A message to the youths involved in the climate change protests from the Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs

Watching the recent coverage of the climate change school strikes has struck a chord with me personally as well as professionally. When I see these young people all over the world taking the initiative to stand up for what they believe in, standing up for the future of the planet and everyone on it, and standing up for themselves it moves me deeply.

The empowerment of young people, particularly in regards to climate change and civic engagement, is at the heart of the YMCA’s raison d’être. So while the issue of climate change is a grave topic, the only consoling factor for me is the clear demonstration of these young people’s passion, courage and tenacity. I have always believed that the greatest hope for a better future lies in this kind of attitude from the youths of the world – when they fully engage in civic issues that effect them and their communities we will start to see real change in the world.

And I hope that the success they have already achieved in gaining the world’s attention will spur them on and keep them motivated to stick with these issues and continue to work towards their goals. I personally feel uplifted because I can see that they are realising their power and their potential to make a difference. This is how the leaders of tomorrow will be shaped, and they will do better than the leaders of today.

These young protesters say that they decided to strike because the generations before them have made a mess of the environment and they are right. They say that not enough action is being taken and not fast enough and they are right. They say that they are the ones who will pay the price for the destruction to the earth and the apathy about it and they are right.

We can already see the effects of climate change globally with more extreme weather events and sea levels and temperatures rising, and this will only continue to worsen. The impacts on land, food and water will likely lead to more humanitarian disasters, scarcity, mass migration, and economic collapse on an unforeseeable scale.

When a UN report warns that there are just 12 years left to have any chance of avoiding the worst effects it is only natural that these students call on governments to declare a climate emergency, to communicate the severity of the crisis and to focus the school curriculum on the environment as an educational priority too.

We can’t predict exactly how the future will look if the current lack of action continues, but we do know that it doesn’t look good. Of course these kids are scared of what’s in store for them during their lifetimes. Of course they are outraged at those in power who have allowed political self-interest and short-term objectives to blind them to the urgency of these issues.

So as the Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs I want to officially congratulate these young people and let them know that the YMCA supports you whole-heartedly. We back your cause and we applaud your initiative to take the lead where elected leaders have failed. We join you in calling on decision-makers to do all they can to preserve our planet and to take real definitive action on climate change.

Carlos Sanvee
Secretary General, World YMCAs