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Opinions / Time for local action to combat climate change

Here in Shetland we have a climate crisis and we need our council to declare a climate emergency, write Anderson High School students Isla Johnson, Laura Bisset and Celestine Verdcourt-Laurenson of Eco Youth Shetland.

Climate protestors outside Lerwick Town Hall in June. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

CURRENTLY, 45 per cent of young people aged 18-24 in the UK believe climate change is the most pressing issue facing our nation. It should be no surprise that young people care so much about the current climate issue.

We are constantly learning about incidents occurring both at home and internationally – Amazon rainforest fires, rising sea levels and diminishing fish and bird stocks. We think towards a future full of natural disasters, lost animals and pollution filled air.

We think how we don’t want to grow old in a world like that, how we don’t want our kids to grow up without having ever heard of a polar bear or even a butterfly.

Here in Shetland the effects of climate change can and are already making huge changes to our environment. 97 per cent of Fulmers (birds used to indicate the levels of plastic pollution in the North sea) have plastic in their body and seas around the UK are predicted to have 10 times the amount of plastic pollution than they had in 2000.

As an island the sea surrounds us, meaning all this plastic is washing up on our beaches and harming our wildlife. A way you can help reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the sea is by participating in your local Voar Redd Ups or taking part in the 2-minute beach clean.

Plastic washed up on the foreshore. Photo: Shetland News

However, to get to the root of the single use plastics problem (in and out of the ocean), the best alternative is to reduce the amount we use. Locally places like Scoop or the Why Waste? shop provide alternatives to the everyday plastic clad products/food that we buy.

Additionally, recycling is an important way to reuse the plastic we may have already bought. To some this may seem like it does nothing but if everyone reduced their plastic waste, numbers would drastically fall.

Even though small actions may not seem a lot, every little helps.  We would also encourage you to start writing letters to your local councillor, imploring them to take notice of our concerns and to call a climate crisis. Asking them to start implementing some of the great initiatives currently being rolled out by Orkney Islands Council after they declared a climate emergency, such as the recently adapted ReFlex project to create a “smart energy island”. It uses a virtual energy system that will monitor generation, grid constraint and energy demand eventually making them an island free from fossil fuels.

Orkney council have also developed a hydrogen propulsion ferry that uses cell powered technology to run it. This would be a great alternative to our local inter island ferries. They have done even more hydrogen initiatives like ‘Surf N Turf’ which uses wind and tidal energy to convert into hydrogen and ‘Big Hit’ which is implementing a fully integrated model of hydrogen production, storage, transportation and utilisation for heat, power and mobility.

Although this sounds complicated it is a series of hydrogen and energy monitoring schemes that drastically reduce their intake of fossil fuels. So, would be a great way to lower ozone rates too.

Get young people involved

We believe strongly that involving young people in actions to do with climate change is massively important and you don’t have to look globally for the evidence.

The youth of Shetland have made clear that we care about our climate and home. It started when we (Eco Youth Shetland) decided to create an eco-strike as a part of the #Fridaysforfuture movement which involved young people across the globe.

The strike involved a march from the Anderson High School to the Lerwick Town Hall, followed by a meeting with the chief executive and local councillors. A Q&A session was held and young people were able to ask questions. Around 160 people turned up to this event.

This turnout was not only amazing to us but reflected how young people do care about our environment and that they are looking for action.

Additionally, having a strike has helped young people put Shetland on the map as a place where people are interested and involved in eco issues through the #Fridaysforfuture movement itself and through the Scottish youth climate strike organisation.

Currently we have been working on a plastic presentation to discuss the amount of wastage within our schools. We created a survey that was completed by young people in Shetland. This showed that 94 per cent of students who completed the survey think there is a high amount of plastic waste within our schools.

We are moving backwards rather than forwards, as plastic packaging surrounds our food – home bakes that were once never wrapped are now surrounded in plastic and we have no way of recycling any of this waste.

We think that one of the best ways now to move forward is for anyone interested in their environment or in broad climate issues is to stand up and to speak out.

As Dr Jane Goodall, an eco-conservationist, says” “If we think locally, get together with other like-minded people, take action. We will realise there is something we can do.”