Youth and environmental justice
In the fourth post of the Caritas blog series marking Laudato Si’ Week 2020, Mareta Tana, Communications Assistant for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, reflects on the importance of young people in the fight for environmental justice.
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.” Pope Francis, Laudato Si, #13
Over the years we have seen many efforts from communities, organisations and individuals who have undertaken various initiatives to raise awareness and inspire action for the care and protection of our common home. From cleaning up local spaces, adapting to sustainable lifestyle choices, planting trees, mobilising school and parish communities, and even educating friends and families at home. Pope Francis says that we need to take a good look at the world to recognize that our common home “is falling into serious disrepair.” Despite the challenges, hope has us recognise that there is always a way forward.
In recent times, that hope has come in the form of young leaders who have displayed bold and courageous leadership in the fight for climate justice. Youth around the world have been inspired to take action in their own communities by leading environmental groups, distributing supplies to families who have been affected by climate change and spreading awareness on social media. On a much larger scale, students have gathered around the world in solidarity and took to the streets last year to demand change from our governments and large organisations which ultimately lead to the largest climate strikes in history. Young people have shown such passion for the protection of creation, and even with the recent lockdown and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 they continued to share their messages on social media when the climate strikes moved to online platforms.
At Caritas we’ve enjoyed seeing some of these messages being portrayed in creative ways. Caritas held its first ever Kaitiaki2Share competition which gave school students an opportunity to submit their ideas on how we can all care for creation. Students of all ages submitted art work, poems, songs, and even short films on how we can all care for creation, echoing the message of Laudato Si': “Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for the precious gift of God’s creation.” While young people continue to work towards environmental justice, they often need the experience and guidance of their elders. Pope Francis says, “if we journey together, young and old, we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future.” Christus vivit, #199
You can see more about the Kaitiaki2Share competition and winning submissions here.