Lillie Ewins’ passionate plea for action at the first ACAN-Town Council Eco-Fair two years ago moved her audience deeply. Since then, she has helped to found and been the leader of Young ACAN, involving hundreds of young people in the area in the fight against the climate catastrophe. Her speech at the 2023 Eco-Fair took as her theme climate anxiety and how the only cure is action. Here it is:
As young people, we often feel powerless when faced with the catastrophes of the climate crisis, and I have stood here before to tell you that I feel I have no power. But perhaps this powerlessness is simply how they want us to feel, these powerful multinational companies, because really the truth of the matter is far more complicated.
You might be eight, or eighteen, but really we all have a voice that can be used to make a difference. It isn’t easy to stand up for what you believe in within a world of temptations, of ever-changing trends and colourful signs that tell you to buy, buy, buy, but climate action starts small. It starts with the willingness to say that something is wrong, to acknowledge that gut feeling that the way we treat our planet is anything other than loving.
It’s that feeling you get when you watch the news and see the forests burning, and far off towns flooding. It’s that feeling you get that tells you to switch off the TV and turn away, because it’s too uncomfortable to keep watching. Some might say that feeling is guilt, but I say that feeling is the making of an activist, and you have to run towards it with open arms in order to create change.
In fact, in climate activism that feeling of guilt is so strong that we’ve given it a specific name – climate anxiety – and from our own research at Young ACAN we know that the only way to resolve these feelings is to act.
So what can we do? I hear you saying. Is it too easy to tell you to get involved? Probably. So let’s start with this, head over to the Young ACAN stall and have a talk with our ambassadors, because those conversations are crucial to beginning your journey as a climate activist. You see, you don’t have to be the next Greta Thunberg to create change, you don’t even have to become one of our ambassadors. Conversations, and smaller actions like planting wildflowers in your schools and back gardens to help save the bees can be just as important when we’re creating changes on a smaller level.
Our voices are strongest when we put them together, and if you listen to that feeling driving our activism, you might decide to use your voice to campaign for new environmental projects within your school, to bring your reusable bottle or even cutlery with you wherever you go, to pick up that litter someone dropped on the floor. And maybe, if you listen to that feeling for long enough, you might begin to make bigger changes, to only buy clothing second hand to reduce the impact of fast fashion (which is now the second biggest polluter beside oil companies), to go vegetarian, or to cut out single use plastics.
I know you’ve heard of all of these changes before, and I know it feels impossible sometimes to make them, with that guilty feeling growing every time you buy a new item of clothing or use a non-reusable coffee cup, but please remember that change doesn’t have to be everything all at once, and sometimes the largest revolutions begin with the smallest actions, or the smallest people.
This is a revolution that has spanned decades, and I’m sorry to say that we have a long way to go yet. But with each of you willing to make a difference, to educate others on the behalf of our planet, I see a victory, a power that can’t be stopped, and changemakers in the making.
So please, come and say hello at the young ACAN stall and listen to that feeling that drives you towards action, because it may be that determination is the biggest power that we have as young people. Thank you.