The radiant rays of the Sun ran beautifully through the community garden, nourishing the leaves of the carefully planted vegetables in their raised beds, and providing a boundless supply of energy to the sleek, black solar panels. The solar panels powered the heating system of small greenhouse, which was messily decorated with an assortment of colourful stickers by the local children, where they grew succulent strawberries, red raspberries and a number of other fruits that were far too tasty to remain seasonal. Everything in the garden, like everything in their society and planet, relied on the Sun and its abundant energy, which Kayla now basked blissfully in as she sat, eyes closed, with her back against the sapling of a newly planted apple tree. As she carefully listened to the surrounding children, she remembered how, when she was only a few years older than they were now, the Summer did not provide the joyful jubilance that it now created and inspired:

 She remembered the surreal feelings of guilt and of fear, knowing that her world was on fire, that countless people were suffering or dying as invisible gases choked the air, as the cold waters of the sea infringed closer and closer inland, and as vast areas of soil were rendered infertile. In some ways, she had been made to feel as though it was her fault; she had believed that, if only she could reduce her ‘carbon footprint’, Climate Change, the global warning that threatened to end Human civilisation and devastatingly disrupt life on Earth, would be stopped. 

Yet, despite the fact that she maintained a strict vegetarian diet, rejected any offers for a car-lift to school from her parents, and, even, decided not to go on a trip to America with her music class in order to continue her boycott of air-travel, she continued to see stories, almost daily, in the news about raging wildfires, ferocious storms, and melting glaciers, all a result of the rapidly changing climate. 

At first, these lifestyle choices were empowering; they seemed to place everything back under her control. Eventually, however, they became a source of overwhelming guilt as she felt that, no matter how much or how hard she strived to live ‘sustainably’, she was not doing enough and that she was, somehow, responsible for the global devastation, innumerable extinctions, and countless, ruined lives. Haunted by these feelings of responsibility, she argued constantly with her parents about the apparent ‘need’ to replace their old hatchback with an electric car, despite knowing that such a purchase was a financial impossibility for them. Kayla became paralysed with grief for her dying world, and her future, if she were to even experience it, seemed bleak.

Kayla was disturbed from her thoughts by a sharp yelp. Opening one, attentive eye, she saw that one of the children had fell and scraped his knee. She started to get up to help, but stopped when she realised that her intervention was not needed; the boy’s peers had gathered around him, offering comforting words and providing shoulders to lean on as he dramatically hobbled to a nearby bench. She smiled at the children’s camaraderie. The support of passionate, like-minded peers always provided emotional relief, and, sometimes, a solution to a seemingly impossible problem. As the boy’s friends, an apple-cheeked group of aspiring surgeons, delicately placed a plaster on his grazed knee, Kayla allowed herself to return to her thoughts.

Somehow, she had not realised until she heard that passionate cry on the television. She had known that just one hundred companies were responsible for seventy percent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, and she had, of course, been fully aware of the wholly inadequate policies of the Government, but she had failed to truly understand that Climate Change was not an individual issue, but, instead, a systemic one until she heard that fateful chant: “System Change not Climate Change!”.

The voices carrying these words were not those of the experts, who had already made their concerns very much well-known, nor were they the voices of hardened activists or an environmental NGO. They were the voices of hundreds, if not thousands, of terrified students, just like her. They shared Kayla’s fears for the future, and they, too, were desperate to do anything in their power to save it. Yet, they did not allow the blame, the responsibility for the enormous ecological and social injustices, to be shifted upon themselves. Instead, they worked tirelessly to ensure that the destructive, exploitative systems and organisations, which perpetuated Climate Change, were held accountable and that effective, large-scale action was, finally, taken to combat the widespread, dangerously excessive emissions of greenhouse gases , and to provide justice for those who had been least responsible for Climate Change, yet the most impacted by its effects. 

The next month seemed like a blur. She had volunteered to help ‘UKSCN’, the group responsible for the organisation of the nation-wide ‘Youth Strikes’, and had dedicated herself to multiple working groups, labouring with an unfettered fervour to save the planet. She had done countless things that she never would have had the confidence to do, and she was able to share her emotions with her numerous, new friends, who had all had similar experiences. With a proud awe that bordered on disbelief, she watched as the movement rapidly grew, gaining the support of countless people and organisations. At the end of the month, she finally saw the first of the fruits of her labour as she joined the next strike; a brilliant horde of young people marched and cheered along the streets, countless banners and painted placards were waved with glee, and passing people shouted their support and solidarity for the protesting youth. In the following weeks, as the governments of the World were pressured to finally acknowledge the approaching devastation and to begin to act accordingly, Kayla began to feel far less disempowered, and far more hopeful.

Now, Kayla lived in the better world that she had dreamed of, and, more importantly, had worked towards. She rose to her feet, and began to call the children, leading them back to the classroom. The boy, forgetting about his grazed knee, raced his friends to the green gates of the garden, and Kayla smiled gently as she watched them. She had spent part of her youth terrorised by an impeding ecological threat, but, because of her efforts, and the efforts of all of her peers, these children had only a fulfilling, hopeful future approaching them.