Climate activists complain: "Adults don't listen to us"

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The climate change generation claims that governments talk too much, don't listen enough, and act even less. And they are fed up.

“Instead of talking about how to solve the climate crisis, it seems that they are negotiating how to continue polluting, but trying to make some compensation,” said Mitzy Violeta, a 23-year-old indigenous activist from Mexico. "I think that there are more and more youth movements who realize that the hope, that the solution is not going to be in international spaces" such as the COP27 summit that is being held these days in Egypt.

“We are bothered by the lack of action,” said Jasmine Wynn, 18, a member of the environmental group Treeage.

Facing decades of hotter and more extreme weather ahead of them, young people see a future filled with frustration and anxiety, according to more than 130 activists interviewed by the AP. Most of them said they believe that their strikes and protests are effective. But lately, a handful of activists have gone beyond skipping class to attack works of art or fossil fuel and tire depots in highly publicized actions.

Experts and sponsors expect those more visible actions to increase.

At a more traditional protest in New York City, Truly Hort, 14, said she is afraid of the future. “I've always had all these dreams, and now it's like, 'God, I can't do that.'”

The problem, he noted, is that leaders talk about what they hope to do "but not many people are taking action."

At the same protest, 16-year-old Lucia Dec-Prat also mentioned anxiety. “It's one thing to worry about the future and quite another to go out there and do something about it,” she said.

But the protests only go so far, Dec-Prat said. "Honestly, I think adults don't listen to us."

When asked about climate conferences, many of those interviewed said that governments and international organizations are moving too slowly against climate change.

A large majority of activists agreed with Greta Thunberg, who described the summits as a bunch of talk without action, or “blah blah blah”, as the Swedish activist put it in a speech.

“So instead of making noise to contribute to the blah blah blah, make noise to call for action. I think that has to be the crucial thing,” said Jevanic Henry, 25, of Saint Lucia, in the Caribbean. "We drive the actions."

“The money doesn't matter because we're not going to have anywhere to live,” said Aniva Clarke, a 17-year-old activist from Samoa. "And that's probably the biggest problem that a lot of world leaders are not focusing on."

University of Maryland scientist Dana Fisher, who studies the environmental movement and young activists, recalled that they have testified before the United States Congress and spoken before the United Nations and at previous climate summits.

"Young people have had so much more to say than at any other time in my adult life," Fisher said. "I think a lot of them felt that because they were invited and given those opportunities, that meant the whole world was going to turn around and change their policy."

And that's not what happens, he explained, that frustrates them.

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Nathan Rivera
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