Category Archives: environment

Interview questions for “Climate Girls Saving Our World”

I’d like to Skype interview you for a book-in-progress about young women climate activists, with  follow-up interviews over time. We would both edit the transcript to morph it into a book chapter.

Interviews with other youth activists are on my YouTube channel

I’m the author of these pertinent books:

Brave: The Global Girls’ Revolution (Equality Press) Vol. 1 Global Issues, Vol. 2 Regional Activism

Your Mindful Guide to Academic Success: Prevent Burnout (Equality Press)

Ageism in Youth Studies: Generation Maligned (Cambridge Scholars Publishing)

Global Youth Values Transforming Our Future (Equality Press)

Resist: Goals and Tactics for Changemaking (Equality Press)

Answers to Kids’ Deep Questions in Photos (Equality Press)

The Teen Trip: The Complete Resource Guide (Equality Press)

Ed. Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College (Equality


How to Survive Your Parents’ Divorce (Equality Press)


My background is I developed/chaired the Women’s Studies Program at California State University Chico. I also do intuitive energy work, dance, garden, travel.


Please let me know when are good times for you to Skype with me. I’m in California.


Sample question:

*Where and when were you born? Birth order?

*3 words to describe you

*how did you learn about the climate change disaster?

*when and why did you decide to take a leadership role? Previous experience?

*how do you cope with backlash, unfair criticism, harassment from deniers?

*what do you personally do to help the environment?

*what does feminism mean to you?

*do reports of increasing teen anxiety and depression apply to your network?

*why do you think most of the recent young climate change leaders are female?

*what tactics do you find most useful in being a changemaker? My book “Resist: Goals and Tactics for Changemakers” found burnout and purity issues are problematic.

*what works in organizing a group to take action and stick to it without splintering on dogma/purity or losing interest?

*what national groups do you work with?

*are you an optimistic or pessimist about stopping global warming, etc.?

*what do you see yourself doing five years from now?

*anything else you’d like to add?

*what other girls should be in the book?

Thank you, Gayle Kimball

Climate Change Solutions: Please add

Climate Change Solutions Draft for

 “Climate Girls Change Our Future,” for your additions and critique

Individual Actions

Calculate your household’s energy and food consumption impacts.[1]

See Rob Hopkin’s From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2019.



Reduce consumption of beef (cows release more methane than countries like Brazil and Germany[2] and forests are cut down to create pasture for livestock.) University of Chicago researchers estimate that each meat-eating American produces 1.5 tons more greenhouse gases through their food choice than do their vegetarian peers. End the billions of dollars of US government subsidies of the beef and dairy industries and develop climate-smart agriculture.[3] Project Drawdown reports this is the most important contribution an individual can make.


A study of Blue Zone areas with the most long-lived people found the majority of their food is plants—including legumes (as well as social connection and physical activity).[4]


Buy Rainforest Alliance Certified products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and bananas.

Grow vegetables, perhaps in pots on rooftops or window ledges.


Fridays for Future Europe proposed 10 measures to change the Common Agricultural Policy to capture carbon in the soil; reduce meat consumption; reduce pollution from farming chemicals, antibiotics and GMOs–in alignment with the Biodiversity Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy.


Compost food scraps (this can include egg shells, tea bags, paper, wool rags, yard clippings, leaves, etc.). About 40% of US food ends up in landfills and release gases. Worldwide, food waste cause around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Love Food Hate Waste

South Korean banned dumping food in landfill and requires food waste is recycled in biodegradable bags or in home composting, leading to 95% recycling of food waste.


Buy food in bulk to reduce packaging.


Avoid palm oil, grown in deforested areas.[5]


Shop at farmers’ markets, buy local. See Eric Holt-Gimenez’ A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism


Change Consumption

Consume less: Read The Story of Stuff The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—And How We Can Make it Better by Annie Leonard.


Avoid products with tiny plastic pellets call nurdles.


Recycle clothes (the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothes a year.) Follow “slow fashion” and make old clothes into new ones, called upcycling and repurposing. Make a mask from an old T-shirt. Shop in thrift stores.


Recycle toys in a toy library (


Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose

Ride a bike, walk, use public transportation rather than personal vehicles, ride-share.


