Teenage dreams: Meet the next generation of climate activists

Teenage dreams: Meet the next generation of climate activists
Copyright euronews
By Cyril Fourneris
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In this episode of the Road to Green, Euronews reporter Cyril Fourneris travels to Catalonia, Spain, to meet the civilians doing their part for the environment and encouraging others to do the same.

Are you too young to care about the environment or to be a climate activist? 

EU goodwill ambassador Francisco Vera and European Climate Pact Ambassador Olivia Mandle argue that it's never too early to start.

These two teens have followed in Greta Thunburg's footsteps and are leading the next generation of climate activists, inspiring ordinary people to do their part to protect natural ecosystems.

"A lot of people tell you that children shouldn't talk about climate change because they're not experts. But I think that the most expert and most legitimate people to talk about climate change are children because they are the ones who suffer most," Vera told Euronews.

The Colombian youth is just 14 years old and has been raising awareness of climate change since he was a child. He founded Guardianes por la Vida, a children's movement fighting against climate change and has a huge following on social media.

" I think that children are an essential part of this role, of taking action for the planet,"  he added.

'Ask Francisco: What Is Climate Change?' is the name of Vera's children's book. In it, he explains how climate change affects the planet and animals and how humans can reduce their carbon footprint.

"I explain basic concepts, such as 'What is the greenhouse effect?', if we understand the problem, we can come up with more effective responses to it.

"There is a lot of populism, and there is now a new wave of extremes, of ultras, who accuse ecologists of having a political bent. But I say that we all live on the same planet... It's not a political issue, it's a humanity issue.

"Frankly I'm optimistic about the future. The situation is very complicated, that's for sure. There's a saying that the sun can't be covered with just one finger. It can't be done like that! Everyone sees things from their perspective. And I see things as a young person, but a young person with hope. Eco-hope," concluded Vera.

'It's up to you to change the world'

16-year-old Olivia Mandle was just 12 when she invented the Jelly Cleaner; a device made of recycled plastics that catches and collects microplastics in the sea. 

Mandle gave Euronews a demonstration and said the tool can be attached to a paddleboard or kayak so that water sports enthusiasts can clean the ocean, "little by little".

The self-described animal rights activist and climate warrior campaigns against ocean pollution in schools, at conferences and on social networks and told Euronews that everyone can do their part for the environment.

"I'm talking about decisions that we can all make to help the planet because if one person does it and tells their family and friends, we will create a chain of awareness that will really make a difference. 

And that is the answer I give to young people who say 'climate change? This does not go with me. Governments and others have to do it.' And I tell them, 'No, it's up to you, it's up to you to change the world.'

Big changes through small actions

The EU #ForOurPlanet campaign is also addressing climate change and nature crises across the globe. Together with EU delegates and representatives, the project has encouraged all citizens and civil society to take action and help the planet since 2022, from planting trees and restoring wetlands to simply bringing nature indoors.

Brussel also supports citizen science initiatives through its LIFE programme which has co-financed thousands of projects across Europe including several in Catalonia.

For more on Cyril's report, click on the video in the media player above.

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