A conversation with Young Climate Activists from around the globe on how they are transforming their eco-anxiety and eco-anger into action for systems change to combat climate change.

“We are faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

What do Sacha Wright, Nwabisa Mjoli, Maezie Lane, Dumisa Mgudu and Emer Rafferty and Ayakha Melithafa have in common with Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier, Leah Namugerwa, Ridhima Pandey, Xiye Bastida, Isra Hirsi or Clover Hogan?

They are all young climate activists united in the fight for system change that will combat climate change. Working around the world, these young changemakers are managing eco-anxiety by taking responsible, effective action.

And this month, on Earth Day (April 22nd), you can listen to their views and engage them, along with many others like them – in a unique youth-led conversation that seeks to understand more about eco-emotions and how we can be volunteers to anger and champions of change.

The origins of this conversation:

We face unprecedented systemic challenges to our lives and livelihoods. Climate change, worsening inequality, biodiversity loss, ecosystem destruction, pandemics, racism are all contributors to a “global polycrisis” that is affecting planetary health and the sustainability of humanity.

The impact on mental health is increasingly evident in emotional distress, grief, loss, anxiety and depression. Various words are now used to name the emotional responses to this crisis including solastalgia (distress caused by the painful lived experience of environmental destruction) and eco-anxiety (helplessness, panic, guilt and insomnia). Eco-anxiety is, in fact, on the rise with some 70% of young people in the UK (18-24 years) experiencing it (Friends of the Earth, 2020). Also on the rise is eco-anger (fury and frustration at the lack of meaningful commitment to action by governments and companies).

Research has shown that eco-depression and eco-anxiety inhibit the taking of climate action, resulting in a sense of helplessness and apathy that reinforces the same anxiety. Eco-anger, on the other hand, is predicted to encourage active engagement with climate solutions.

In an earlier #WeContainMultitudes conversation on Anger and Atonement, Albie Sachs spoke about anger as a lever for change, about anger as an energy that can be transformative. He described himself as a “volunteer to anger” in his commitment to the struggle for racial equality in South Africa.

In that conversation we were talking about anger in response to systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. But we could have just as well been talking about the struggle for Climate Action, a struggle that is being most visibly fought by young people – as climate activists, as future leaders, as those whose lives will be most affected by environmental destruction, as those who can see a vision of an alternative world we want to live in, a world that just might survive.

On April 22, 2021, this Earth Day, we will be joined by six young climate activists in a youth-led #WeContainMultitudes conversation. Six young people from organisations across the world. All of them are volunteers to legitimate, responsible anger All of them are engaged in the fight for transformative climate justice, climate action, climate reality. We will hear more about their experiences, perspectives and the eco-emotional journey they have taken which brought them to where they are today and how they are looking to engage and support other youth experiencing similar things.

If you want to read more on the subject, have a look at some of the links below

Friends of the Earth: How to cope with eco-anxiety

Force of Nature: The Rise of Eco-Anxiety (2021)

From anger to action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing (2021)

Ecological Grief as a Response to Environmental Change (2021)

Our Conversation instigators

Ayakha Melithafa is a young South African environmental activist, on of 16, including Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor, Carl Smith, and Catarina Lorenzo to file a complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child for failing to adequately address the climate crisis. Melithafa also contributed to the Project 90 by 2030 YouLead initiative, a South African organisation committed to a 90% reduction in carbon by 2030. She was recruited by Ruby Sampson in March 2019 to join the African Climate Alliance Youth spokes team, where she was given opportunities to do presentations, attend conferences and other climate action events. She also served as a recruitment official for the African Climate Alliance. She is passionate advocates for the inclusion of diverse voices in climate activism and believes “It’s very important for poor people and people of colour to go to these protests and marches because they are feeling the wrath of climate change the most. It’s important for them to have a say, for their voice and their demands to be heard.” We look forward to having her join us.

Sacha Wright, Force of Nature is the Research and Impact Coordinator at Force of Nature, a social enterprise that exists to mobilize young people in tackling the world’s messiest problems – starting with their own mental health. A student of Environmental and Human Health at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Sacha studies the confluence of social, biological and environmental factors that contribute to inequitable health outcomes. Through her work at Force of Nature, Sacha has helped lead workshops with over 500 young people from all over the world in exploring their own experience with the psychological impacts of climate change. Sacha’s interests lie in environmental justice and global health practice, and weaving together the lived experience of young people with evidence-based research to form an authentic human narrative in fighting the climate crisis. At Force of Nature she is working to connect young people to compassion for themselves, one another, and the planet. Describing herself, she says that she is “passionate about critical allyship, equal access to medicine and all things leafy and green.

