This year’s International Youth Day comes at perhaps a sobering moment when considering the future (and for many the present) of today’s young people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s damning report concerning humanity’s destructive impact on the climate once again reminds us that this generation seems to have been born into a world on fire, both literally and metaphorically. Indeed, to avert disaster, action needs to be taken on multiple fronts by both current leaders and young people.
The transformation of food systems, the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, certainly constitutes a key aspect of our global response to the climate crisis given the significance of both food production and food transport to global greenhouse gas emissions. It will require the aid and input of young people to ensure we strike a balance between radically transforming food systems to remove their impact on the climate and maintaining food security to avoid disastrous consequences of another kind.
What has the Youth Council been up to?
In a world more globalised than ever before, as both the climate crisis and the covid-19 pandemic have thrown into stark relief, making global connections has been more important than ever before. This need for collaboration is the reason that we started the International Youth Mayors’ Association (IYMA) , a group of young leaders from five countries (and growing) who meet every month to discuss best practice and the various youth issues we face, both similar and different. Past topics have included how to set up youth mayors, youth involvement in environmental politics, and different countries’ political systems. Although we are a relatively new organisation, we hope to expand our membership and grow into a group that can represent both the unity and diversity of young people around the world.
However, although taking action on an international level is important, local action remains crucial. For instance, active travel brings benefits to both the environment and to students’ mental and physical health. That is why the Youth Council’s Environment and Transport group have been running a project centred on encouraging young people to walk and cycle to school. Earlier this year we launched a survey hoping to identify the primary barriers that stop young people from walking or cycling to school. The survey was immensely successful. We had over 1,300 responses from around the city and now we aim to run a series of focus groups to brainstorm solutions to the barriers identified by the survey. Hopefully the views of the city’s young people will be able to meaningfully shape its transport policies.
Although the looming threat of climate change combined with the immense uncertainty of covid-19 may present a bleak reality facing today’s young people, there is still hope for the future. With young people sharing their voices and leaders acting on them, perhaps a fairer and more resilient world can be built.