“Climate change is not the problem. We are solving the wrong problem,” says Grace Hill, a 14-year old student and youth activist.
In honour of both International Day of the Girl Child and the millions of young people who marched for climate action around the world last month, we’re taking a closer look at the power of youth movements.
We’re excited to launch a new episode of Future of Good’s Edge & Main podcast with Grace Hill, our first-ever youth guest. She offers compelling insights into what adults can learn from children, why protests really matter, and what it means when children around the world take back their power and voice to ensure they have a future.
You’ll learn a ton from this conversation.
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I think the recent global climate strike as demonstrated that we as adults, you know, have a lot to learn from children and youth. What do you think?
Yeah, definitely. I feel like there’s a lot of misconceptions with youth, especially with the extent of their knowledge, but they have a lot to teach us, especially in this day and age.
Let’s get started. I want to start with how you started with volunteering. When you think about the world we live in today, you know, there’s so much potential, there’s so much possibility, right? But there’s also a quite a bit of suffering as well. Tell me what excites you about the state of the world today? And also what makes you want to take action?
Well, there’s the obvious reasons of course, with social media and everything, I’m growing up in a very connected world, yet disconnected at the same time. We’re connected in that we have the whole world at our fingertips, pretty much with Google and other tools. And of course with social media, like Instagram and Snapchat and all that, we know the lives of others, but that kind of disrupts us from having face to face connections.
Is social media good for the world?
I think it’s like everything in moderation, pretty much. So I guess if you’re always on Instagram, you’re might get very disconnected from your world. And there’s been recent studies that prove that there’s a direct link between mental health and social media and how digital addiction and all of that is as a result of disconnection from the world. And so I think that definitely social media can sometimes disconnect us from the world around us and stop living in the moment. And that could lead to some significant mental health issues. But I think that if you find a healthy balance within it, like everything else, then it could be used for a good purpose.
You talked about the ocean of information, right? That’s kind of coming your way. How do you make sense of it all?
It’s really hard. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming. There’s so much. Humans are so attracted to the negative. And if there was like an article, okay, so someone planted a tree or if it’s an article, 20 people died some place, you’re most likely going to choose the 20 people that are dead, I mean, you might choose the tree planting, but like I commend you for that. But I know for sure for me in particular, I wouldn’t because we’re just so we want to see, but at the same time it almost kills us inside and it’s hard to navigate that.
Last month was the global climate strike. And I’m guessing that wasn’t your first protest. Tell us about the first protest you remember. What was the cause, how did you feel afterwards, and tell us about what you learned.
Okay, this is a very interesting story. So, this is not a typical protest I went to, I was five years old, I think the first protest and my grandpa got robbed. So, it was at this bank thing. So then there was just a bunch of people in the parking lot and I just, I was five year old child, so I didn’t really know how to navigate it. And I remember we were just walking around and walking around and I am an empath. So this pretty much means that it’s hard to navigate my own emotions with others. They sometimes get very intertwined because as soon as I’m in a social situation or I’m with a lot of people, I can absorb their energies. So I remember as a five year old child, and I didn’t know this about myself yet, just feeling all the energies on me.
And the thing with the protest it’s often channelled by anger. And especially with this cause there was major loss. And so it’s just funny how that works; how as humans we have the capabilities of anger and we’re able to channel it into something as simple as walking and walking and holding up signs, but yet a protest is we’re channelling something so extreme and we’re fighting for that. And I just remember how powerful that was. And to this day, I’m 14 years old today and I still vividly remember it from when I was five.
There are people out there who would say, what difference would a protest make sure stalls traffic. You have to take time out of your day. What would you tell those people?
Well, I remember the first time hearing about protests was Martin Luther King of course. And I think he created peaceful protesting. I think that protesting can help because we live in a world of eight billion people. That’s a lot of people and we’re often segregated into countries and into communities. So when the protest happens, it really shows how powerful it truly is when people come together of different communities, different backgrounds, and we all coming together fighting for a common goal. And I think that’s so powerful for me to see and so powerful for me to feel. And I definitely think that’s why protests have shown time and again to actually work.
Let’s talk about the global climate strike. I’m assuming you made it protest side. What did you write on there and why?
So I said I have big dreams, I need a future.
What did you mean by that?
The climate crisis is so broad. Honestly. I remember people protesting about fossil fuels, people protesting about pollution, all that stuff. People being angry at the government. And I feel like the most powerful thing you can bring to a protest or bring to anything in your life is you bring what you believe in and you bring a little piece of yourself within that. So I believe that we can change climate change and what really makes climate change special to me is that this is going to be affecting my future. Right? Another unique thing to me is that I have big plans for my future. So if you bring all what you believe into the protest, that you will be able to protest not only with a goal but with passion, because it’s unique to you, this is affecting me, this is affecting my family. And that way your point will really come across not just to you, but to everyone around you.
Greta Thunberg mobilized and continues to mobilize millions of kids around the world for climate action. This is about climate action of course. Do you think it’s more than that? I mean, you know, the, the hashtag on Twitter is Fridays for future. The word future is in there. Right?
I feel like Greta is shifting the way people think. Like I said before, there’s a lot of misconceptions about how we’ve been portrayed in the past. And it’s the same thing with the girls too in the female empowerment movement. This is really the era of change of changing the way you think. It’s like almost like scrap everything you knew before. It’s time for change. It’s time to change our mindsets on people because evidently if we want to exist, we need to make some changes to the way that we’ve done things before. It’s a common element of evolution and that’s been shown time and time again through history.
