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This is a turning point in the climate justice fight

Climate justice activist and campaigner Noga Levy-Rapoport on regaining momentum after the challenges of Covid-19.

For young people, the taste of freedom from pandemic restrictions is bittersweet.

From sudden under-socialisation without schools and youth groups, crucial for our development and growth, to the double worries of paralysing eco-anxiety and constant fears of Covid-19 infection, the combination of the pandemic and impending climate disaster has left young people in the UK feeling stranded, isolated from our peers, and uncertain about what remains of our futures.

Over the past two years, communication and connections among many of us have been rapidly changing.

During the Fridays For Future climate strikes of 2019, climate strikers and activists were able to take advantage of the online work, meeting and organising spaces such as Zoom, Slack and social media – spaces that are now the hallmark of pandemic life, and have taken up a digital prevalence in our lives formerly unimaginable – to constantly widen our reach, as well as broaden and expand our conversations with young people around the world.

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These not only formed deep connections between organisers but also enabled us as activists to inspire and mobilise an entirely new youth movement.

So what happened to all that powerful momentum, and how do we get it back?

Galvanising hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to push for urgent climate action relied on more than just the power of online spaces.

In-person organising was fundamental, to have open spaces to discuss climate anxiety freely and comfortably, to foster support, education and solidarity.

It allowed us as organisers and as young people new to political action to form communal bonds that developed our understanding of just how much we needed to bring people together in order to change the world – but it is, unfortunately, a crucial aspect of mass mobilisations that has been ripped away by the pandemic, stopping us in our tracks and throwing an entire movement into disarray.

Going digital does not have to mean we allow the connections and communities formed pre-pandemic to wither away

Yet the pandemic has also radicalised many young people or, at the very least, highlighted the importance of radical political action.

As digital spaces have taken centre stage in our lives, the speed with which protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and Kill The Bill were able to mobilise tens of thousands on to the streets to fight for change is a testament not only to how effectively organisers utilised the power of online sharing to transform society, but also to how the pandemic laid bare structural inequalities, forcing protestors to take a stand against ongoing social injustice.

In two months, world leaders will meet in Glasgow for the all-important UN climate summit, COP26, to discuss and decide international climate agreements.

Climate activists should recognise that the historic protests we have witnessed in the UK during the pandemic, organised so swiftly and at such a large scale despite the odds, are crucial examples to follow and learn from if we want to regain momentum to push for ambitious climate plans.

Going digital does not have to mean we allow the connections and communities formed pre-pandemic to wither away.

Instead we need to take advantage of the tools social media and the online world has to offer; that we can sift through digital archives and bring out deeply inspiring moments from past demonstrations and actions is a gift, one which allows us to comfort and re-empower those who feel abandoned without the socialisation and bonding of the pre-pandemic era.

Online collaborations, networks and connections have not replaced physical social interaction, but they have allowed young people to find a base online to organise from and feel buffered by.

Political enfranchisement and the ability to participate in activist circles and organisations has not always been accessible to everyone, nor has it ever been so globalised.

During this pandemic, we have seen connections made on a formerly unimaginable international scale, uniting those isolating at home with those marching and demonstrating.

This is a turning point with the most serious stakes of climate devastation: we can fall into immobility, trapped by terrifying eco-anxiety intertwined with Covid restrictions that have pushed too many further into feeling isolated from activism and campaigning – or we can use our one-click connections now made accessible everywhere, to everyone, to welcome even the youngest among us into the fight for climate justice.

What The Connor Brothers Say

Pre the world going to shit with Covid, the world was already going to shit, in a far more urgent and catastrophic way, with climate change.

Fighting it requires individual, local, national and international action and co-operation, and it’d be easy to leave the problem to others, and assume that our individual actions can’t make a difference. Noga is evidence that they can.

They are one of the leading figures in The UK Student Climate Change Network, and were instrumental in organising the student climate change strikes, which saw tens of thousands of young people march in protest against the lack of action by older generations about an issue that will define their collective future. Otherwise known as bunking off double maths.

Noga Levy-Rapoport is a 19-year-old award-winning climate justice activist, freelance campaigner, speaker and organiser of the 2019 UK school climate strikes.

This article is from the exclusive Connor Brothers takeover of The Big Issue, which is out now. Get the special edition, full of custom artwork and sure to be a collector’s item, from your local vendor or from The Big Issue Shop.

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