Climate change has, since long ago, turned into a climate crisis. During the last decade, everybody in Europe has witnessed this. Unexpected cold or heat waves, extreme snowfall, drought, floods, forest fires… the earth becomes gradually inhospitable, at least in the way we have used to it.
Undoubtedly the climate crisis is here. The question arising is how or when a climate consciousness will emerge. In that context, possibly the most significant factor in climate consciousness is youth. For it is the younger generations that will experience the hardest impact of the climate crisis; while at the same time they can form the dynamic critical mass that will push for actual and measurable policy changes.
The above ascertainment is identified by Anna Goud, the Key Account Manager of the Greek branch of the YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre. “Millennials and Post-Millennials appear to be more troubled by any other generation about climate change. It is them that they will have to deal with the climate crisis in cities, in rural areas or islands. Extreme weather conditions have already rung the bell of the climate crisis more loud than ever. And it is the youth that understand the urgency to act for the benefit of all”. Anna describes the dire situation caused by the forest fires in Greece that burned more than 1 million acres and notes the role of young people. “The youth have been in the forefront, fighting for their homes and their lives inside or next to the forests. They had much more to lose than anybody else”.
This climate consciousness spreads alongside the emergence of the climate crisis. Nicoletta Avigliano, Key Account Manager at the Italian branch of the YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre lists eleven events since 2010 related to the extreme weather in Potenza, the city in which the branch is based. They include, amongst else extreme rainfall flooding, tornado damages and heavy snowfall damages. “Those events highlight the fact that Potenza is a city that is not yet equipped to deal with the challenges of the future. In this context, it is essential to urgently implement climate adaptation policies to make our cities resilient and safe. Investment in concrete integrated policies for the use of renewable sources is self-understandable. What is more important is the combination of those policies with the development of new, increasingly efficient and democratic energy models. The necessary transformation must concern and involve the local communities”. Nicoletta too, understands the centrality of the role of youth in this transformation.
Regardless of the youth’s climate consciousness, its transformation into action or lifestyle is not something self-understandable.The need to be combined with a sustainable economic paradigm is paramount. In Cyprus, Anna Michael, the Key Account Manager of the local YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre notes the importance of the YOUTHShare project in that framework. “One of the activity pillars of our project is to develop employability skills and opportunities in sustainable sectors of the economy. To begin with this, we started supporting projects and businesses relevant to circular economy and environmental awareness. One of the most interesting parts of the training was to upgrade youth skills in this matter and then offer internships in areas such as permaculture and upcycling. We found out that there is potential to create a market which we explained to our interns during their internship. Finally, we supported local youth to develop their ideas in other relevant entrepreneurship competitions that promote environmental awareness. In this way we promoted a culture of sustainable development that is closely relevant to community development”.
In Italy, Nicoletta describes the training course as one focused on the circular economy. “Circular economy seeks to respect environmental boundaries through increasing the share of renewable or recyclable resources while reducing the consumption of raw materials and energy and the environmental pressures. On that basis, many of the NEETs who participated in the training are carrying out good practice examples, experimenting with new economic and entrepreneurial models including collaborative consumption, waste prevention, reuse and repair.
Protection of the environment is a two-ended effort. One might point the finger to the industrial heavy polluters. Another might look at the consumption and lifestyle end. What is important in both cases is the creation of a climate conscious young generation.