Opinion

It's easy to set climate targets for a distant 2050 - but even tomorrow is too late

Climate campaigner Grace Maddrell, 16, has compiled essays from young activists around the world in a new book titled Tomorrow is Too Late.

Grace Maddrell has compiled tales from around the globe. Image: Grace Maddrell

With COP26 approaching, it’s more vital than ever that young global voices are heard.

The decisions that are made now are pivotal. All the decisions which have led to the climate crisis, or which have helped mitigate some impacts, are vital, but as we get close to the global point of no return, they’re becoming even more so.

In Tomorrow is Too Late, I hope to help share the stories and solutions of these incredible young people. I have learned so much from working with them, and I hope readers will learn just as much.

They have so many different stories to tell. Tales of the impact of the crisis in their homelands, discussions of how the crisis and activism has impacted their mental health, messages for fellow young activists – the list goes on.

The most vital of these voices are those speaking from the frontline, those being most affected by the crisis right now. Voices from the global south, from indigenous communities, from communities of colour.

It’s commonly thought, at least in the UK, that the climate crisis is some future event, that it is just beginning to impact us through the loss of the bees, or unusually high summer temperatures, but many of the young people featured in the book tell a different story. 

‘Every activist has a story to tell, every story has a solution to give, and every solution has a life to change’
Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan climate activist

Those of us privileged enough to live in communities, areas or demographics which aren’t yet being directly impacted – or not as seriously, anyway – right now need to listen. 

“Africa must no longer be forgotten or discarded… In Africa, we no longer hope to fight for our future, we fight for our present and to survive,” writes Kaossara Sani, a climate activist and educator from Togo.

“Our house has been on fire for over 500 years, since the beginning of the genocide that was and is colonialism in our lands,” writes Nia, an independent Argentinian activist of indigenous descent, in their piece, a poignant reflection on erasure and privilege.

Asam Sbaih, a contributor from Palestine, writes that “Palestinians depend especially on the international community to act, since we live in a small country that faces dozens of political and existential problems”.

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It’s because of situations like this that it is so important that the governments of countries like the UK, US and others in the global north act to mitigate the effects of this crisis that we caused, effects that are impacting most severely the communities which had the least hand in creating them.

And world leaders, especially those of the most privileged countries, who seem to assume they will mostly be dead by the time the crisis cuts deepest, have to listen to the youth.

It’s easy to set targets for a distant 2050 when you believe that by then you’ll be gone, or too old to have to deal with the consequences, or actually try to meet those targets.

It’s easy to keep consuming when you don’t think you’ll have to live with the impacts. Even those who will still be around normally have a such a level of wealth and privilege that they will be able to escape much of the crisis they’ve caused.

“Every activist has a story to tell, every story has a solution to give, and every solution has a life to change,” says Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist and author of the upcoming book A Bigger Picture, who also contributed to my book. 

So I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Tomorrow is Too Late, or read articles about it, and extracts from it! You can go to the book’s website to find videos from the contributors and more.

However you do it, I hope you’ll find a way to hear the voices of these young people, because every single one of them is vital to this fight. 

Visit tomorrowistoolate.theindigopress.com

This article is taken from the latest edition of The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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