Reuse glass or metal water bottles, bring your own straws, bamboo utensils, and take-out food containers.


Recycle cut hair to make into boons to absorb oil spills ( or for wigs.


Recyclable menstrual products, such as those made out of banana leaves.


Recycle paper, buy used wood furniture, or wood certified sustainably harvested. Avoid palm oil grown where rainforest were cut down.



Plant trees in your community ( like Shahzad Qureshi started Urban Forest to plant native trees in Pakistani cities such as in Karachi.


Plant flowers for bees and other pollinators ([6]


Reduce Energy and Fuel Use

Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use since “idle load” uses energy even when not charging—or plug them into power strips. Americans spend more on electricity to power devices when they’re off than when on.


Buy Energy Star label appliances and products, which have kept tons of carbon dioxide out of the air since 1987. Use electric rather than gas stoves. Use WaterSense label fixtures and appliances to sav water and electricity. LED lightbulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs and save money. Get an energy audit to see how your home can become more energy efficient.


The Drawdown campaign reduced the use of chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners, much more warming than CO2.


Shower for 5 minutes or less to save water.


Ride a bike or walk.


Wash clothes on cold and dry them on racks outdoor when sunny or indoor when not.


Don’t Pollute

Use organic cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda or buy products labeled Safer choice, Green Seal Certified, Ecologo or Cradle to Cradle.



Inform your network and government officials (Environmental


Educate others: the David Suzuki Foundation offers a chatbot to teach how to talk about the climate.


Vote for politicians with climate plans. As Barack Obama says, “Don’t boo—vote.” For example, the Sunrise Movement pressured candidate Joe Biden to commit to a $2 trillion climate plan, including creating green jobs, renewable energy by 2035, weatherizing and upgrading homes and buildings, and “climate smart” agriculture. The Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform also outlined climate policies.[7]



The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy includes about 170 cities in the US, such as Minneapolis. They agreed to transition to renewable energy and develop an action plan. The global Green Economy index of greenest cities.[8]  See the report on green cities around the world. Mayors announced their support of the Global Green New Deal in 2019, along with youth climate activists, labor unions, etc.[9]


Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies is giving technical assistance funding to 25 cities with plans for innovative green building and transportation systems.[10]


Charged Up assists Canadian cities to develop renewable energy.[11]


The greenest cities are Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Madrid, and Sao Paulo.[12]


Vancouver, Canada was one of the first North American cities to develop the Clouds of Change climate crisis report in 1990 and in 2011 committed to the Greenest City Action Plan including green jobs, green buildings, additional bike lanes, recycling cigarette bins, tree planting, ban on Styrofoam containers, increase the amount of locally grown food, and 100% renewable energy by 2050. (See my photographs.) it has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per person of any major North American city.


Minneapolis is developing clusters of solar panels to reduce nearby energy bills and has electric vehicles.


Boston is first in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s ranking of cities.


People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo turned abandoned school buildings into apartments for low-income seniors, created green spaces, etc.


New York City banned and plastic on city property.



California’s 2017 program requires the Air Resources Board to focus its clean-air efforts on communities with the most air pollution and consult environmental justice groups. (See the Indigenous Principles of a Just Transition). In 2018, it committed $35 million to creating high quality new clean-energy jobs.


New York, 2019: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. More than one-third of the program focuses on disadvantaged communities as by reducing pollution and developing jobs. The state also developed offshore wind projects.


Washington’s 2019 legislation committed the state to be carbon free by 2045, including incentives for businesses.


Colorado’s 2019 bills created an Office of Just Transition, such as to assist former miners and compensate cities for tax revenues lost to coal plant closures.


Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 mandated shutting down most coal plants by 2030 and fossil fuel electric and gas plants by 2045.



The five greenest economics are in the Nordic counties and Switzerland. [13]


21 youth sued the government in Juliana vs. United States in 2015, represented by Our Children’s Trust. Youth in Quebec filed a class action lawsuit led by ENvironnement Jeunesse.


Petition your government to reduce carbon pollution and a just recovery after the pandemic, such as in Canada’s #BuildBackBetter petition to Ottawa.[14] Green New Deal for Canada was proposed by MP in December 2019.[15] Lobby for an effective climate plan.[16]


Carbon pricing is practiced by over 43 countries, which results in lower emissions.[17] Ban fracking.


