The road to Bali: when can we dream again without anxiety?

Author(s) Ana Gabriele Sabancevaite Rebecca Freitag
Young climate activists protesting
Alisdare Hickson / flickr (cc by-nc 2.0)

Can you imagine how it feels to grow up in a world in permanent crisis?

Bombarded daily with news about deadly floods, fires, and pandemics? Each night your sleep disrupted by recurring nightmares as you relive the trauma of fleeing the rising floodwater and infernal flames? 

Our generation’s climate anxiety

Scientists have come up with a label for what we are going through: “climate anxiety”.

Surveys clearly show that our generation is dreadfully concerned about climate change. Up to 60% feel “very or extremely worried”. Unsurprisingly, young people feel let down by their governments.

 Yet we do not lose hope – the Sendai Framework offers guidance on how to avert these threats. 

The devil is in the detail

When the leaders of Europe and Central Asia convened in Matosinhos last year, they seemed determined to take risk prevention to the next level, committing to a Prevention Pledge. But it remains to be seen whether their words will be translated into actions. As the sayings go: “paper is patient” and “the devil is in the detail.” 

The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) conference pulled the right levers and asked the correct questions, now it is time to implement the decisions., Butand we will be watchdogs, keeping a close eye on over the process to make sure it gets carried through.

The intensity and frequency of disasters across Europe are on the rise. We need a lot more action to alleviate the anxiety of the population – especially the children and youth.

How can we dream of a brighter future amidst so many uncertainties? Will we be warned early enough when the next catastrophe hits our town? Will we be included in a resilience strategy? Can we trust those in power to protect us?

Time to shift to a new mindset

We now need to recognize that current systems, rules and norms do not go far enough to protect society and nature. To quote Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

For our transformation to succeed we therefore need a profound mindset shift. How would a young mind create change? Through a holistic, long-term, interconnected and inclusive mindset. A mindset where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are naturally integrated, collaboration is key, and trade-offs are avoided.

From that mindset, it goes without saying that we will only build back better. 

For example, in flood regions, we need to replace oil and gas tanks, which become ticking bombs during a flood, with solar thermal energy. Avoiding risks and embracing sustainable development go hand in hand. By shifting mindsets, we re-discover respect for nature and see it as a role model for designing resilient infrastructure. 

A culture of cooperation 

Without all of society on board, it will be difficult to achieve our Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) targets and build sustainable, resilient societies. We must invest in trust and foster it early on, in line with the SDGs and the SFDRR goals that protect nature, that promote transparent governance and accountability.

We need a culture of cooperation – not competition.
A culture of mutual respect – not exploitation.

As youth, we want to build our future on these values. 

Will you trust us…? 

If we want to raise future leaders, equipped with the knowledge and experience to face the challenges of future climate-related disaster risks, we must invest in youth-led initiatives today: to encourage and scale up action, to promote creativity and youth-led innovation. Schools can be a great hub for disaster risk reduction education, but they will need our support to develop new, innovative programmes.

What we wish for is a chance to join hands at the 2022 Global Platform in Bali.

On the road to Bali, we invite decision-makers to advance solution-seeking dialogue with their local youth groups. We want a seat at the table of a joint preparation process leading to the Global Platform, and to play a part in collecting and interpreting data on SFDRR implementation. 

Yes, the EU has declared 2022 to be the EuropeanYear of Youth. Let’s take that even further and make 2022 the global year of intergenerational action towards our resilient – and anxiety-free – future! 

Listen to the voices of young climate activists

Ana Gabriele Sabancevaite

Ana GabrieleAna Gabriele has eight years of experience as a policy and advocacy officer in sustainable development with a focus on Agenda 2030 and SFDRR. She is the UN Major Group for Children and Youth European Regional Focal point on DRR. Ana Gabriele is also a teacher in Klaipėda Varpas Gymnasium, Lithuania, where she works with students and the local community on raising local awareness on disaster risk and preparedness.

Rebecca Freitag

Rebecca FreitagAs the former German UN Youth Delegate for Sustainable Development, Rebecca Freitag gave young people a voice at the United Nations and advocated for the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in various institutions. She founded the Global Impact Alliance to promote bold new thinking and the achievement of the SDGs in the business community. She is currently designing an interdisciplinary and practical sustainability course at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences.

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