Climate Week inspires young environmentalists

The UK’s first Climate Week launched on Monday with thousands of events highlighting how every part of society can help combat climate change.

As each event shines a spotlight on the practical and positive steps that are already being taken to tackle climate change, Climate Week will hopefully give you the inspiration to turn their passion for the planet into a viable path for the future. And this is critical. Today’s generation (and that includes you!) are perhaps the last able to mitigate catastrophic climate change, and therefore have a vital role to play. A study conducted by Blue Marble Research for Climate Week found that 16-24 year olds are the UK’s great hope for combating climate change – 59% saying they are committed to taking action on climate change, compared to just 41% of older people.

In an increasingly green economy, you also have a golden career opportunity!

The four inspirational young people profiled in this article will give you a flavour for the professional and personal paths that can be forged by a career dedicated to combating climate change. In their individual ways they show how tomorrow’s leaders are taking high achieving action today.

Climate Week aims to help catalyse a real, long-term shift in the way society approaches climate change, and we hope that by sharing these inspirational stories you become part of the movement.

Four of the country’s most inspirational young environmentalists were named as finalists in this week’s Climate Week Awards. On Monday they were joined by Climate Week supporters and the Secretary of State for Climate Change, who honoured their dedication to environmental action.

While there could only be one winner, all four finalists show how commitment to eco-action can take you places you’ve never dreamed.

Niel Bowerman

Niel Bowerman has raised awareness of climate change with politicians and his peers. Now aged 24, he began his journey by raising money to have solar panels installed at his London school. He then went on to co-found the Climate Justice Project and Climatico (leading a team of 20 analysts preparing independent reports on climate policy), spoke at the European Parliament on Ethics in Business and was invited to sit on Barack Obama’s Energy and Environmental Policy Committee during the 2008 US Elections. He was also the media liaison officer for the Youth Delegation to the UN’s 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen. He is now studying Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics at Oxford University.

Ross Harrison

Ross Harrison’s documentary, Beyond the Brink, is a personal account of his quest to discover the reality of climate change. The 40-minute film, made while Ross was 18 and completing his A-levels, features interviews with Sir David Attenborough, Mark Lynas, Oxford University academics, climate campaigners and Ross’s own grandparents (who talk about the effects of the consumer society). Ross, now 19 and at university, raised £2,500 to produce 500 DVDs and set up a website where the film can be watched for free. Ross says: “there needs to be a new message – one that is progressive and inspiring, that separates itself from stereotyped bossy environmentalism, and that speaks aspiration rather than alarm”.

Ellie Hopkins

Ellie Hopkins is a Co-Director of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC). Over the past year 22 year-old Ellie has been responsible for the actions, campaigns, and finances of a campaign network and a 35-strong team. She raised money so that the UKYCC could join delegates at the 2010 UN climate negotiations in Cancun, and she was heavily involved in the conception and organisation of the group’s Power Shift youth conference (now being rolled out to 20 other European countries). Ellie is also a member of the Youth Advisory Panel for the London 2012 Olympics, working on sustainability as one of eight Sustainability Ambassadors for the Games alongside Dame Ellen McArthur and Jonathan Porritt.

Tom Youngman

Tom Youngman, a 17-year-old from Bath, led the Environmental Action Group at his school for three years, winning two Eco Schools Green Flags. He also co-founded Green Vision, a forum for local schools to learn from one another and plan action on climate change. Tom went on to become a member of the Youth Advisory Panel of the Department for Energy and Climate Change, helping to prepare a report assessing the options for the future of UK energy and their impact on young people and future generations. His teachers describe him as a “natural leader” and “an inspirational young environmentalist“.

Winners were selected by an eminent judging panel including best-selling author Ian McEwan, Lord Nicholas Stern (author of the Stern Report), former Irish President Mary Robinson, environmental campaigner and writer Tony Juniper, eco-adventurer David de Rothschild, and Tim Smit, founder of the Eden project, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Executive Director, Tesco and Martin Lawrence, Managing Director, EDF Energy.

For further information about Climate Week Awards visit: There is also a great interview with Climate Week founder Kevin Steele in this weeks Guardian.

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