For the last ten months I have been school striking for the climate outside of my school every Friday morning. Why? Because I am afraid for my future.
My name is Holly Gillibrand. I’m a 14-year-old environmentalist from Fort William.
That is something that no child should ever have to say, but in the 21st century my generation finds ourselves in a position where if we do not act now on the defining crisis of our time – climate and ecological breakdown – we may not have a future.
Scientists say that by the year 2030, climate breakdown will spiral out of control unless unprecedented changes in all aspects of our society have taken place. I will be 25-years-old, barely out of university and with my whole life ahead of me.
“Adults who disagree with the climate strikes often tell us that we should stay in school and get a good education. They then say that when we have become adults with the scientific knowledge required to solve this problem we can make the changes needed. There is only one problem in this otherwise flawless plan – when we have grown up, it will be too late. The climate crisis will already be irreversible.”
We are not just in a period of rapid climate breakdown, we are also in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. The extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the background rate with up to 200 species going extinct every single day. According to the Living Planet report, 60% of life on Earth has been lost since 1970.
When I was younger, I had lots of dreams.
I wanted to be a vet, a zoologist, an actor. Now, I don’t even know whether the planet is going to be habitable in the future and if my children will be able to experience what I and so many other generations have had the privilege of experiencing.
People often ask me what started my activism journey? I can tell you that it wasn’t due to a sudden moment of realisation or awareness. It was the result of many, many years of being outside, climbing trees and building a connection with nature.
“My passion for the natural world and a raw, bitter frustration with the people in power culminated with me doing something that I never thought I would ever do in my life: I refused to go to school.”
When Greta Thunberg first sat down on school strike in front of the Swedish Parliament in August 2018, she had no idea that that small action of not going to school would kickstart the Fridays For Future movement. But it did and the school strike movement has grown so big in such a short period of time that on September 20th and 27th, over seven and a half million people went on strike for the climate. I think I can safely say that it is the biggest environmental movement in human history!
When I started striking in January, I didn’t think that I could make a difference. I am after all just a small girl in a small town in the middle of the remote Scottish Highlands. I have since realised that I was wrong and Greta’s quote, “you are never too small to make a difference” continues to ring true.
In the past year I have spoken at numerous events and conferences. I am proud to be a young ambassador for Scotland: The Big Picture, a youth council member for Reserva: The Youth Land Trust and a volunteer for Scottish Youth Climate Strikes. I have taken my campaigning to Holyrood and Westminster, where I was privileged to meet Greta Thunberg, representatives from UK Student Climate Network and political party leaders including Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn.
I say these things – not to brag – but to show my age group that anyone can make a difference. We are the change we have been waiting for. And to all the young people reading this right now: get out there and change the world!
Suggested next steps:
- Young person inspired by Holly’s courage? Tell your teacher about the Make a Difference Challenge
- Read more examples of youth-led action on social and environmental campaigns
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