Supporting communities to take the lead on climate change

Emer Rafferty (17) is a member of the Our Bright Future Ulster Wildlife Young Advocates’ group. Ulster Wildlife are part of Our Bright Future, a National Lottery funded programme which has a network of 31 projects across the UK. It brings together the youth and environmental sectors to support young people to gain skills, experience, improve their wellbeing and also act as catalysts for change in their local environment and community.

Emer Rafferty

Young people from the Ulster Wildlife project are currently campaigning for greater outdoor learning in Northern Ireland and are engaging with local politicians to have discussions, share opinions and connect over a common cause. Here, Emer shares her thoughts of what more needs to be done to support people to take the lead on climate change.

I’m an aspiring chemist and an environmental activist. Charitable work is one of my passions and because I have an outgoing personality, I find it natural to get into voluntary team work, particularly when it is for a cause I have a desire to help.

As a youth ambassador for Global Action Plan and as a campaigner in my local community for preservation of biodiversity and wildlife whilst raising awareness of climate issues, I have been finding ways to support others take the lead on climate change, just like others have supported me.

Why did I want to get involved in taking on the biggest challenges humanity has ever, and probably will ever face? That being climate change. Well, why wouldn’t I. I live in this ‘hand me down’ planet which has been damaged and mistreated and so I want to hand on a cleaner and tidier planet to the future. Also, I love to meet new, like-minded people, gain contacts but most importantly, bring lasting change for the sake of the environment.

As a vocal point for my local community environmental group and as I am actively trying to get more people involved, I have faced barriers along the way, however none have, or ever will be, too much to turn me off my mission.  Removing barriers can include showing people, particularly the youth, not to be afraid to have a passion for the world they live in. It is a wonderful trait and indicates that you care more about the important things in life. The things that really matter in the end.

Another barrier when supporting community involvement was COVID-19. However, in every challenge, an opportunity arises. And so it did. Our group blossomed over the last year and our numbers grew and grew. Therefore, covid provided us with new and excited volunteers eager and ready to help the community, help nature flourish and of course help our own mental well-being.

Being with Ulster Wildlife has widened my imagination to the possibilities that we, together, can make. I am grateful for this dedicated bunch of environmentalists. The knowledge within the group is extraordinary. From our project officer’s fascinating facts to the young people’s drive and ambition, I have learnt that there are other people who feel as strongly about this crisis as I do which came as a pleasant surprise to me as I can feel at times that I’m ploughing a lonely furrow. 

The Our Bright Future group has given me a sense of purpose, pride and camaraderie. 

So the question now is, what more needs to be done to support people taking the lead on climate action. Climate change is a problem that is the most global of them all. No matter your power, your background or your pay cheque, the consequences of climate change does not discriminate. And so, supporting every person in every facet of life to take a lead on climate action is important.

There is a bounty of ways to support people on all levels to take the lead on climate change. For individuals, giving opportunities to lead, speak out, share opinions allows people’s voices to be heard. Supporting those who want to stand up is the first step on the right path. But we who are driven to lead are pushed to this because people in power are not doing their job correctly.

Should we think about supporting the people in government to take the lead on climate action? Well, it is those people that should be leading society already in the fight against climate change, however if they need the inspiration and support to take the leap of faith for the sake of the planet, we should support them too. They may need to be reminded, however, their future in politics may be influenced by the emphasis they place on the future of the planet.

Without local and global cooperation, we will never hear the end of the word “climate change”. Supporting and innovating others is the key to the best outcome for our people and our planet. We will fix this problem. We have to. But it will take a supportive network of determined and decisive people, and we have plenty of them here in the youth ready to get started! Indeed, we already have.

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