This week I speak with teen activists Sera Aksoy and Neal Brink, who I met on Parliament Square at the beginning of their year's Extinction Rebellion protests. I witnessed them being shouted at by a middle aged man with a camera person in tow," he chose us because we were the most vulnerable people there... it was upsetting because it is our future" After checking they were ok, we got talking about why they were there, where they find hope and what they want us adults to do to help them.
At the end of a week during which young people were being used as scapegoats for the rise in COVID cases, it felt really important to me to listen to young people's hopes and dreams for the future, and what they think we should do to help them make positive change in the world. We talk abut the power of social media (for good and bad), about how empowering being part of a protest has been for them " we were all together, fighting for the same cause.... it gave me so much hope... what made us angry and what made us hopeful was the climate crisis"
I ask them why they choose to be part of the protests " I feel a sense of solidarity with people living in the global south, they're the ones who are going to be the ones hit hardest with climate change... I am standing here for everyone on this planet regardless of whether I know them or not"
They speak about the corrupting nature of a global capitalist system, of the staggering wealth of some individuals who could end world hunger "but every day chose not to" and of the necessity to redistribute wealth to end inequality around the world.
Neal and Sera suggest simple, doable and effective ways we could adjust our lives to make a real difference, and Sera added " I am completely begging adults out there... please do look at who you are voting for because it makes such a huge difference"
They speak abut their involvement in the recent A level results protests and how the clear change that came about following those protest inspired them to continue their activism. "We saw injustice, and thats something to point out, at all times, no matter if it affects us or not, we have to do something"
Listening to these amazing young people talk abut their ideas of a future utopia is inspiring and humbling. Let's support and help them!
Find out more about Extinction Rebellion Youth here:
Find out more about Fridays For Future here
My book How To Be Hopeful is out now! You can buy it here and here or in your local independent bookshop, with lots of stories, science, case studies and practical exercises. Find me at www. bernadetterussell.com