Huge enthusiasm among young to get active on climate change
Young people responded to a call to take climate action with “overwhelming enthusiasm”, the head of an ocean conservation group said.
Karla Lacey, the executive director of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, added that the response to the week-long Youth Climate Summit gave her “great hope”.
She said: “This is definitely what we planned for and to see those plans come to fruition was wonderful.
“I have no doubt that Bermuda’s young people were looking to be actively engaged in a positive way on an issue that is so global and yet so local.
“It was just a matter of finding the right time and way to engage them.”
Ms Lacey added: “I think it gave every adult connected to this initiative great hope.”
The inaugural event started on November 22 and youngsters tuned in to four days of virtual conferences that touched on climate justice, environmental sustainability and conservation.
Speakers included Mari Copeny, 14, who helped bring news of the water crisis in her home town of Flint, Michigan, into the spotlight.
After the virtual conferences, the island’s middle-school and high-school students spoke with local organisations who are committed to climate action.
Then each pupil chose a track to follow – climate justice, environmental sustainability and conservation – and met with others in the same track to prioritise their goals and create projects on how to achieve each of these goals.
Ms Lacey said that her goal with the summit was to make climate action matter to young people while giving them hope and showing them how they could make a difference.
“The feedback that came from participants was just that – that they felt they could make a difference, that they felt truly heard and that their voice did matter, that they learnt so much about the impact it had on them and on Bermuda.
“They were quite outspoken in how surprised they were about the number of organisations that are out there working in areas focused on the environment of Bermuda.
“They felt there was a lot of support from them about what they could come up with.”
The pupils’ projects touched on what Bermuda should do as well as what the youngsters were willing to commit to over two years and who they would need to partner with to achieve their goals.
Ms Lacey said that the Youth Climate Summit would be an annual event to engage youngsters through their school and include them in the fight against climate change.
She expected future summits to be just as engaging for young people – if not more.
“I do believe that within a year we will have seen a difference in young people actively engaged with our environmental organisations, leading different projects on their own and helping to educate their peers on what they could be doing to make a difference.
“What I see is a growing movement of advocates who will bring their peers into the fold.”