As September approaches, so do the looming pressures of all things “back to school.” Minds go straight to thoughts of homework, late nights and tests, but students also can leverage school as a platform for change and climate activism.

Youth and Climate Activism

My generation is experiencing change in a way that no other generation has. We have an endless stream of information at our fingertips – we see the ice caps melting and devastating forest fires. And, we hear how climate change is displacing people, leaving them with nowhere to go. What are we to do with this information, and, most importantly, what can we as youth do to advocate for change? First and foremost, we need to speak up – to get our friends to listen, to get our parents to listen, to get our government to listen. The Sustainable Development Goals are a good way to frame the climate discussion.


First Steps

As a young person, it can be intimidating to take the first step and engage in climate change activism. Maybe you’ve been told you are too young or don’t know enough to have a valid opinion. However, a school community offers a perfect opportunity to engage in a comfortable way. You could spearhead an environmental club like the recent environmental startups in schools all around Buffalo. You could do anything from organizing local garbage pickups to helping your school cafeteria begin composting. 

Another variant of this could be volunteering to start a campus-based Shine On Students Climate Action group. By hosting a solar-powered dance or a bake sale, your school group can raise money to send solar lights to vulnerable off-grid African communities. Most importantly, you’ll be taking the first step toward climate activism!

Be the Climate Change

You can inspire change in lots of other ways, too, for instance by writing an informative article about climate change for the school paper or by raising awareness about climate change by posting informative flyers around school. The most important thing is for us to keep trying! While we are often discounted as a youth, this is the world we inherit and it is imperative that we speak out on how climate change impacts our future. 

So, as the school year starts, look outside for a minute and think. Use any leverage you can to inspire change – from engaging a few friends to your entire school. Inspire change, because change is needed to fight climate change and save our fragile earth. As Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Sophia C. is a sophomore at City Honors High School in Buffalo, N.Y. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, embroidery, and volunteering.