We’re all in this together – elders, boomers, millennials and youth. People of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are taking action in our community to respond to the climate emergency. We need to talk about it, act personally and collectively, and engage with nature. These are some of the 8 strategies to tackle climate changedeveloped by the Australian Psychological Society.

As part of Youth Week 2021 we’re holding a youth-led conversation on the climate emergency on Wednesday 21 April. We asked our speakers to tell us what motivates them, what actions they take that impact positively on the environment and what is their hope for the futureHere are their responses: 

Annika Reynolds, founder of environmental law research institute GreenLaw  

I am motivated by the people around, notably other young people, who have so much to offer when it comes to tackling the climate crisis and to do so in a just and equitable manner. I am surrounded by vision, innovation and most of all hope – and that is very inspiring.  

I am the founder and CEO of GreenLaw, a law reform and research institute that is youth-led. Our aim is to empower the next generation of lawyers to tackle the climate crisis. Together we have produced legal research that has impacted federal law reform, and education resources to empower the next generation of activists to engage in public debates that are critical to shaping Australia’s climate change response.   

 Climate change is the story of fear, pain and loss. But equally, climate action is a story of innovation, community and hope. I believe that together we can build a better Australia – one that is a leader in climate action, a leader in community-driven emissions reduction and environmental protection, and an Australia that provides opportunities for ordinary people to rise up and make a real difference. GreenLaw is all about collective action and community, and I hope that is the future of Australia’s climate action over the next 10 to 20 years. 

April Crawford-Smith, co-founder of Pingala and advocate for connected, sustainable communities

I’m committed 100% to creating a world that respects and regenerates the earth, where local communities are self-sufficient, active, engaged and thriving. Where technology supports our dreams without taking away from our relationships and critically that we can work with Aboriginal Nations across the country in strong and empowering partnerships. I’m also a mandala artist, writing several books and keen as green thumb, living in the Hawkesburyfrom Katoomba where I call home. My motivation is a deep love of Mother Earth and her people. The beauty we see across the planet between humans, in nature, in animals, our love, our connection, our creativity. 

I’m making my visions a reality by working with some incredible people, organisations and partnerships, with Pingala building community owned and run solar farms in Sydney and in areas of need, and with The Valley Centre which builds sustainable communities, enabling technology and micro-businesses to create self sufficiency and self-determination. We are working with remote Aboriginal communities across the continent, which is exciting and an honour. We’re also building a training and resource eco-tech showcase at The Valley Centre’s 170 property on the Hawkesbury River, dedicated to young people, sustainability and culture. More recently I’ve been working with Nora Bateson and the Warm Data team addressing the need for relationships that build on and work within the complexity that we are seeing across the globe today, with the changing climate as the overarching context.  

Although tough to answer, firstly my hope  is for a safe, sustainable, equitable, creative future for all. Then looking at the 7 billion people and the mess many of us are in, that seems like a pipedream. However, I have to try, otherwise what’s the point? When you’ve lived your whole life in the context of severe crisis due to climate change, your purpose in life takes on an extra layer of “bigness”. Having a childhood or young adulthood or a career “that’s just for me” feels impossible. Despite the challenges, believe humanity can do it, can create a world built on technology that is not destructive to the planet upon who’s resources we depend, that people can help each other and distribute wealth so that all have something to live for. 

My dream is that we can live in harmony with the natural world, that our actions regenerate not degrade the natural systems, that we live vibrant, cultural, celebratory lives that encourage the purpose of each person to be explored and blossom, that we respect and celebrate the diversity that exists among us, that we build strong foundations to secure our future against the issues we will face in the coming decades. 

Louise Qiu, multidisciplinary artist and founder of vegan clothing brand ENDIMALS 

What motivates me to take action in the climate emergency isn’t my connection to a specific place, person or animal – but my connection to the world at large; my sense of empathy, desire for justice. Years ago, when I first started to come to terms with the predicament we are in, waves of ecological grief, concern and fear for humanity, and all species came banging on my door. Yet, these feelings served me the purpose of opening up to its’ very own medicine, and that is action. And while these concerns still remain, my own flavour of action has become a way to soothe, and a means for alignment, passion and joy in working towards reparation. 

There are many personal actions I’ve taken, one of the biggest being – going vegan for both mitigating animal agriculture as it is one of the leading causes for climate change and deforestation, though it is also for ethical reasons. I reuse and buy second hand as much as possible, and have in the past helped organise and attend protests that make demands for environmental change.  

Currently, my main focuses are: 

1) Building knowledge to see through the lines of connectivity between people, places, organisations, systems and ideas – so that I can gain a more holistic understanding in weaving between, and uniting movements.  

2) Recognising and tending to the intergenerational, and current traumas caused by oppressive systems, institutions and practices. I believe that the climate crisis, and state of the world at large is strongly linked to the human psyche, and our state of consciousness. It cannot be overcome without collective healing, and I wish to empower others to empower themselves, to empower others, and so it goes. 

3) Crafting and sharing stories, through art, culture and narrative. Art raises questions. It brings dialogue. It exposes both the truth to what is, and, the possibilities. At the moment, my main focus is ENDIMALS – a slow fashion, clothing line I’ve started, focusing on the message of animal liberation that hopes to challenge the existing model of fast fashion, by integrating a sustainable, regenerative and ecological model. 

I have many visions for the future, but to sum it up – I hold a vision for a more sustainable, more ecological, equal, just and peaceful world where all beings and our living planet are no longer being exploited. 

Zahra Wilson, advocate for sustainable farming and plant-based diets 

Growing up I always called myself an animal and nature lover, yet I was an avid consumer of all types of animal products and never thought twice about using single-use plastic items. I thought conversations about climate change were for qualified scientists and politicians, not for young girls with idealistic dreams about not causing harm to any living being or our planet. When I was 11 years old and did a school presentation on the topic of pigs on agricultural farms, I immediately gave up pig products and vowed to become vegetarian when my parents would “let” me. 

As I developed into a young adult, my passion for animal rights only increased, and along with it my interest in climate change and environmentalism. My motivation today primarily comes from appreciating the beauty and resilience of nature from animal and environmental documentaries and seeing the widespread concern of engaged citizenships across the world to know that I am not alone. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a social, economic and political one that requires better solutions and greater engagement from our leadership. 

The most significant personal action I take to positively impact the environment is eating a plant-based diet and following a lifestyle that minimises the use of animal and non-environmentally friendly products such as single-use plastics. Engaging in discussions, whether online, with a group of friends, family, co-workers or other students, questioning our culture of consumerism is a collective action I actively try and make at any opportunity that the topic of climate change or general ethical considerations is at play. 

My hope for the future is that humans are able to work together on a local, national and international level to combat the effects of climate change on our planet in order to create a truly sustainable environment. I also hope that our governments begin to actively take steps to develop, implement and promote sustainable methods of agriculture and production and consumption in addition to providing relief and assistance to those communities and nations suffering the most due to the effects of climate change.