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Why you should listen to youths fighting climate change

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Don't write young people off before you hear their opinions on climate change.

I'm not the most environmentally-friendly person around. I use plastic straws sometimes, leave my air conditioner on for several hours a day, and don't adopt a plant-based diet.

I was also completely oblivious to the existence of The SG Climate Rally — Singapore's first climate change 'protest' — until I was sent to cover the event at Hong Lim Park on September 21.

Organised by a group of youth activists, the event garnered more than 2,000 attendees. Almost everyone was clad in red, with many young people holding up banners that urged for more climate action in Singapore.

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An array of creative banners were on display at Hong Lim Park during the SG climate rally.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

This surprised me — while I knew Singaporeans are aware of the banes of climate change, I wasn't aware that it was an urgent priority for so many.

But I was even more surprised at the negative backlash the rally received on social media, predominantly from older people on Facebook.


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Dissatisfied netizens provide 'better' alternative methods to combat climate change.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK 

What was so ridiculous about attending a climate change rally in Singapore? More importantly, why are youths pushing for climate action taken as a joke?

Hate comments targeting young climate advocates are not exclusive to Singapore.

Even Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist that recently addressed world leaders at the United Nations UN Climate Change Summit, received adverse reactions — mostly from older people.

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Greta Thunberg received backlash from netizens regarding her speech at the UN climate summit.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM FACEBOOK

Youth inputs on salient issues are often perceived as immature and unfeasible. But here are a few reasons why you shouldn't write youths off before you hear what they have to say about climate change:

Climate change directly impacts their generation

Youths aren't too 'young' and 'idealistic' to take a stance on climate change. It might have been perceived an abstract tragedy nobody envisioned transpiring in their lifetime, but it's different now. The future is not a given for our generation. 

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A future doesn't matter if you can't live to see one.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

We need to reverse the effects of climate change to ensure we have one. As Greta Thunberg said in her latest address to world leaders: "Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction."

Youths do not have the liberty to close an eye on the detrimental effects of climate change and wait until they're 'more mature' to be proactive; The irreversible damage of climate change will not wait for them to be fully grown before taking place.

Youths lead by example

Yes, they still use air conditioners and own mobile phones. But that doesn't make them hypocrites — fully eradicating technology and electricity use is not a feasible solution for anyone.

Instead, youths passionate about improving the climate are constantly looking for other practicable methods to make change, in both big ways and small.

They are incorporating personal changes to their lives, like reducing plastic use, eating less meat, thrift shopping in support of sustainable fashion, and consciously buying from environmentally-friendly brands.

Their eagerness to improve the environment are not all words and no action; they practice what they preach consistently, and encourage others to follow suit.

Youths don't hold back

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Rally goers pretend to die at the SG climate rally to symbolise the lives that will be lost to climate inaction
PHOTO CREDIT: JEREMY KWAN

Perhaps the most talked about segment of the climate rally was the die-in, where attendees pretended to die as they fell one by one, domino-style.

The act was judged by netizens on Facebook for being jarring and melodramatic, but I think that's what makes all the difference.

Youths aren't afraid to do outrageous things to prove a point. Once they're passionate for a cause, they go all the way.

And while I'm not the poster child for environmentalism, the sheer passion and determination I witnessed from people at the rally inspired me to do better. It allowed me to fully grasp the gravitas of climate change and its impact on everyone.

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The fervent energy at the SG Climate Rally could be felt by everyone who was present
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ALIYAH KHAN

Even if you still don't believe youths are capable of inciting positive change, it doesn't change the fact that the climate crisis is real. It's dire and destructive, and it's happening now.

Youths are taking accountability for the actions of older generations, and pushing for change because others didn't. The least we can do is be receptive to their efforts while they try to clean up the mess left to them.

Or you could just continue criticising their efforts through a 'witty' Facebook comment that will earn you a measly few likes.

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: JEREMY KWAN

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