Co-Powering a New Generation of Change-Makers

Few if any calendars make note of it, and Hallmark has no greeting card for it, but February is National Youth Leadership Month. A time to advance and celebrate the rising leaders among us who are making a difference in our communities and the world at large.

Of course, that’s a 24/7 practice at SCA, though we have ramped it up a bit lately. We are now in the final stages of planning for the inaugural SCA Convening on Youth Co-Powerment, to be held March 18 and 19 in Washington, DC. This forum will bring together a select group of accomplished and influential visionaries in conservation, environmental justice, and youth development to explore how we can best co-power inclusive groups of young change-makers to act on climate change and other critical conservation issues.

Late last year, we were confident the moment was right for such a convening, and when TIME magazine put Greta Thunberg on its cover with the headline “The Power of Youth,” it further validated our thinking. Since then, there’s been a spate of writings on the linkages between climate change, environmental justice, and the rise in youth activism.

Here are five stories that signal change is not limited to our climate, and it is unfolding on many other important fronts.

  1. “The amount of global philanthropy aimed at putting the world on the path to a reasonable climate future is disgraceful,” writes Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “With no more 3 percent of giving addressed to global warming…this is profoundly, unfathomably, maddeningly shortsighted. Any grant maker who just chugs along on the same issues without addressing climate is, truly, fiddling while the world burns.”
  2. E&E News reports environmental justice activists are working closer than ever with national environmental groups. Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president for environmental justice, climate and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation, noted “You can’t work on climate issues and not care about what’s happening on the environmental injustice side because …the majority of fossil fuel facilities are located in communities of color and lower-income communities.”
  3. In addition to its environmental impacts, The Washington Post states Generation Z must also endure climate change’s psychological impacts. “Young people,” the Post reports, “have become the defining face of the climate movement. Underlying their anger, though, is another a-word: anxiety…How do you raise a generation to look toward the future with hope when all around them swirls a message of apparent hopelessness?”
  4. Yet USA Today contends the numbers favor young people. “Fed-up youth are agitating for movement on a variety of causes…Part of their emerging power lies in demographics: The world has never had so many young people. About 1.8 billion people worldwide are between 10 and 24 years old – the largest youth population ever, according to the United Nations. And almost nine in 10 young people believe their generation has a responsibility to improve the planet.”
  5. Finally, The Chronicle of Philanthropy declares “’The New Youth Advocates‘ will likely alter activism for many years to come…They take a more inclusive view of the issues. They see climate change as not just about the environment but also about racial equality, social justice, and indigenous rights…They are trying new tactics and making more strident demands.”

These articles are not the first reporting on these issues, nor are the authors the first to connect these particular dots. This alignment has been taking place for some time, albeit at a glacial pace (remember glaciers?). But we are heartened by the ongoing momentum, compelled by the urgent imperatives before us, and committed to fulfilling the promise of our March event.

The convening is funded through grants from the JPB Foundation and the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

Look for further updates here in the weeks ahead.