15 youth sued 5 countries (Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey) through UNESCO in 2019.


Green New Deal is proposed in Europe, the US (the bill was introduced in February 2019 by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey) and Canada.


School walkouts, strikes demanding declaration of the climate emergency.

Demonstrations like Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays in multiple cities later led by Greenpeace.[18]


The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns reduced carbon emissions globally, including about 25% in China.[19]


End subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. Alternatives include ethanol derived from camps and hydrogen derived from water, but they take energy to produce.


Carbon regulations require polluters to pay for their emissions.



The Global Green New Deal launched in 2020 (@GlobalGNDeal, Naomi Klein explained it grew out their critique of Green New Deals in the UK and US and of the capitalist system. Arundhati Roy said, “If people think coronavirus is a problem, it’s a stuffed toy compared to the climate crisis that’s coming. The main thing is to change our imagination. Once you understand that you just can’t extract everything, that things are fine,” to shape a new, more just vision.


The European Green Deal commits to zero emissions by 2050. Greta Thunberg said the target should be 2030, otherwise it gives up on the Paris Agreement to limit emissions.


UN Paris Accord 2015 agreed on pledges to reduce emissions; they need to be cut almost in half.

COP UN climate meetings, with the 26th scheduled in Scotland in 2020. Finland’s goal is to make the country carbon-neutral by 2035.


Make ecocide an international crime at the International Criminal Court.


Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy includes over 9,000 cities in 138 countries.[20]


Build on the Covid-19 pandemic to not return to “normal” and create a “just recovery,” and #BuildBackBetter. Global emissions dropped by 17% in April, 2020, due to pandemic shutdowns, with an average peak of 26% reduction.[21] Over 150 international groups called for a new and improved normal in summer of 2020 in “Open Letter on Covid-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament,” including international humanitarian cooperation.[22]


Infrastructure with green jobs providing employment

Project Drawdown lists the major sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases:

25%: electricity production

24%: food, agriculture, and land use

21%: industry

14%: transportation

6%: buildings

10%: other

Over half of the emissions stay in the atmosphere, 24% are absorbed by plants, and 17% by the oceans.[23]


Buildings worldwide contribute around one third of all greenhouse gas emissions (43% in the U.S., compared to 32% industry, and 28% transportation), even though using better insulation and other temperature-regulating steps can save money. Buildings (see my photos of the building in Seattle) use alternates to concrete such as strawbale and adobe. Bacteria and other “engineered living materials” can grow building bricks instead of burning limestone to make cement for concrete.[24] The goal is Zero Energy Building.


Villages within a city are created in “communitarian” buildings with shared spaces including a rooftop farm and big kitchen and meeting space. In a Seattle five-story building, the families in nine units cook for each other every other day. Hundreds of cohousing communities around the world are listed by the Foundation for Intentional Community.[25]

About half of home energy use comes from heating and cooling buildings, so weatherize: insulate and seal drafts. The US government gives tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements.[26] Cement is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions as it requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 1,450 degrees Celsius (2,642 degrees Fahrenheit). Mining copper and other elements needed for electrical wiring and transmission also cause globe-warming pollution. District heating is used in Europe and some US colleges with a central plant that burns natural gas to heat water, circulated to nearby buildings. An ambient temperature loop efficiently heats and cools the buildings, as in Whistler Olympic Village in British Columbia.[27] A pump circulates water through pipes buried below the frost line.


Use a heat pump rather than a furnace; it extracts heat from one area and moves it to another. Use a programmable thermostat. Keep heaters and boilers clean in order to be more efficient.


Use composting toilets.


Green public housing and public gardens, including urban rooftop gardens in urban areas.


Environmental justice projects such as cleaning up toxic waste sites and lead in pipelines.


Renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass).


Community owned energy companies or Green-e Energy certifies North American utility companies that get at least half their power from wind or solar.[28]


The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative joined 12 northeastern states in a cap-and-trade market


Install solar panels in schools.[29]


University model green programs[30]



Burning a gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2, the second leading source of emissions in the US. Check out the smog level in US cities.[31]


Light rail, electric and hybrid vehicles. Check their fuel use.[32] Proper tire inflation and clean air filters save gas, as do good roads.


