This article is an excerpt from the book, Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life Changing Stories of Young Heroes.

Each of the young people in this book came into this world with a mission and a purpose. Each of them has a unique story to tell about how they were inspired to change their lives, to take action, to dedicate themselves to something greater than themselves. They put a face to the reality of our climate crisis. They appeal to our collective humanity. They are intelligent, resourceful, and committed to doing whatever it takes to wake people up to the climate crisis.

Scientists have been sounding the call, but few have listened. Young people are listening. They’ve awakened. They are woke. They are taking action.

The Climate Clock in New York’s Union Square graphically shows how many years we have to reach zero carbon emissions before locking in a catastrophic 1.5° of global warming, given current emissions trends. Seven years, now six years. Here are the facts:

  • One million species (one of every eight known species) is now threatened with extinction.
  • It’s getting hotter: temperatures have risen 1° — we’ll hit 3° by 2200 if we don’t make bold changes now.
  • The polar ice caps are melting: since 2002, 7,900 gigatons of ice have melted from western Antarctica and Greenland.
  • Sea levels have already risen 100 millimeters since 1993.
  • Each year we release the equivalent of the weight of 229 million blue whales of CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s heartbreaking to see that at such a young age, they have experienced having their dreams stolen, their future put on hold. From stolen lands and developers fracking, to ecocide with the clear-cutting of forests, and even whole islands washed away. Extreme weather from heat waves, the Arctic melting, droughts, farms turning to deserts, harvests gone; rising seas, the loss of fish, lack of food and water. And along with the ecological devastation, they are painfully aware of the intersectionality of climate change, from the effects of systemic racism to exploitation by corporate greed, to lack of courage from leaders who are striving to please lobbyists; and avoidance of these subjects from the media.

Young people are brave, honest, courageous, hardworking, undeterred — and they are doing their part to do something. Conscious of their own footprints, they are eating less meat or going vegan. They are supporting each other, retweeting messages, sharing posts and images, to ensure that others will see them. But they are in danger of losing the hope of one day having a better life. We’ve always assumed that there would be future generations. But now?

Young people have been told to wait, but they are tired of waiting. Now is the time for their voices to be heard.

Now is the time for us to listen, and act. NOW! *********************

Here are their demands:

#nomoreemptypromises: March 19, 2021Fridays for Future declared that those in power are continuing to deliver only vague and empty promises for far-off dates that are much too late. What we need are not meaningless goals for 2050, or net-zero targets full of loopholes, but concrete and immediate action in line with science. Our carbon budget is running out. The climate crisis is already here and will only get worse, so if we are to avoid the worst-case scenarios, annual, short- term climate binding targets that factor in justice and equity have to be prioritized by the people in charge.

The Escazú Agreement (2020). As young people, we understand the immense health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated injustices and disproportionately harmed vulnerable communities across the world. Because of this, young people from South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and North America have come together to urge the entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Escazú Agreement.

In December 2020, in preparation for COP26 in Scotland, they organized a Mock COP26 with delegations from over 140 countries, and released Our Treaty, which states the 18 policies they voted for. This treaty makes it perfectly clear — they intend to keep leaders’ feet to the fire!

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”