Perhaps it’s no surprise that research shows young people are the most worried about the mess our planet is in. With this July being the hottest on record and Britain set to spend £205 billion on new nuclear weapons while health and education services struggle, there’s a sense of outrage and helplessness amongst younger generations.
In the face of such planetary devastation and risk of nuclear destruction, it’s easy to feel helpless. But that only serves those in power. As Rebecca Solnit says, “Your opponents would love to you believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act.” Because in fact, there are lots of examples of individual and community actions making a positive change for the future.
With young people already inheriting the threat of nuclear war and consequences of climate change, now is the time to take action and make yourself heard.
Everyone has a platform
Growing up with the internet, young people have the opportunity to share their message widely and spark discussions around how we want the future to look, now more than ever. Anyone with access to the internet has access to a huge platform to share a message widely and build community around issues that matter, and it’s often younger generations that use this to best effect.
Greta Thunberg’s Friday’s for Future campaign couldn’t have had the same impact before the internet, if she were relying solely on traditional media to share what she was doing. Mikaela Loach’s broad reach is in large thanks to so many people finding her on social media following the Black Lives Matter protests of June 2020.
So what’s important to you? At CND we’re acutely aware of the intersecting challenges of nuclear weapons and climate change. Money spent on nuclear weapons is money that could be spent on tackling climate change. Whether it’s the environment, nuclear war or something else, all matters need representation from people who feel passionately about the changes needed. Find what inspires you to take action.
Taking an issue at the core of CND’s work, Suzaka Nakamuri is an inspiring example. As a third generation descendant of atomic bomb victims she founded Know Nukes Tokyo, to campaign for a world without nuclear weapons. Acknowledging the intersectional risks facing young people today, she emphasises a desire to “gain a deeper and broader understanding of the issues of nuclear weapons from diverse perspectives and in relation to various other topics, such as environment or gender issues.”
Bringing fresh ideas to the table
Young people have so much to offer, with new perspectives and important challenges to traditional ways of doing things. There’s a wealth of examples of young people thinking creatively and offering innovative solutions to the challenges we face. Even our own CND merch is provided by a company founded on a young person’s desire to find alternative to waste.
Text reads: I am five years old. I am very worried about lots of rubbish. Will there be enough room left for me in the world when I’m a grandad? Where does all the rubbish from my dustbin go?
Teemill co-founder Mark Drake-Knight became concerned about where rubbish goes at age 5 and wrote a letter to the bin man. His concern over waste has evolved into an innovative print-on-demand circular fashion model, where garments are designed to be taken back and remade into new items at the end of their life, helping to end waste and protect the planet in the process.
Small actions build to big things
While it’s easy to reach for the outstanding achievements of particular individuals, we can’t just rely on a few individuals to do all of the work. It’s not just about taking big actions or being the voice on the stage. Everyone has a crucial role to play. As adrienne maree brown says, “Small is all.” Every action taken is a step towards a brighter and safer future.
Perhaps you want to write protest poetry (and you’d be in good company, with Ayisha Siddiqa and Amanda Gormon). Perhaps you want to join an action group, write to your MP or call your local radio station. Perhaps you want to choose a message you’re passionate about, to wear on a T-shirt and use it to kick-start conversations on the subjects that are important to you. The power is in simply starting and learning as you go.
We need to encourage and create space for all young people to speak up. We need young people to believe that their actions matter. Every small contribution is a crucial part of the work ahead. We need everyone.
If you’re a young person who wants to be part of a future that invests in people, not bombs, then check out our youth and student branch of CND. If you’d like to take action today, then grab a CND T-shirt. You’ll be supporting our work in a practical way and sharing a message you believe in, maybe even sparking some conversations along the way.
We need the fresh perspective of young people to challenge old ways of doing things and dream up a better future. If you can imagine it, share it with the world.