Climate Youth Delegate (2022-2023) End of Term Reflections
Oileán Carter Stritch served as Ireland’s Climate Youth Delegate (2022-2023). Below she reflects on her term and explains her “why” in the work she does. Each year, the Climate Youth Delegate Programme will appoint one young person from Ireland aged between 18-25 years to be part of Ireland’s national and international climate change efforts for a term of 20 months. The goal of this programme is to provide the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications with a channel to support the active participation of young people in international climate policy and processes, and ensure Ireland’s official delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) benefit from the perspectives and knowledge of youth in its work.
It Takes the Whole Family
As I come to the end of my time as Climate Youth Delegate, I would like to reflect on the “why” of the fight for climate justice.
My brother Harvey is 12 years old. He likes normal 12 year old activities like drawing and going outdoors and winding me up. Like many children Harvey could not go to school during the covid-19 pandemic and we had to find other activities. Unfortunately for Harvey, he has a very uncool older sister who makes him do homework and read books. Harvey has always liked the pictures in the National Geographic magazines that I have and so during lockdown I let him choose a children’s version for us to read together. He had the choice of lots of cool things like robots and airplanes and because he is the sweetest child in the world, he chose the one about butterflies.
Monarch butterflies are visually striking with their large orange wings. They live in North, Central, and South America as well as Australia, some Pacific Islands, India, and Western Europe. Every year the monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico to Canada. A passage I have lifted from Harvey’s magazine comes under the heading of “It Takes The Whole Family.” It says, “Each year, the monarch’s migration takes several generations. Three or four generations complete the trip north. But only one generation makes the return trip south. That means if you started the journey, your great great grandchildren would finish it.”
We are living in a world which we inherited from our parents and our parents’ parents before and so on. Young people aged under 30 make up over 50% of the world’s population; a world which is suffering from increased temperature, sea level rises and more frequent catastrophic weather events. Young people are left with questions that generations which came before us didn’t have to think twice about, or at least didn’t have to think about in the context of changing climate. What jobs will there be for us in a changing economy and world? How long will we have reliable food sources? Will we be safe and protected? And a question mark about the future of if it will be safe to plan our futures and have our own children and grandchildren if what we are experiencing now is only expected to get worse.
Harvey is part of a drama and acting group and he recently wrote and starred in his own play for their end of term variety show where he played David Attenborough, and acted out a scene where he condemned plastic pollution in the ocean. Harvey is 12 and I have to reflect on how young he is to be so concerned about climate change. Harvey is not an outlier in this, with ECO-UNESCO’s 2022 Climate Justice survey in Ireland finding that 97% of survey respondents ranging from under 6 years old to 25 years old stating that they are concerned about climate change. 47% of the same respondents said that they feel like no one listens to these concerns.
When we go to conferences like COP we can sometimes forget the smaller picture, that what we are talking about concerns real individual lives and that is who we advocate for. The world becomes divided politically over a plethora of issues and the individual – our next door neighbours, the shopkeeper down the road, the bartender in our local, our young people – all suffer the consequences of our slow climate action. As my final words as Climate Youth Delegate, I would like to take time to appreciate all of the great work done by communities, organisations and the climate delegation, and to remind us going forward that this issue is intergenerational and “It Takes the Whole Family”.