Josie lives and works in the North West Highlands, growing native trees for reforesting projects. She’s also a volunteer on the Youth Leadership Panel with Scotland’s Young People’s Forest, a part-time youth worker and a general fan of a liveable planet.
Would you like to go to Stockholm for a one-day workshop with young climate leaders? That’s a question that arrived in my inbox one Thursday afternoon in February. I’m volunteer with Scotland’s Young People’s Forest and was asked if I’d like to represent us as a ‘climate leader’ and potentially co-chair a workshop.
There’s a lot that ran through my head on receiving that email. Mainly a combo of ‘Who, me? Are you sure? But I’m not Greta Thunberg’ and ‘Yes, of course, that sounds amazing. Will I have to fly? I haven’t done that in years. What would the organisers be expecting?’ I fired off my internal monologue to a very supportive youth worker and before long was planning a Race-Across-the-World style trip to Sweden, featuring an overnight ferry, eighteen trains and the interrail pass I never bought as a teenager.
I met virtually with the team of co-chairs I’d been paired with to run one of the workshops, a lovely bunch of folk who’d come into climate action from different backgrounds; a Swedish UN youth delegate, an apprentice in the airplane industry and two people from the fantastic Fuel Change. Together we worked on our theme ‘Youth to Youth Capacity Building’. We agreed didn’t just want to have an interesting discussion about the challenges young people face when taking climate action, we wanted to do something about it. We wanted to leave the workshop with new connections, a feeling of energy and some tangible actions we could build on.
The next challenge for me was to get there in the most sustainable way. Step one was to get out of the highlands, a well-worn route for me; a bus, a coach and a four-hour train to get down to the central belt. The next day, a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, two more days of trains, bus replacements, a 4am pit stop in Copenhagen and more trains, brought me to Stockholm where our team met in person for some last-minute prep and got to know each other over good food.
At last, we made our way to the venue, broke the ice with the other young people, and spent the day exploring how art can be used in climate communication, what intersectionality means and how it affects our climate action, and what we ourselves as young people can do to increase our own ability to make change. We met with Scottish minister Màiri McAllan, representatives from the Swedish government and UK embassy to feedback what we’d discovered before it was time to part ways again.
There’s such a buzz to creating something with other people; having a vision for what you want, and then delivering that together. In the scheme of things, one workshop on a Monday afternoon doesn’t seem that big a deal, and it definitely won’t, by itself, solve the world’s multiple crises. That said, setting out to do something you’re not sure you’re cut out for, within a supportive team where everyone brings different skills, provided with the resources you need, and managing to do what you set out to is what empowerment feels like. It’s what we need to happen across the world, in every sphere of society at every scale. It was amazing to be part of that process, and I felt extremely privileged to have been given the chance.
We challenged ourselves to commit to an action following the event so it would be the start of something more. Mine was to reach out to a local community woodland I’d been meaning to contact for a while. Ideas ranged from helping out at our old schools, emailing MPs, starting up climate cafes or launching climate themed art exhibits to the more ambitious beginning to dismantle capitalism and the patriarchy. We’re going to stay in touch, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So what about you? Is there something you’ve been considering for a while, a topic you want to research, a group you want to speak to or an idea you’ve been meaning to chat over with a friend? Why not make this the week you give it a shot, you might be surprised what comes of it.