Public bikes to rent or no charge.

Build bike lanes: Copenhagen is a model with “super cycle highways.”


Hybrid-electric buses and light rail, as in San Francisco.


Reduce airplane travel (about 2.5% of global emissions). Buy carbon offsets if you do fly.[33]



Greta Thunberg aid in July, 2020, “Our current system is not ‘broken’–the system is doing exactly what its designed to be doing. It can no longer be ‘fixed.’ We need a new system.” Models are provided by: Green circular economies,[34] Green Growth Knowledge Platform, Global Green Economy Index (Nordic counties and Switzerland[35]), and UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy.


Invest in green , sustainable, socially responsible businesses and mutual funds.[36] If your pension or university endowment funds invest in fossil fuels, start or join a divestment campaign.[37]

Devest pension, central bank, and university funds from fossil fuel corporations.


Climate Action 100+ includes hundreds of global investors committed to the goals of the 2016 Paris Climate Accord.


UN’s Business and Investor Working Group on Carbon Pricing


Amazon’s sustainability plan includes 100% renewable energy by 2025, 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, net zero carbon by 2040, $2 billion in research to new technologies, $100 million in climate fund such as reforestation, and ecological packaging.[38]


Telecommute, reduce work week. Twitter allowed employees to work from home after the pandemic.


Green Tree Plastics makes plastic lids and caps into benches, picnic tables, and trash bins.[39]


Climate Bonds Initiative-certified bonds issued worldwide, including municipal bonds



Scientists proposed a “Global Deal for Nature” in April, 2019, a plan to save biodiversity.[40] Carbon sinks include forests, grasslands, peatlands, and mangrove trees; they pull the most carbon from the air so they need to be enlarged. Every year, 33 million acres of forests are cut down.[41] Timber harvesting in the tropics alone contributes 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere, 20% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions.


Reforestation—plant trees, and preserve wetlands that remove CO2.


Organic farming keeps carbon in the soil and avoids plowing (the 2018 US Farm Bill includes incentives), grown diverse crops including high-nitrogen legumes. The New Deal of the 1930s paid farmers to adopt conservation policies and set price floors for crops.


Develop local farmers’ markets.


Bioremediation uses microorganisms (microbes, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae) to repair toxic wastes such as oil spills or repair burn areas.


Replace lawns with native (see the National Wildlife Foundation native plant finder and or water-saving plants, called Xeriscaping, or plants that capture rain. Food Not Lawns  by Heather Jo Flores is a free book and organization. [42]


Put “seed bombs” on abandoned properties.


Ban single-use plastics, use plant-derived plastics.


Engineering to reduce carbon, such as inject C02 into cooled volcanic rocks under the ocean to form solid minerals like limestone. Bioengineering ideas include partially deflecting sun rays, sequestering CO2 in the ocean, large scale reforestation,[43] releasing sulfate particles in the air to mimic the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption; placing millions of small mirrors or lenses in space to deflect sunlight; covering portions of the planet with reflective films to bounce sunlight back into space; fertilizing the oceans with iron or other nutrients to enable plankton to absorb more carbon; and increasing cloud cover or the reflectivity of clouds that already form. All may have unintended consequences, making the solution worse than the original problem.


Rocks cycle CO2; rock weathering removes CO2 and transforms it into minerals, which can be accelerated by grinding up volcanic silicate rocks, such ad basalt,  and adding the dust to the soil.[44] This also increased cereal grain crop yields.


Bio-char from biomass in soil.


Climate Advocacy Groups

Climate Justice Alliance

Earth Alliance

Extinction Rebellion


Indigenous Environmental Network

Natural Resources Defense Council

Earth Day

Rainforest Foundation


Progressive International (includes Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Yanis Varoufakis, etc.)

