My name is Lauren Wright. I am sixteen, and I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada which is Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Métis.
For me, the climate crisis is not some far-off issue that we will experience years down the road. Like many young people, the impacts of climate change are impossible to ignore in my daily life. Ever since I was a small child, signs of an environmental crisis have surrounded me. I didn’t know it at the time, but all of the droughts, severe blizzards, hailstorms, and forest fires were caused by something bigger than a few years of bad weather. These extreme events were, and still are, becoming more frequent and more severe because of climate change. As I grew up, I began to realize that none of this was normal, yet the people in power weren’t doing anything to combat the problem. In fact, they were only making it worse.
As with many young people, seeing the overwhelming lack of action being put towards protecting my future was a wake-up call. If the adults and the people in power weren’t going to solve this problem who would? That realization became the driving force behind my work as a climate activist. This motivation to protect the planet, and thus our futures, seems to be the thread that ties many climate activists together. For us, inaction is not an option. We are already experiencing impacts on our health, our homes, and our ways of life because of climate change. Our anxiety about the future translates into a desperate need to do everything that we can to secure a livable future for our generation, and all of those to come.
“For us, inaction is not an option. We are already experiencing impacts on our health, our homes, and our ways of life because of climate change.”
While many adults have showered praise upon young climate activists for being ‘inspirational’ and ‘future leaders’, they have failed to do anything to make sure that we get to have childhoods. The adults are failing to see the injustice of our situation. We shouldn’t have to be doing this. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my childhood and ability to lead a normal life because I am filled with overwhelming fear and anxiety about the future of our planet. We the children and youths have done the least to contribute to the climate crisis, yet we are the ones who will pay for and suffer the most because of it. Children deserve the right to grow up on a planet that is healthy, and with a future that they can look forward to on this planet.
Personally, the climate crisis has brought an onslaught of health impacts. In terms of physical health, I live with something called Raynaud’s syndrome. Raynaud’s typically means that blood flow to the hands and feet is extremely restricted in cold temperatures. Where I live, our winters are becoming more and more unpredictable, with even longer stretches of intense cold. Along with this, I suffer from heatstroke and severe sunburns in the summer.
While my physical impacts worsened by climate change are debilitating at times, the biggest challenges I have had to deal with are related to my mental health. I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression.
“Children deserve the right to grow up on a planet that is healthy, and with a future that they can look forward to on this planet.”
With the looming threat of physical health impacts, I live in a state of anxiety. As climate change worsens, our weather patterns are becoming increasingly erratic, and with my Raynaud’s syndrome, I am constantly on edge trying to avoid physical pain. That stress of living with a condition that is exacerbated by climate change ends up piling a massive weight on my shoulders.
For many people, myself included, natural spaces are essential to recharging mentally. Throughout my life, nature has been a safe haven. Existing in outdoor spaces, whether that be hiking in the forest, canoeing and fishing on the South Saskatchewan River, or camping at my lake, brings me a sense of peace. I am reinvigorated by the fresh air and the abundance of life. My ability to access these biodiverse areas has been heavily impacted by climate change. Saskatchewan’s winters are becoming longer and more severe, so I am stuck inside for five months of the year. Hailstorms, torrential winds, and flooding all compromise safe access to nature. As our river’s water levels drop, I cannot fish or canoe, and our summers are filled with debilitating heatwaves. The frequency and severity of these extreme weather events will only continue to worsen as the climate crisis persists, and that thought terrifies me. How will my generation learn to appreciate and care for nature if we cannot access it?
Ultimately, the root of my mental health impacts are found in the constant anxiety around the future of our planet, and the lack of action being taken to preserve it. Every time I see another emission limit being passed, another natural disaster causing destruction, and another politician ignoring science, I feel hopeless. I am so frustrated and angry when I see those in power choosing to ignore our cries for justice. I am anxious every time a new report comes in declaring that our window of time to act has become even smaller.
Most of all, I feel exhausted. Being locked in a constant battle for my future is incredibly draining physically, emotionally, and mentally. I have never had the chance to be a carefree and happy child. My teenage years have been spent working as a climate activist because I feel that being idle is not an option. I shouldn’t have to be doing this, but here I am.
For my entire life, I have lived on a planet with an expiration date. I have never had the luxury of a guaranteed future, where I can live and grow up on a healthy planet. I do this work because I want my little cousins, and all future generations to not have the experiences I have. Unfortunately, our window for preventing further damage is rapidly closing. We need to take rapid action to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and work towards climate justice for all. I can’t vote, and I can’t have a position of power. We the youth are forced to put all of our faith into those in positions of power. We will keep yelling, marching, and taking up space until elected officials around the world finally realize that our future is not for sale. They owe it to us, and to all future generations to make this right.
I urge governments around the world to take urgent action by signing the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth, and Climate Action.
Lauren is a sixteen year old climate activist from Saskatoon, Canada. Along with her work as an activist, Lauren is one of the fifteen youth suing the Government of Canada for their continued inaction in addressing the climate crisis. She is passionate about climate justice, youth empowerment, and removing stigma around mental health.