, we have a good understanding of connection (to others and to the natural world), playfulness, humour, and how the world should be. Work for the environment will move faster if we incorporate humour, play, and connection into it rather than getting weighed down by the seriousness of it.

I talked about how important it is that we take on3 care of the environment. If we don’t, humans (and other species) won’t be around to do all the other important things we want to do. I talked about how connected oppression is to climate change and how the communities and countries most targeted by racism and classism are already being hit the hardest by the destruction of the environment. I shared that RC has a new goal4 that talks about the interrelatedness of oppression and environmental destruction and how we need to discharge and act to end both.

By far the best part of the class was when some of the young people shared what work they had done for the environment. I asked young people of the global majority to share first, which many of them did, and we had time for a couple of white young people to share as well.

The young people talked about attending rallies and sit-ins against pipelines and fracking and about participating in the People’s Climate March.5 Some of them had organized busses of young people to get to these actions and had led parts of them. One young person talked about working with her friends to create Facebook groups and other strategies to stop a pipeline. Another talked about how environmental destruction is affecting non-Western countries by damaging their food sources. He has been organizing young immigrants in a campaign to get climate refugees recognized as official refugees (gaining them certain rights) in the United States. Another talked about how an organization of young people he is a part of has been working to get the city of Boston (Massachusetts, USA) to divest from fossil fuels. His group has gotten huge support. And another talked about his work on animal conservation with a zoo. He raised thousands of dollars for the zoo by selling hot chocolate and baked goods and is now doing presentations on climate change and animal conservation for young people and adults in various organizations. (Some of us got to see his presentation later.)

The young people who spoke were brilliant, brave, powerful, and inspiring! I plan to do more classes like this at young people’s workshops in the future.

Mari Piggott

International Liberation Reference Person for Young People

Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders in the care of the environment

1 "Left up to us" means assumed to be our responsibility.
2 "Backing" means supporting.
3 "Take on" means undertake.
4 A goal adopted by the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities:
That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.
Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.
The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.
5 A march in New York City, New York, USA, on September 21, 2014, in which an estimated four hundred thousand people participated.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00