Project Drawdown

Rainforest Action Network


Youth-led Climate Advocacy Groups

Defend Our Future

Earth Guardians

Earth Uprising

Fridays for Future International

Hip Hop Caucus

International Youth Climate Movement

Climate Strike, Canada

Our Time, Canada

Our Children’s Trust

Polluters Out

Sunrise Movement, US

Youth Climate Network in various countries


Zero Hour, US





Jonathan Safran Foer, “The End of Meat I Here,” New York Times, May 21, 2020.














[17] Paul Burke, Frank Jotzo, Rohan Best, “Carbon Pricing Works,” The Conversation, July 13, 2020.


[19] Meehan Crist, “What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change,” New York Times, March 27, 2020.


[21] “After Coronavirus Triggers 17% Emissions Drop,” Common Dreams, May 20, 2020.


[23] “The World’s Leading Resource for Climate Solutions,”  Drawdown Framework,safely%2C%20and%20equitably%20as%20possible.

[24] Wil Srubar, “Buildings Grown by Bacteria,” The Conversation, March 23, 2020.



[27] Charles Kutscher, “Buildings Consume Lots of Energy—Here’s How to Design Whole Communities that Give Back as Much as they Take,” The Conversation, May 26, 2020.
















[43] Nikhil Swaminathan, “If Cutting Carbon Isn’t Enough, Can Climate Intervention Turn Down the Heat,” Scientific American, June 5, 2007.

[44] Benjamin Houlton, “An Effective Climate Change Solution May Lie in Rocks Beneath Our Feet,” The Conversation, July 16, 2020.

Chinese climate activist Ou Hongyi not allowed to attend high school

Ou Hongyi, who took part in the #FridaysforFuture protest, says she has been told she cannot return to school unless she stops her activism

As the first young person in China to engage in Greta Thunberg-inspired Fridays For Future climate strikes, Ou, 17, has become a target for the authorities who see that activism as a challenge to their control.

Ou claims she has been told by authorities to ditch her climate activism as a condition for her restarting studies at Guangxi Normal University affiliated high school in Guilin, where she studied until late 2018.

Ou, who also goes by the English name Howey, suspended her studies in December 2018 after being told she was “not suitable” for the international programme there and decided to study for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and US college admissions SAT test on her own.

But, following the wishes of her parents, and with dreams of pursuing higher education, she has been attempting in recent months to re-enter the school.

Her parents have been called several times by provincial education authorities, Ou told the Guardian, urging them to stop her climate activism and not to conduct interviews with foreign media.

Ou said her principal, Li Linbo, also told her in a meeting on 29 May that she must promise to end her climate activism before being readmitted, a claim corroborated by her father.

Several attempts to reach her principal, including calls to his office and personal number, as well as faxed questions, were not responded to.

“I don’t want to stop,” Ou said of her climate activism. “I want more people to know.”

Authorities also required Howey to have a psychological test before applying for readmission. “The only negative thing it said was I’m stubborn,” she said.

Ou Jun, her father, told the Guardian that her parents would not force her to give up her beliefs, but added that they were worried about her obsession and how it could derail her future. “She has anxiety about the climate,” he said. “We hope that she can graduate from high school, enter university, and hope that she can pay less attention to climate change issues.”

While currently the top global carbon dioxide emitter, China is expected to meet its Paris Agreement pledge of peaking carbon emissions at or before 2030. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has also put the development of an “ecological civilisation” at the core of his policies, which would appear to be a natural fit with Ou’s own obsessions.

It is not necessarily her concerns for the climate that have sparked a pressure campaign from authorities, Kecheng Fang, an assistant professor at the school of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Guardian.

“Most importantly, because it is about collective action,” he said. “No matter what kind of collective action it is, it’s considered highly sensitive.”

While expressing concern about climate change is not forbidden, there has been a narrowing of discourse on the subject, particularly if it calls into question the ambition of authorities, Fang said. “The underlying logic is that basically you can talk about those topics that are considered less sensitive, but it matters how you talk about it.”

While she waits to return to school, Ou has started her own initiative called Plant for Survival, whereby she is encouraging young people in China to plant more trees. From last November through to this January, the group planted more than 300 trees in and around Guilin.


youth climate activists in the Global South

Stories from the Youth Climate Movement in the Global South

Inés M. Pousadela

Jul 17, 2020

In early 2020, as millions went into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the environment experienced temporary relief from the impacts of human activity. As skies cleared and birds and animals claimed city spaces, it became apparent that the young people who had mobilized for the climate across the world in 2019 were right: Much environmental damage is the result of human action, and as such, can also be reversed through human initiative.

