Youth Conference for Climate Change
January 11th, 2020, Cardiff.
It is hard to live in the world and not be aware of Global Warming and Climate Chaos. We are all familiar with the doom and gloom scenarios about the future of our planet as climate change accelerates. The serious impact on the world’s water systems through more flooding and drought; the impact on agriculture and our capacity to grow food; increase in wild-fires and loss of biodiversity.
What is less well known is the impact climate change can have on our mental health. As the news about wildfires ravaging Australia and Amazonia become part of mainstream reporting, we see climate change happening in front of our eyes. The images of dead animals, dying coral reefs and flooded towns, villages and cities alongside reports of extreme weather events bear testimony every day to how climate change is impacting on people’s lives right now.
In response psychologists have seen a rise in eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety can cause sleepless nights and intense bouts of worry which can lead to changes in behaviour. Whilst some young people may be paralysed by anxiety others are taking a stand. Inspired by 17-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, youth are taking the fight against climate change seriously.
And the good news is that climate change activism can reduce symptoms of mental ill-health among young people. In fact, headteachers and psychotherapists say that taking collective action can boost wellbeing.
A constant diet of gloom and doom is not good for anyone. Instead we are promoting doom and bloom. We don’t want to deny what is happening, but we want young people to know what can be done about it and what part they can play to protect our planet. Furthermore, when children and young people see the adults around them actively working for change it gives them hope that the world can respond to this crisis. We therefore worked with the Youth Council of Wales to organise a Climate Change Conference.
On Saturday, January 11th, sixty young people came from across Wales to take part in a “Dragons’ Den” challenge. After a night in the Urdd building at the Senedd they were keen to get involved in learning about the solutions to climate change. Ten possible solutions had been prepared and the young people were put in 10 mixed groups and given a challenge. Could they research the 10 projects during the morning and present the possible solutions to a “Dragons’ Den” team of experts in the afternoon?
Two “Dragons’ Den”’ teams of scientists, social scientists and local councillors were invited to judge the presentations. The task for each of the 10 groups of young people was to present their solution to global warming to the judges. They had to present their arguments to take account of holistic sustainability, that is the social, economic and environmental benefits of their solution.
Supported by a facilitator the teams set to work to complete the research and plan their presentations.
The Climate Change Solutions
The suggested solutions were well researched and covered many aspects of human life that influence global warming.
The solutions were prepared by Dr Jennifer Rudd, a research scientist working on reducing carbon emissions at Swansea University and Dr Sue Lyle from Dialogue Exchange, a specialist in Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship. Each of the solutions took into consideration three key things we need to do if we are to avert a climate catastrophe:
- Reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – power down.
- Find alternatives to fossil fuels to power our lives – power up.
- Drawdown the greenhouse gases we have already produced out of the atmosphere and into the earth – carbon extraction.
Fortunately, we already know how we can do all of these things. We can power down by reducing emissions in lots of ways. We already have the technology to power up our world using renewable energy. And we have a great natural system for drawing down greenhouse gases – the trees and green plants of the world. Scientists are working on projects to reduce industrial carbon emissions.
The young people were reminded that we have to move to a carbon neutral economy as fast as we can – we need a Zero Carbon Britain. This means transforming the ways we travel, the homes we live in, the food we eat, how we generate electricity, and how we use our land.
Each of the solutions the young people researched are ‘no regrets solutions’ – the actions recommended make sense regardless of their climate impact since they have intrinsic benefits to communities, economies and the environment in multiple ways.
We wanted the young people to see that global warming is an opportunity and an invitation to build, innovate and effect change. Combating climate change can awaken creativity, compassion and genius – it has the potential to create jobs for the future that will benefit all of humankind. In this way we wanted the young people to increase their knowledge and understanding of solutions to climate change and challenge any eco-anxiety they may feel as they research solutions and see they can be a part of the changes we need to make.
The following ten projects were prepared for youth to research and present:
- Active travel
- Carbon Utilisation
- Changing Farming
- Carbon Capture
- Changing our diet
- Active buildings
- Community Energy
- Hydrogen as a fuel
In the afternoon, the two “Dragons’ Den” panels each judged 5 projects. All were agreed that the quality of the presentations was of a very high standard. The arguments presented were coherent and persuasive. After discussion, the panel judged ‘Rewilding’ and ‘Community Energy’ to have presented the most persuasive arguments.
The audience of young people were also able to rate each of the projects using VocalEyes, a participatory digital App which they had downloaded onto their phones. We were impressed that the same winners were chosen by the young people as the panels.
We have all learned a lot from the day which would not have been possible without a lot of collaboration and cooperation between all participants.
Special thanks to the collaborators:
Carey Davies – Senior Youth Officer – Participation, Cardiff.
Lee Patterson – Senior Youth Officer – Child Friendly City Programme, Cardiff
William Gold – RICE Project, University of South Wales
Dr Jennifer Rudd – RICE Project, Swansea University
Dr Sue Lyle – Dialogue Exchange
Peter Anderson – VocalEyes
Thanks to panel participants for giving their time
Steve Carr – Research scientist
Owen Jones – Cardiff local councillor
Katherine Steentjes – Research psychologist
Niaomh Convery – Community activist
Steve Westlake – Research psychologist
Jennifer Rudd – Research scientist