Nwabisa Mjoli, Routes to Resilience is Programme Coordinator at Routes to Resilience where she is integrally involved in the roll out of the accredited Sygnature Award, an accredited learning programme that uses a blend of learning pedagogies and experiential encounters to help young people develop a resilience mindset and the skills to become intentional, active citizens capable and competent to live sustainability leadership in personal and professional practice. Nwabisa previously worked with the Grootbos Foundation engaged in community-based learning projects that promote the strengthening of sustainable livelihoods. Her dual focus engaged adults in training around organic food production as livelihood as well as encouraging environmental appreciation through natural education excursions with primary school groups. As part of her role, she developed skills in the field of sustainability planning and monitoring, analyzing and interpreting carbon footprint, water footprint and waste management data as well as coordinating communication for employee pro-environmental behaviour at Grootbos Reserve. Nwabisa completed a Bachelor of Science at Rhodes University with majors in Environmental Science and Geography and a Masters in Environmental Science with a focus on natural resource management in rural communities of the Eastern Cape.

Maezie Lane is a sixth form student from the south of England. Inspired, as millions were, by Greta Thunberg’s environmental activism, Maezie was a founding member of the Eco Team at her college. Through this group, she has been able to encourage more secondary and primary school students into environmental action. Maezie is one of the Youth Climate Ambassadors for the environmental charity Global Action Plan and she was involved in the Youth Climate Summit 2020, promoting the event as well as presenting a Nature, Water and Oceans Inspiration Session for primary school students. She has recently participated as a judge in the Sustainable City Awards 2021: London’s School Changemaker of the Year. Her particular focus is concerned with the failure of governments and businesses to take action for the planet.

Dumisa Mguda, Afrika Tikkun Services was born in Cofimvaba, in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape Province. His family moved to the Western Cape in time for him to complete his Secondary Education at Mfuleni High School (a community served by Afrika Tikkun Services) and subsequently attend the University of Cape Town where he obtained a Bachelor of Social Sciences (BSocSci) in Social Development and Gender Studies in 2018 and an Honours Degree in Social Development (in 2019). Dumisa’s irrepressible curiosity and entrepreneurial nature is matched by a passion for community development and his commitment to the improvement of himself and others around him. Eager to contribute he has engaged in various initiatives – as business owner, volunteer, employee – and has acted as a life coach and mentor to young people at [email protected] (where he was awarded “Outstanding mentor”). In 2020 he participated in the Resilient Futures Programme at Afrika Tikkun Services and accepted an internship offer with Co-Create and the Cape Town Food Growers Network where he continues to develop his skills in permaculture design. Dumisa is the President of the Afrika Tikkun Alumni Leadership and the Alumni Junior Board Member for the Western Cape.

Emer Rafferty is an 18 year old environmental enthusiast with a strong, vibrant passion for our natural world and all it brings. My environmental journey began, like many others, with a “lightbulb” moment after hearing the powerful words of both David Attenborough & Greta Thunberg. The thought that the extent of the problem and the solution to it are known but that there is a serious lack of the action towards addressing the problem was infuriating to me. The words ‘Eco-anger’ and ‘Eco- anxiety’ come to mind. This anger has driven me to take action & to do more on the issue. I am an ambassador for Global Action Plan, this has allowed me to meet like-minded individuals and has shown me that I am not alone. I play a lead role in my local conservation/environmental group where we spread information to all ages on the biodiversity and climate crisis while also improving local ecosystems and boosting biodiversity. I am an ambassador for Ulster Wildlife; a conservation organisation where I am part of a campaign with three asks (1) to bring more outdoor learning to the education system (2) to create more environmental jobs and (3) to encourage more environmental action by decision makers. I meet as often as possible & with as many as possible, with politicians and leaders in industry (eg energy, housing etc) to talk about how much more industries could be doing. I also head up the environmental group in my school, enforcing the important messages to our young people about our planet that the education system fails to do. This international discussion is an opportunity to share opinions, stories and solutions and so I am grateful and thrilled to be part of such an important talk.

The conversation will be moderated by Gerry Salole

This is a collaborative event organised by We Contain Multitudes happening online and in The Collab. Register soon as places are limited.