The heading might throw you off a little bit but just stay with me while I explain this. Some of you might be aware of the upcoming UN Water conference this week, and maybe even headed there yourself. Some of you might also know that I am really passionate about climate finance and young people. I am not going to the UN Water week and I am gutted not to be going given that I really care about water supply systems and sanitation in developing countries.
I have been to a lot of UN conferences and I reached an anti-climax at Glasgow when I realized that more of the same was being said from the very first time I went 3 years ago. It was literally like ground-hog day. One promise after another with limited to no deliverables in sight.
So together with some young people, I went and started a fund for youth (you can read more about it here). That in itself was a journey. Still is a journey, of which I am glad to be undertaking. The only reason I did this was because, I was disappointed by the system. Just like every single youth out there.
But as you all know, time catches up to you, and so do environments, and I realized that even though I was considered a youth back in the country that I grew up in, I really am an adult now, and in a sense, a part of the system that is failing us. I try everyday to be better, to make sure whatever my actions and advocacy and activism translates into a different sort of positive change for those coming after me.
And, not all of us can go to the streets and protest and get media attention for our activities. However, I have slowly come to realize that if you truly care about the climate crisis, or whatever subset of climate action that you have dedicated your unpaid time to, then the publicity really should not matter. It should simply be a result of all your hard work and commitment. And this is where I think a lot of us get trapped.
It is in thinking and believing that likes and followers and interviews and attention matters more than our actions. And so we become loud and vocal and angry about the situation, all the while forgetting to implement the solutions and taking the action on ground, because we are tied up with being loud and angry and seeking attention for why we are loud and angry.
Don’t get me wrong. It is ok to be loud and angry sometimes. This is what keeps us sober and sharp on the goal. But we must back that sobriety with real action. And I would love to think that maybe flying to a world conference all the time is not always the answer. That sometimes, silent activism and loud action is better for the planet.
Like most of my fellow activists, I have battled with the emotions of “to go” or “not to go”, as if my presence or absence thereof will truly make a difference. And the truth is that in the grand scheme of things, it does not. Because I am only one person against a bureaucratic system designed to be slow and tedious. I honestly wish it weren’t so, and I wish I would be content with just living with the Status Quo and letting the UN be the UN, and not caring about whether change happens or not. But I am not wired like that. I do want to see change, and most times if the change is not coming, I instigate it to happen. Hence the GYCAF.
And I do know a lot of amazing young activists out there whose voices are not yet heard, who do not have access to public spaces and global exchanges, but who are doing the work just the same, silently in their little corner of the world. It can be a lonely and sometimes difficult job, to continue at it, especially when no one is rewarding or watching. But to those activists, I say to you, silent activism is still climate activism.
And trust me when I say this, your day will come.