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Youth climate summit about ‘hope, not doom and gloom’

Mari Copeny, a 14-year-old activist from Flint, Michigan (Photograph supplied)

Voices from around the world in the growing youth call to action against climate change will come together from today at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

The island’s first youth climate summit will link Bermudian audiences with young climate activists to share stories and ideas that will culminate in a year-long project.

Among virtual presenters is Mari Copeny, 14, who speaks on Wednesday about her activism over the pollution of the water supply in her home town of Flint, Michigan.

Karla Lacey, chief executive at the BUEI, told The Royal Gazette: “When you think of who’s really inspiration in this space, you can’t help but think of Mari.”

The youngster said she was moved to write to then-President Obama when she was 8 about the crisis after being unable to bathe in contaminated water.

President Obama visited the city to see Flint’s troubles first-hand and ultimately approved millions of dollars in relief.

“I feel empowered,” Mari said this weekend. “I feel good for helping people – it makes me happy.”

Ms Lacey said the summit’s messages were about “hope, not doom and gloom”.

Mari said: “My main focus is on the water, and it’s going to stay focused, because America has a water problem and it’s not just in Flint.”

But she said that instead of focusing on the negative, “I always look up to the better things”.

Her message to young people everywhere is that “they can do anything that they put their minds to”.

She added: “Do not let anybody bring down your shine.”

Mari was gratified to learn earlier in the year that the BUEI wanted to hear from her in this week’s summit.

“It was really cool – some people from another country reaching out for me,” she said.

Ms Lacey and her team spent weeks tracking down speakers online, but Bermudian voices will also feature in the week’s conversation.

“Once we knew we could do it virtually, that opened up the world,” the BUEI head said.

“We were able to search far and wide. I was tenacious.”

Ms Lacey said the climate change movement among the world’s youth had built into a multigenerational force during the past 20 years.

“Young people are not having to go looking for this. It’s part of what they are growing into.

“They have so much access to information – these young people have never not had a device and they know how to use them.

“That’s where their power is. They can make their voices heard and eventually they become the ones taking action.”

A day of review is set for Saturday with keynote speaker Sophia Kianni, who will lead the youth climate advisory board on devising the project for the year ahead.

Ms Lacey added: “This is the foundation for a year of youth-led action. The support is here.”

The summit can be followed free online via the Facebook link here.

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Published November 22, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated November 22, 2021 at 7:30 am)

Youth climate summit about ‘hope, not doom and gloom’

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