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The Youth Voice

Rosemary Kelly, one of our fantastic BGF-ers, recently shook up proceedings at the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s (home of BGF HQ) 40th anniversary conference with her rousing speech on empowering everyone to take action and support sustainable energy.

Amidst a range of speakers, Rosemary’s eloquence and fervour stood out; in feedback she was described as inspiring. One guest wrote that Rosemary opened her eyes to the need to give practical and emotional support to people whose lives will be affected by climate change, or actions taken to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Rosemary shared her journey of environmentalism to a packed room and called us all to “unite” to tackle the climate crisis! With Rosemary's permission we’ve published her speech below:

Hi, I’m Rosemary Kelly. I think my ‘bio’ should tell you that I’m a 17-year-old participant of Bright Green Future, CSE’s training programme for young environmentalists. I’ve been engaged within Our Bright Future, the organisation for which Bright Green Future is a part of, for about 3 years now following a science lesson on quadrating that drew the school’s wildlife garden to my attention. Since then I have been a part of the Yorkshire Dales Young Rangers where we help with conservation tasks around the national park such as coppicing and footpath laying. I eventually joined the youth forum for Green Futures, my more local branch of Our Bright Future, Bristol isn’t exactly close to Cumbria, and from there I’ve got to today.
When I first went to that youth forum I cried. I was made so nervous by the 15 new faces in the room. Now I am talking to you. Our Bright Future and my love for our environment has allowed me to grow so much in confidence over the last few years. It’s allowed me to gain perspective, to see the bigger picture.
We have 11 years to sort out this mess. That is so much more important than any other of my worries, any other of our worries.
And this is where we are left fighting; I presume I am talking to a fully converted room. Those who believe in the climate crisis, for that is what science is calling it, are willing to do pretty much anything to halt its course, but those who don’t believe, or those who do believe but also believe that it is too late or that they are too small, aren’t willing to take the sacrifices. And here is where we need to focus our efforts, on those who believe they are too small to make a difference for no action is too small. We need to leave the climate deniers behind. They can wake up when they’re ready. We haven’t got enough time to convert them. It’s the semi believers who we will transform.
In that frame of mind, my friends and I held a demonstration in our school yard one lunch time, to bring the youth climate strikes to those who couldn’t really miss school for exams etcetera and for those who hadn’t yet been exposed to the rising student voice. We got lots of support from some of the students, but not so much from the rest. A large group started up a counter chant ‘We want our KFC’ and booed claiming they wanted ‘More climate change’. Now this was, in my opinion, a result of two things: firstly, the average crowd exhilaration and secondly a mounting fear. What we’re succeeding in doing at the moment is isolating communities, rural Cumbria included. Isolation is not how we’re going to solve climate change; we need to work as a whole. The protests in London and other major cities across our country are truly inspiring and making tremendous headway, but we need to wait a minute and listen.
Many of the farmers in my county are fearing for their livelihoods, and it applies to others as well. We don’t want to create resentment by shouting down people’s throats that they’re whole career is evil. This only alienates. Instead we need to promise them their jobs through a shift in the market voice, hopefully encouraged by government campaigns, something we definitely, definitely need more of. Tell them that if, and only if, they maintain high standards and protect our environment, they may keep their livelihoods. Then, maybe, they will be more willing to listen on other environmental matters. This will be difficult to correct but we need to act and act fast. We need to return. Start eating meat perhaps only once or twice a week. Buy it from within our country so we protect our farmers whilst reducing air miles from imports. Veganism can and will have huge impacts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and I myself am vegetarian, but we can hardly all turn vegan overnight, right?
So, as you can see history is starting to creep in through this idea of returning. As a history student, I tend to spend a lot of time analysing the causes and consequences of past events, some more and some less relevant to the environment issue. But it seems to me that, at the moment, what we’re failing to do is reflect on our learning, the infamous ‘what went well’ and ‘even better if’ from primary schools. For example, as early as 1950 scientists were giving evidence about the health risks associated with smoking. In 1947, 46% of adults in Great Britain smoked whereas today it’s only 19%. We can learn as least there things from this case: firstly, it took a long time for the government to react, mainly due to the revenues they were gaining from tobacco tax; secondly, the methods that we used to treat the crisis were evidently effective; and thirdly, future people, us today, do not blame the policy makers back then, although many at the time resented the changes, in fact we now couldn’t now see our country any other way. We need to transfer this into today. Why not enforce the imaging of entangled turtles and albatrosses filled with plastic on our packaging? It would be a radical change, people at the time may hate us but people in the future, people in the future, they will thank us.
Science has told us that we are heading into a crisis. Even the government is now telling us we’re in a climate emergency. And yet the people, the companies and the governments, including our own, of this planet are failing to do enough to avoid this crisis. We may have officially entered a state of emergency but we haven’t yet entered the state of panic: the panic that spread through our country when preparing for war; the panic that spread through our country when the Ebola epidemic broke out. We need to see this panic; we need to feel it in our bones and we need to act on it, now. People may say we’re being overly dramatic, we’re not, we’re being foresighted. Animals have two well-known reactions when faced with a predicament: the famous ‘fight or flight’ reflex. And yet whilst we have started on our large-scale mission of ‘flight’, thousands of climate migrants are already having to flee their homes due to shifting environments with the World Bank predicting last year that by 2050 over 140 million will have fled from Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia alone, only some of us have started to fight.
What we need now is to unite.

Way to go Rosemary, thank you for stepping up and being heard 👏


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