Generation Climate: ‘How is the future going to be beautiful if the present is looking catastrophic?’

When Greta Thunberg decided to sit outside the Swedish Parliament for three weeks in 2018 demanding climate action, she could not have known the extraordinary impact her activism would have around the world.

Now 18, she has given the climate conversation renewed vigour, and brought countless more young voices to the fore – all fighting to save their futures.

From the UK, to Australia, North America, and Uganda, Sky News has spoken to some of the young people propelling the climate movement forward.

From the frontline of the climate crisis in Kampala, Uganda, Vanessa Nakate has seen first-hand the devastation of droughts and flash flooding.

Speaking to Sky News she said she recognises the urgency in acting now.

"If I was in a burning house I would do everything I could to save my life.

"Our planet is warming, it has caught a fever and we are seeing these disasters happening right now.

"Young people are worried about the future they’re going to inherit.

"The present is already terrible, with floods, droughts, and hurricanes, so you can’t convince us young people that the future is going to be beautiful if the present is looking catastrophic."

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Climate activist and student Anjali Sharma from Melbourne, Australia, is just as frustrated by the perceived lack of engagement with climate issues.

The 16-year-old is taking the Australian government to court over a proposed extension to a coal mine in New South Wales.

It is thought the upgrade to the facility would lead to an extra 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

The teenager said juggling the court battle alongside her studies makes her feel proud, but it is demanding.

Speaking to Sky News, Anjali said the burden of responsibility weighs heavily on young shoulders.

"I think while it is really empowering, I come home from a long day of school strike meetings and campaigning and I feel really accomplished, but it’s also bittersweet because it sucks that I have to be the one taking my future into my own hands."

The UK saw mass protests and school walkouts when climate protests swept the globe in 2019.

Millions of young people marched in September of that year, from handfuls of demonstrators in tiny towns to mass rallies in cities like Melbourne, Mumbai, London, and New York.

A climate curriculum has recently been created by some teachers in Leeds, aiming to "empower the climate strike generation".

But elsewhere an increasing number of British teachers are becoming climate change teachers.

Emma Pavey was one of the first.

She said empowering her students to make changes in their homes and later inspiring them in the world of work, is of utmost importance.

"We learn about the impact of global warming, what countries are most affected and show them that small differences can have a big influence on the bigger picture.

"My role is about giving them that perseverance and determination to say I’m not going to let this go, I’m going to keep fighting for it – but in a polite way!"

St Catherine’s College in Eastbourne has been one of the main schools backing the climate crisis movement; students lobbied to change canteen cutlery to the wooden variety, every student uses a recyclable water bottle, and the school is undergoing a refurb changing all its lights to the LED kind.

Year 11 students May, Josh, and Hanna have taken climate change lessons. They told Sky News about the power in their generation’s hands.

"I think we’re more aware of the problem, people aren’t taking that action to enforce change yet and aren’t realising what they need to do," May told us.

"As a generation we’re really good at taking that emotion and using it in order to take action."

Hanna said those in the developing world need help more urgently.

She is also aware of the changing planet and that damage is fast becoming irreversible.

Speaking to Sky News she said: "Because we know it’s our generation that are going to be impacted by it and affected by it the most, we know it’s really important we make that change."

The climate movement is diversifying everyday.

This is a generation of youngsters who are not afraid of using their voices to enact change, for instance the Black Lives Matter movement of the past year in Britain has been driven by this generation.

Whether it is social issues or environmentalism, the world is being shaped for the better, thanks to them.

Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show is following Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

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