Global Youth Perspectives: Climate CHange

Part of the Peace Boat Series, the journey I went on for 3 weeks from May to June 2019. This time I was at the UN Headquarters speaking at a panel discussion still on the topic of the psychological effects of Climate Change. If you want to know more about my experience, check out my newsletter!

We need to do something.

We need to chat.

We need to chat to others about their future

We need to chat to youth about their future when we reach 1.5oC of warming

We need to tell our friends in Florida that many more of them will die, many more will suffer because enough is not being done.

We need to tell the world that if they need more proof, they can come to any one of our small islands. We are already experiencing what it’s like living with a hotter earth. We already know what will happen to us in the next 11 years, when we’re projected to hit 1.5oC.

We already know that, even though we didn’t cause this, even though our contribution is so small, we are in the front line of this war, we will be the first to fall out of the millions that will die due to the changing climate.

We need to raise awareness. We need to incite action.

I’m Ashneil Jeffers, from Montserrat, a very small island just south of Antigua that has a population around 4500 people and we’re trying our hardest to make a difference. I’ve been working alongside NGOs such as the Waitt institute in which their Blue Halo Project is solely dedicated to helping governments, including ours, create Marine Protected Areas in our island. There’s also Aqua Montserrat, who’s fish n fins and ocean leadership programme teaches young people to swim, which is extremely important as most Caribbean people cannot swim. They also equip youths with important knowledge of the ocean and training to become effective advocates in this space.

But despite our efforts, our fishes are indeed getting smaller, they are getting more difficult to catch. The incubation time for diseases is shortening and for five consecutive years, there’s been a named storm before the hurricane season starts.

The world is changing.

Montserrat understands just how psychologically traumatizing the effects of climate change will be. In July of 1995, our volcano erupted, forcing thousands to migrate to a foreign country halfway across the world. More than anything, the lasting effects it has on the psyche is something to behold.

Rebuilding is one thing, but when you’re forced to run and never look back, when you know you will never be able to return to the home that was taken from you without any choice. It cuts deep, and it bleeds forever. We have a mental wound that’s impossible to heal. We will forever look back on that day as the worst event that happened to Montserrat.

But we survived. We made it through, we are advocates for the times ahead.

Still, our volcano is nothing compared to slowly loosing your homeland, having numbers tell you that in 31 years, the island of Tuvalu, a low lying island state which is a neighbor of Fiji, home to 11 thousand people including one of our own youth ambassadors, will disappear, it will be under water. The reality is that when my colleague Tapua turns 50 something, her birthplace will be lost. Forever.

Our volcano is nothing compared to the countless deaths, the countless wars, the unbearable struggle that the we all will face if we don’t act now. The ones in power won’t be alive when this happens, their children will have enough money to live without consequence, but we will be alive, and we all won’t have the money to survive, we will be tossed aside again, diplomatically left to fend for ourselves when the ensuing crises arrives.

Our minds, our psychological norms are the ONLY thing holding us back from change, they define what we think is possible and impossible, it’s the basis of the most complex reasons as to why you, you, or you cannot do something that I, or the person next to you, or any world leader can do. It starts from the initial question, can I do it?

Break down those barriers, open your minds to change, believe that you and your colleagues can make a difference, and then, with time, you will.