By Nontombi Moyo

Here’s the scene.

You’re screaming through soundproof glass. No matter how hard you shout, cry and make your presence and plea for help heard to the other side, you reach deaf ears. That’s how today’s youth feel amidst the climate crisis. It’s how we feel when our voices aren’t heard. We voice our opinions and they ridicule us, we act and they mock us. It’s us versus them, and it doesn’t look like anybody’s winning.

With great passion came great apathy and that was what I experienced throughout the years moving forward. My drive and wistfulness was short lived by the reality that with the number of conflicts the world faced today stemming from racism, gender inequality, political justice and more so—environmentalism just wasn’t seen as a vital problem and the only time it was brought into attention was when it became a threat to the economic sectors. Just the mention of climate change brought out the worst in adults.

I remember back in freshman year of high school, Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement reached Windhoek, a rising metropolitan city in arid Namibia and my home at the time. It was a big deal back then because usually, we weren’t a place known for its activities in activism of any kind—especially focusing on its youth. Children all around the city knew what that Friday would entail; everyone (youth and adults) would all meet up at the parliament building and contribute to the global initiative like every other person in the world that very Friday.

The buzz and excitement leading up to the march was exhilarating. My friends and I couldn’t attend the strike ourselves (we had an exam that day) but that hadn’t stopped us from spreading the word and voicing our joy for the movement. That fiery joy quickly blew out like a candle faced with a cold and fervent wind. I don’t even know how I landed myself in a seemingly heated conversation with a friend's about the whole reason children fought for this movement. What the conversation entailed, I vaguely remembered but what stuck with me was their quick disdain to the notion. “What real reason would a bunch of children need to skip school and go on a full blown riot for!” It wasn’t a riot and the absence of children was a metaphorical message. “They should just leave this to the government to fix. What do children know about the climate crisis anyway?”

We know enough to be scared. We know enough to research as best as we can. We know enough to finally fight for something we believe in.

From talks of disbelief to the disregard of the severity of the issue, it was like talking to an infant who refused to acknowledge that what was theirs, wasn’t truly theirs and similarly, what was an idealised paradise was actually a decaying land dying by the hands of its inhabitants.

I became fearful and restless. I started to doubt if there would truly ever be progressive action and change to the not so hidden epidemic we were facing. I became insecure about my own voice on the topic in comparison to the adults who shut down every notion I had on creating a better world. I ultimately became anxious with the reality that I may not even live in a better world. That myself and future generations would continuously have to suffer the consequences of our past’s inability to do something! I spiralled for months on end, aggravated with the feeling that no one understood the emotions and turmoil I was going through. The fear of our ‘inevitable’ doom. That was until I came across a word that perfectly summed up how I felt about all of this; Climate grief.

Climate Grief– commonly referred to as Eco-Anxiety or Climate Distress– are all forms of anxiety related to, you guessed it, CLIMATE CHANGE and its global impact on the environment. It is the overwhelming fear and recurring thought of our dying planet's reality and the opportunities that will die with it.

The constant panic attacks during your hourly scroll on your newsfeed reporting another California fire. The late night thoughts drawing you from your slumber in the realization that there may not be a quick solution to this problem. The obsessive thinking of ‘what else can I do? Am I, a mere minor, even good enough to change things?’ These are all fractions of the symptoms that have built the entirety that is climate grief. What many don’t understand is that as much as these are commonplace feelings we all have from time to time, it has a larger impact in our inability to truly have hope for a brighter future. It causes the inability to continue to fight for a crisis that has long been overdue for a rescue. Climate anxiety has paralized me for far too long. It’s been the little voice in my head that convinces me I should stay in my silent terror. The thief to a voice I know can amplify change and a manipulator that seems to convince me our superiors may be right, “‘what if there truly isn’t anything to fear?” What was worse was the climate anxiety wasn’t a fear of the worst case scenario—the worst was already happening.

The reality is, climate change lies on a much larger playing-field than global warming and the ramifications that run along with it. Climate change encompasses everything that disrupts the earth’s natural balance: from a rise in temperatures to severe drops in weather patterns. We only have one habitable planet at the moment and negative human activities, such as the commercialised faults in capitalism and extensive pollution, need us as a society to re-evaluate ourselves alongside being accountable for the decisions we make. We need to start taking better care of it. If not for your current generation, make a change for those following behind you.