The experience of 2020 has made clear that whether the threat is climate change or a pandemic, humanity won’t survive its challenges unless people act collectively on the basis of scientific consensus.

Before the pandemic hit, the climate emergency had made headlines and had become part of everyday conversation. It all started when one determined young girl, then 15 years old, walked out of school and staged a solo protest outside her country’s parliament. But it wasn’t a solo protest for long, because hundreds of thousands of young people quickly took up the initiative.

Driven by inspiration rather than imitation, young people throughout the Global South organized their own local climate actions, feeding into the global climate movement. They used this global platform to draw attention to—and infuse new energy into—long-standing, under-acknowledged Indigenous movements defending land, water, and air against extractive industries and agribusiness.

In Ghana, Perk Pomeyie of the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement used graphic design and social media to mobilize young people around #FridaysforFuture and #SchoolClimateStrike. He also collaborated with the International Youth Climate Movement in the region to mobilize during the United Nations’ Africa Climate Week in Accra in March 2019. “As a grassroots activist in Ghana, this was the first time I gained a strong personal conviction that my work in the little corner of my community has a potential to cause change at the top, if supported with the right tools, capacity, and resources,” he explained.

Perk Pomeyie leads chants at a climate march in central Accra, Ghana. Photo from Perk Pomeyie.

Climate activists protest against mining in central Accra, Ghana. Photo from Perk Pomeyie.

Junior high school students in Ghana participate in an awareness-raising and tree planting session. Photo from Perk Pomeyie.

Across the Global South, activists have adapted their tactics to their local situations, all while shaking off delegitimization attempts that characterised the climate movement as driven by privileged people from the Global North.

“Although it is a very progressive thing to hold strikes in Global North countries, in a country like Sudan, going to school is a privilege for a lot of students. It doesn’t make any sense for people to strike from a school they got into after a huge struggle,” said Nisreen Al Sayeem, of the Sudan Youth Organization on Climate Change and Youth and Environment. “Young people in Sudan are taking three different paths for climate action: policy, activism—including advocacy, campaigning, and work in civil society organizations—and community-based work.”

The latest State of Civil Society Report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, puts the spotlight on this rising generation of young climate leaders, who are giving fresh impetus to persistent struggles in countries including Colombia, Ghana, and Sudan. They may not have received the same media attention as Greta Thunberg, but these youth activists are every bit as committed, engaged, and important.

In their collective undertaking, these climate leaders have cast aside stereotypes of young people as impulsive and immature. They have come to embody the voice of reason by embracing science, encouraging evidence-based decision-making, and challenging disinformation. They are offering a lesson to their governments on what it means to act responsibly.

Young people like Nisreen Al Sayeem are forging their own local forms of action. Photo from Nisreen Al Sayeem. Nisreen Al Sayeem, a junior negotiator at UN Climate Talks for the African Group of Negotiators, speaks at a climate event. Photo from Nisreen Al Sayeem.

Young people face considerable risks when they take action in countries where civic and democratic freedoms aren’t widely respected, and where environmental, Indigenous, and land rights activists have long experienced violent and even lethal repression. One young environmental activist from Colombia vividly described the dangers he faces daily in a country where “people live in a state of incredible anxiety due to the systematic murders of social and environmental leaders,” leaving them “afraid to speak, organize, and protest.” Demonstrating how dangerous climate activism can be, he asked not to be named for security reasons.

One way in which young climate leaders try to mitigate such dangers is by building alliances that may offer safety in numbers, and by connecting their domestic struggles to global climate concerns. In Colombia, major domestic issues are deforestation and population displacement, linked to the troubled implementation of the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, which sought to put an end to a half-century-long armed conflict.

Young Colombian climate activists organize local communities against deforestation. Photo from Fridays for Future Colombia.