So today it could be for climate action, but tomorrow it could be for something else. What’s another cause you you’re deeply passionate about?
I am really interested in gender equality especially in South Sudan and on an international level for sure is human rights and making sure that everyone has equal access to everything to fulfill their best life. I’m also very passionate about mental health.
Well, so we can see that, you know, perhaps Fridays for future could become about mental health.
Yes. With all young men.
Let’s talk about what kids can teach adults. Do you feel that the lesson that we’re taking away as adults is the lesson that you are teaching us or is there, is there a disconnect? Are we on the same page?
I like to believe the best in people. I think it’s all about empathy in how adults who are able to go back to when they were kids or when they were youth and remember what it was like. I think it’s those people who are able to really connect with us and really help us make a change. We are you, we are still learning many things. We have a lot to learn. We have our whole lives ahead of us, but we also get very affected by things. And I think that’s what really put us forward is when we’re just walking our first few steps in the world, we absorb the world almost a little bit more than everyone else. And I think that’s why youth are making such a big impact is because they’re still absorbing the world around them with such a big heart. And I think people in this era are finally starting to listen. And I think that’s just so super powerful.
What can adults do better or do differently to listen to children and youth?
It’s very important to really connect with youth and to really spend time with them. We’re still learning of course a lot of things, like how to navigate the world. And I think it’s really important to give us space, adults are trying to figure it out too. But I think it’s very important to try and really have that connection with us and who learn our dreams, our beliefs, and just be there to support us and give us those skills that you’ve learned throughout your lifetime too, and help us not repeat the same mistakes that you might’ve made. It’s just about really spend time with one another and learning from one another because we can learn on either sides of the spectrum. So it’s, I think that’s just really important.
You mentioned that it’s important for adults to have that connection with children and youth in your mind. Why have we lost that connection?
As humans we love to put labels on things. That’s just our favorite thing to do. Okay. Oh, you’re upset, you have depression; you were born at this time, you’re in this grade; you work towards this level, you’re on this level of math, and stuff like that. We love to put labels on things to help us have a better understanding of the world. And the thing with labels is we’re kind of bunched into groups as human. That’s why we’re becoming so segregated. So I think thats why we’ve lost the connection is because we’re becoming so segregated by age. So it’s like if you’re youth, you likely share these qualities. If you’re adults, you’re likely to share these qualities. But I think is what we’re noticing is that we sure have a lot of differences from one another, but we have a lot of similarities too.
I want to go back to climate action. There are a number of companies trying to solve the climate problem and this typically involves some technical solution. You probably heard that a number of big tech companies made some pretty significant announcements of how they’re going to solve the climate problem. And it involves things like removing carbon from the atmosphere and so on. When you hear these types of technical solutions to a really complex problem like climate, what do you make of them? Do you think we actually get it? Do we understand the problem?
The thing about the climate crisis is that it’s very controversial. I would say it depends how you classify solving the climate crisis. One thing we like to say is that solving the climate crisis is you’ve got to come up with the technology to suck up all those carbon emissions. Well, we’ve done that. And again, you might say, it is when people start using those technologies. Well, people are already using them. Nothing seems to be changing. Is it when the whole population is using it? Then it’s now not just about the technology but about grabbing the people’s hearts and making sure that they can, they will use the technology.
I’m going to talk about an example. So since I love mental health, I’m going to talk about that. Let’s say that someone with an eating disorder, it’s a controversial issue because it has some mental health aspects to it. It also has some physical health aspects to it. So my friend recently enrolled in the eating disorder program, and this is what she told me is when she went into the hospital, she didn’t only get those people who work with people with mental health and who talked to people who initially do only talking there only “noisemakers” as we like to call them. We like to call activist noisemakers. So let’s say the mental health researchers represent the noisemakers and but she also got the doctors and those that we can classify as the scientists. If you’ve got a dietician, she got all these technical people. You could easily say that this group of people are way smarter than the noisemakers. So the thing with eating disorder is there’s a beast. It’s a very, very evil disease. So there’s something that’s living inside you. The thing with the doctors was, they love to treat the disease. They love to treat the evil thing inside of you. The mental health people, the noisemakers love to treat the whole person. Now, can you guess which one made more of an impact? It was the noisemakers. In the end, the noisemakers made the impact because if you just treat the disease, you’re likely going to ignore the whole person, the whole emotional aspects to it. You start to notice that the person starts stopping believing in you because all you see is the problem in them.
Now you might be thinking, well, this is an eating disorder. This has nothing to do with the climate crisis. Well, let’s put it back into context. CO2 represents the beast of an eating disorder. CO2 is initially the results of what humans have done, but CO2 was not the problem. Without CO2, we would all be dying. CO2 is what helps us. The problem is as humans, the system that we built put so much CO2 into the atmosphere. So when we talk about how technology is going to save climate, technology is not going to solve climate change. And people say Greta isn’t going to solve the climate crisis. She’s just a noisemaker. I don’t believe this to be true because Greta, she’s attacking the problem head on. She’s telling people this is real. This is actually happening. We need to do something about this. And that’s what I believe, that people who change the world are really the noisemakers.