I’m only sixteen years old and I already dread a world where a new born child would have to enter a death-ridden world accustomed to polluted skies, ever-withering trees caused by extreme heat and the rare sight of a whispering dandelion or fluttery butterfly. We’re already losing so much on a grander scale, what about the little things? What about the tiny features of our world that used to be romanticised by introspective poets, gone by our destructive hands?

I’m glad in an era where distance wasn’t much of an obstacle, I managed to utilize my fears in a productive way. I managed to use the little voice I had to amplify the voices of many other teenagers like myself and what they have to say about the climate crisis, about what they wish people in power, our elders and disbelievers could understand a bit more.

Pascale Pimenta (16, Resides in Namibia):

I wish that people would understand that climate change is real and it’s happening and it’s not just going to stop. We as a collective need to do something about it. Most of us are teenagers or too young to have made these decisions that put us into this situation and are too young to make the decisions to get us out.The people of the past have for far too long disregarded this crisis either by innocent ignorance or blatant misbelief. They started it, they need to fix it. And it’s not that we’re lazy millennials and gen z’s, we’re more than happy to help out in whatever ways we can, it’s just that legally, we can’t. It’s not like a 15 year-old me from Namibia can now decide if the United States is going to continue using non-renewable energy or not. The president or politicians from there and other countries can though and in order to see positive action take place, this needs to start becoming a reality.

Shreena B. (from This Teenage Life):

I often feel powerless when it comes to the climate crisis. As a consumer, I often hold the guilt of feeling like I am contributing so much to the crisis, but truly, my guilt doesn’t faze or impact older generations who are in power. It seems like no one else cares, and I carry on holding the guilt of not doing enough. Despite my hopelessness, there have been many actions my generation has done to raise awareness about this issue — I’ve been a part of these demonstrations by participating in a climate march, doing research about ways that I can reduce my carbon footprint, and enacting those methods, and more. Despite my individual actions and the actions of many of my peers, I feel scared that our efforts are too late because the real power lies in what corporations are doing — and they aren’t doing anything. I’m really tired of the whole blame game when it comes to the climate crisis, where corporations point the blame on consumers when the numbers show that corporations are largely to blame. All I want is accountability and change, things that don’t seem too hard, but they are things that have been put off for far too long, which is jeopardizing our futures.

Olivia H. (from TTL):

I think that the climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing our generation — and when I think about what’s currently being done to prevent the impending catastrophe, I can’t help but to feel like it’s already too late. Even though the solutions to global warming have already been developed, and the path forward seems clear, it seems like the older generations simply don’t care about our future. And while I’m saddened by the inaction of the people in power, I’m also saddened to think of everything we’ve already lost, including the thousands of human lives that have been taken by the reckless use of our natural resources and the hundreds of plant and animal species that have gone extinct.

Jade B. (from TTL):

Climate change is a really hard topic for me at this point because in the U.S. science is being treated as a “political opinion” rather than the reality of the global situation. It’s really difficult to maintain any sense of hope when I see the data, and I hear what every single qualified person agrees on, and not only is there an abhorrent amount of inaction, but also action that serves to worsen the circumstances. New drilling sites exploited, legislative loopholes, or entirely destructive legislation, and just an overall lack of urgency in a situation that demands it. I think what bothers me the most, currently, is the endless arguing that takes place, and leads nowhere. It would be one thing if there was really a purpose to the arguing, in that it might have the potential to change people’s minds, but we have arrived at the point where almost anyone — especially the legislators — claiming the climate crisis isn’t real is beyond reasoning with (and often have financial incentive to say this is what they “believe”). Overall, I am just really tired of people denying science. And while it is exhausting, I have to continue to be engaged, and do what I can to support the dramatic transition to a sustainable society, because there really is no viable alternative.

Blatant ignorance is just as much of a contributor to the crisis than actively causing the problem itself. One cannot withhold the simple truth of the matter from themselves in order to keep a certain peace to themselves. A false peace no less. Where past mistakes occur, accountability can be taken and a change can occur. Whether you’re an adult or a teenager, we’ve all in some way contributed to climate change but we can all (in initiative, sense and compassion) make a beneficial impact on restoring the imbalance that’s already happened.

To those of us that have suffered the consequences of this whole ordeal through constant climate grief and anxiety, I want to wish you strength to carry on. I know what keeps me anchored is the thought that at least what I’m doing in my own household is making a difference and maybe I can continue to do so with each new resource I receive everyday. Whether it’s in the little things to the grand, we’re all making a difference. We’re all adding hope. Let’s keep educating, let’s keep sharing, let’s keep fighting.