Climate activism in Colombia received a boost during the mass anti-government protests that erupted in November 2019, as climate activists encouraged protesters to embrace environmental demands. “In a country where people are afraid to speak,” said the Colombian activist, the fact that millions took to the streets in what was considered the largest mobilization in several decades was “a unique opportunity” for the climate movement to push its agenda. “We may not be able to mobilize people specifically around climate, but we can take advantage of these mass mobilizations and put our issues out there … so that they understand that our issues also concern them and they start mobilizing for them as well.”

In this activist’s experience, global inspiration led to local action, which in turn led to participation in regional processes to build a Latin American climate network. These regional efforts then led to the creation of a national environmental network, bringing together young people from all over the country to work for climate action. Still a work in progress, the national environmental network succeeded in getting the protest movement to include among its demands the declaration of a national climate emergency. Coming full circle, Colombia’s national environmental network now also views global policy-making arenas as a battleground for future struggles.

Climate activism happens simultaneously at all levels, connecting the local to the global—from the streets of Bogotá and Manila to the sites of environmental damage in Bangladesh and Nepal, to high-level international forums such as the United Nations. In country after country, climate activists operate within institutional systems, and employ disruption tactics when necessary and possible, to communicate their message: The climate is in crisis, and going back to business as usual after the pandemic is not acceptable.

Filipino activists prepare banners for their anti-coal campaign. Photo from Young Bataeños Environmental Advocacy Network.

The climate movement has suspended street action because of COVID-19, but activism continues online. The movement has already succeeded in turning a political nonissue into an urgent agenda item. Now the pressure is on to promote a green recovery from the pandemic, countering the existing inertia to pursue a carbon-fueled dash for growth.

When it comes to the key decisions that will shape human lives in the post-pandemic world, this new generation of activists will continue to pressure decision-makers into giving them a future worth fighting for.

Inés M. Pousadela is a Senior Research Specialist at CIVICUS and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report 2020. She has written several books and articles on political representation, social mobilization, participation and accountability, and civil society.


Video Interviews with youth climate activists

International Gen Z climate activist young women are found on my YouTube channel. They are featured in my new book “Climate Girls Saving Our World.”

The following are interviews with climate activists in the US.

Additional Climate Activist Interview videos

Naomi Klein’s new book is On Fire in support of the Green New Deal. In a talk at CSUChico with Geography professor Mark Stemen on 9-28-19 she listed three major fires: climate disruption; political fires of hatred, division, and pessimism; and “our fire,” the youth-led climate movement. The spirit of fire must be used to clean the debris: The main problem is the economic powers want us to give up so we don’t rise up. For example, many films about the future as dystopias where the 1% live in walled compounds and the masses suffer from disaster, like The Hunger Games. Hopeful actions are college endowments divesting from fossil fuels and organizations like the Sunrise Movement. Her previous books: The Shock Doctrine, No Logo, This Changes Everything, and No Is Not Enough. Here are 23 minutes of excerpts from her talk.

Bill McKibben at the Rise for Climate march in SF, 9-8-18. I ask him about youth activism in the environmental movement.

30,000 people march to prevent climate change in San francisco, part of 900 global marches the same day. SF march organized by 350 Bay Area, 9-18-18.

plaintiffs in the suit against the US gov. re: climate change Plaintiffs Tia Hatton, 21, and Kelsey Juliana, 22, discuss youth environmental activism, 9-18-18. collects young people’s comments on climate change drawn on parachutes. They represent every continent but Antartica. Co-organizer Kallan Benson is 14, from Maryland. The interview occurred at the climate march in San Francisco on 9-8-18, one of over 900 marches in 80 countries. Over 30,000 participated in the march.

Sunrise Movement Rally in Chico, April 27, 2019. Led by Varshini Prakash, national co-founder, and Steven Marquart, founder of the Chico hub. The rally’s goal was to mobilize activism for the Green New Deal. Also see interview with organizer Jeremy Ornstein, 18, also from the Boston area Tactics: *Personal stories from two of the organizers, a local Mechoopda Native American, and a video of another activist and Camp Fire burn victims, *An animated video about a desired future narrated by Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, *Discussion with the people seated around about what you want to preserve from climate change and later local organizations to lobby to support the Green New Deal, *Action items from the local organizer Steven Marquardt such as request to attend City Council meetings to support the environment and national co-founder Varshini Prakash showed slides with websites to support the Green New Deal such as *Local candidate for Congress Audrey Denny pledging to support the Green New Deal Pledge for candidates, *Video documentation of the event to share with others, *Photo opportunities such as members of the local Sunrise hub on stage with Denny and photos of the large audience holding up manila folders printed with “We need the Green New Deal.” *Printed material in the folder: a pamphlet “Your Guide to Build a New Day for America,” and the magazine In These Times article about the Green New Deal. * Request to purchase “merch” such as T-Shirts, as well as tickets for admission *Followed by a live band with a dance floor and beer for sale. For a history of the movement see Inside the Sunrise Movement (it didn’t happen by accident) by Mark K. Matthews, Nick Bowlin and Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporters Climatewire: December 3, 2018

