Activating youth voices for systemic change

What does systemic change mean?

Individual actions alone cannot solve global issues. While they are part of the solution, something bigger needs to be done in order to tackle these issues.

A systemic solution addresses the root causes of the problem, as opposed to limiting the scope of action to its consequences.

In his book ‘Plato tackles climate change’, Matthew Pye draws a parallel between the Civil Rights movement and climate action. When Martin Luther King was advocating for an end to racism and discrimination he sought to achieve this through legislation. The only sustainable change can happen at systemic level. Every effort to reduce your carbon footprint and do your bit for the environment counts but the emergency of the climate crisis calls for more ambitious actions. The very concept of ‘carbon footprint’ was actually invented by fossil fuel companies to divert the blame for climate change to individuals. The recent movie Don’t look up illustrates what happens in a society were greed, disinformation and media distraction weigh more than scientific truth and collective action.

Why ‘activating youth voices’?

Young people are not responsible for the global issues that they are facing, yet they have to bear the consequences of decisions that have been made by previous generations. No one embodies an ‘activated youth voice’ better than Greta Thunberg in 2022. Her ability to critically analyse the situation and rock the boat of the establishment is very much needed. What has started as an individual action has since become a collective effort to challenge the passiveness of decision makers. In 1992,  Severn Suzuki was only 13 years old when she pointed the finger at world leaders for their role in climate change.

The story of Melati and Isabel Wisjen is a good example of what young people can achieve against all odds. The sisters were only children when they started collecting plastic on the beaches of Bali. Soon, their initiative grew bigger and became a movement of like-minded individuals concerned by the environment and the sustainability of their island. However, something very important happened when Melati started campaigning for a law that would ban plastic. Her campaign was successful and the change, which thus became systemic, was far more impactful. 

Melati has recently featured in the film Bigger than us which follows inspiring young activists around the world in their efforts to make the world a better place. She has also founded Youthtopia to actively promote and support youth voices.