Chico Sunrise strike for climate at California State University, Chico, 12-6-19 A young woman speaks her anger at older generations and expects her generation to be the problem solvers.

Sunrise Movement Chico, Chico 350, and students organized the Chico strike, 9-20-19 part of a global movement of millions of protesters against climate change. Steven Marrquardt and Varshni

Jeremy Ornstein deferred Harvard to be a Sunrise organizer for action to protect the environment. Interviewed at a Sunrise rally in Chico, CA. 4-27-19.

Steven Marquardt, 24, organized the youth climate change activist Sunrise Movement hub in Chico, California. He discusses organizing tactics and goals. (See my ebook Resist! Goals and Tactics for Changemakers for more on effective organizing.)

CC Maher, high school student; Abraham Renteria, political science community college student; Jacob Defant, CSUC ag student, and Mary Kay Benson, activist discuss climate change activism tactics and the Sunrise Movement.

Susan Suntree, the author of “Sacred Sites,” a poetic history of Los Angeles from the Big Bang to the present, discusses how to do effective grassroots organizing including have fun, serve food, create effective visuals, get community support including influential people, follow an agenda. For more on social change, see “Resist: Goals and Tactics for Changemakers,” an ebook by Gayle Kimball.

Alexandra describes the Camp Fire in Butte Creek Canyon in Butte County. It’s the most deadly fire in California history. Luckily, her house made it but it will be a long time before she and her family can return.

dense urban forests help with heat, planted by youth

WorldEarth Science

City of Trees

April 17, 2020

Rebecca Katzman

FANTASTIC FORESTS Shahzad Qureshi is the founder of Urban Forest, a group that plants trees in Pakistan.


Karachi, Pakistan, is one of the hottest cities on Earth. In June 2015, more than 1,000 people died there during a heat wave, when temperatures reached nearly 113°F. “It was a terrible time,” Shahzad Qureshi told TIME for Kids. “We needed to do something about it.”

Following that heat wave, Qureshi took action. He started Urban Forest, a group that plants native trees, without the use of pesticides, in cities in Pakistan.

Trees help cool the air by providing shade and releasing moisture through their leaves. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they can help lower summer temperatures in cities by 2° to 9°F. The cooling ability of trees is crucial in cities, where concrete roads and buildings absorb large amounts of heat.

For its first project, Urban Forest planted about 1,300 trees in a park in Karachi. The group uses a method that helps the trees grow quickly. In just three years, the trees were 30 feet tall. Qureshi hopes that one day, this park will become a forest of 50,000 trees.

TREES, PLEASE Karachi Grammar School student Sophiya (left) gets help planting a tree.


Keeping Things Cool

Since 2015, Qureshi and his team have cooled the air by planting 14 urban forests in Pakistan, 12 of which are in Karachi. The trees also provide a habitat for a variety of animals. In addition, they provide food for the community and a place where people can kick back and relax.

In 2017, Qureshi helped plant an urban forest at Karachi Grammar School. He met with students to teach them about how trees help the environment. Then the students pitched in, helping to plant saplings in the schoolyard.

“They were excited about the project,” Muneeza Shaikhali says. She’s a headmistress at Karachi Grammar School. “They themselves had been experiencing the high temperatures in the summer months. And our school is not all air-conditioned.”

The trees attract birds and colorful butterflies. Students go outside during science class to study the forest. “It’s like a library of native trees in front of the kids all the time,” Qureshi says. “They can identify the native species,, and insects that are around. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”