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Global climate protest
Photography Peter Yeung

‘You can’t plant ice’: 5 global youth activists on waking the world up

To mark International Youth Day, we speak to activists from across the world on urgent climate action, how to champion PoC and Indigenous voices in the climate movement, and how to get involved

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released on Monday was a shock reminder of what we already knew: the world is burning, and it’s only going to get worse. From devastating wildfires in California, Greece, and Turkey, to heatwaves in Siberia and Canada, and mass flooding on a global scale, the effects of the climate crisis are becoming increasingly noticeable. Urgent action is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels to avoid reaching what Oxford University professor Tim Palmer has described as “hell on Earth”.

On the frontlines of the fight against global warming is Arctic Angels, a youth-led action network led by environmental platform Global Choices. With activists from 23 countries around the world, the network supports young people in collaborating with policy makers to champion everything from forest conservation to protecting the Arctic sea ice to calling for a halt on deep seabed mining.

“The report shows that there is no alternative than to focus our efforts on rapid and urgent emissions reduction,” says Emma Grace Wilkinson, Global Choices coordinator. “The Polar regions are the thermostats of the Earth. Losing the ice will be irrecoverable in our lifetime – once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

“The report shows that it will soon be impossible to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius, unless immediate action is taken to rapidly and drastically reduce emissions,” agrees Lara Werner, a Germany-based climate activist.

“It is more important than ever to strengthen our societies and economies in line with the Paris Agreement to determine what the future of our planet will look like. World leaders at COP26 must take bold and collaborative action guided by the deep urgency of the IPCC report,” she explains.

To mark International Youth Day today (August 12), we speak to activists from the UK to Colombia to the Philippines and beyond to talk urgent climate action, how to champion PoC and Indigenous voices in the climate movement, and how to get involved in the urgent fight against climate change.


“My work focuses on the pressing and urgent changes that we are facing as a society today. As the environmental sciences and policy researcher for Global Choices (who founded Arctic Angels), I directly see how we are impacted by the changing climate. I analyse how our global commons, specifically the Arctic sea ice and the oceans, are vanishing and not providing the same quality of ecosystem services as they once were.”

“Earth can regulate itself, but humans have induced an unprecedented amount of change that nature is not keeping up with the pace of society. With my work with Global Choices, I am raising awareness and gaining momentum to protect the Arctic sea ice – our Global Commons – for the rest of the world, and most importantly for the local and Indigenous communities at the frontlines of the climate and ice crisis.”

“In Colorado, water is gold. We are landlocked and rely on snowmelt to supply our rivers and reservoirs with drinking water. Warming temperatures are causing droughts and decreasing the precipitation in the Rocky Mountains; creating less snowpack, which is crucial for our livelihoods and economies. Water shortages are felt from accessing drinking water, to agriculture, to forest fires, as well as ski tourism.”

“We have big, loud voices. Most of us aren’t afraid of what the older generation or those with more ‘power’ will say because climate change is massively scarier. We see with clear eyes what is happening and what the near future will look like if we don’t act now. BIPOC are severely, and unfairly impacted by the warming climate. Serious health risks from pollution, hazardous waste, unsafe drinking water, and lack of government aid, especially after natural disasters, are at the forefront of the environmental injustice BIPOC face.”


“As a Latino woman, I’m most aware that climate change is a matter of justice and a human rights issue. Why? The climate crisis has differentiated responsibilities, some countries are historical emitters, some are not and have contributed a fraction to it. Although it’s a universal problem, it disproportionately affects certain groups and populations. My work focuses on the promotion of a rights-based approach to climate action; working with local communities on capacity building to facilitate adaptation, mitigation, and their involvement in the advancement of the national climate agenda and policies; I also participate in regional settings calling for the inclusion of civil society from the global south and especially LAC in the broader environmental and climate conversations, such as negotiations.”

“We must recognise that indigenous people and BIPOC, in general, have been historically marginalised. And because of cultural, economic, and social segregation, they are most vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate impacts. The reinforcement and fulfilment of their rights are within the fight for climate and environmental justice because there is no climate justice without addressing this. There is also an important message that must be at the centre of the conversation, BIPOC must be seen beyond the lenses of vulnerability because they are powerful agents of change, catalysing climate action worldwide.”

“We must recognise that indigenous people and BIPOC, in general, have been historically marginalised. And because of cultural, economic, and social segregation, they are most vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate impacts” – Maria Alejandra Aguilar

“We must collaborate and facilitate spaces as allies, where BIPOC people can be heard and meaningfully participate in decision-making processes. Amplifying their messages and promoting a rights-based approach to all climate action and discourses, highlighting the role of youth, indigenous people, people of colour, and local communities and their contributions to the climate movement.”

“The climate crisis is here and we see it unfold in real-time. The most vulnerable populations such as women, children, migrants, ethnic, and rural communities bear the worst of its consequences. For these populations the struggle for their survival is not a matter of future projections and scenarios, it’s their daily lives. We must keep demanding and advocating for change and sincere commitments from governments, the private sector, and society as a whole.”


“The Arctic is the epicenter of climate change and is warming up three times faster than the rest of the world. The irreversible disappearance of the Earth‘s ice has significant consequences for the whole planet. To address the polar ice crisis, we not only demand emission reductions, but also take action against activities that threaten biodiversity and the ice, such as deep sea mining and oil and gas drilling. We all come from diverse origins, have unique qualifications, and have different experiences with the climate process. But together, the Arctic Angels drive multi-media engagement to influence policy-makers to protect the rapidly diminishing ice.”

“I am also studying a Masters degree on business strategy and environment, focusing on German fashion companies’ moral obligations and their authenticity towards sustainability. I am motivated to see sustainability and transparency of business practices become a clear mission, not simply a vision. The Earth is giving us enough signs to act now. Each person, business, and the federal government can play a critical role in acting on the climate crisis.”

“Climate change’s effects are becoming more apparent, particularly in Germany. In recent weeks we have had to deal with extreme weather of heavy rain, flash floods, and heat waves. Many families, including mine, have been affected by the floods. The drastic consequences of global warming are becoming clearer and the pressure from the climate crisis is mounting.”

“There’s no such thing as the perfect activist. Individual actions may take various forms, we can all offer different skills to drive climate action. Identify your talents and abilities that can serve the movement. What is the work that needs to be done that is in your interest? There is a wealth of amazing organisations or interest groups dedicated to your specific issues, such as the Arctic Angels or Fridays for the Future.”

“The unity in a support group will lead to solutions and change minds in places that other people cannot reach. Everyone may contribute to socio-ecological change beyond individual behavior via active co-creation and involvement in communal processes. Also, educate yourself on climate change and related topics – this will help you to have a more solid background and will strengthen you in your conviction. Although I understand climate change and its challenges are overwhelming, it is critical to act immediately if you have the means and capacity to do so.”


“As the coordinator of Global Choices’ youth-led and intergenerational Arctic Angels network, I support and mentor young leaders mobilising to protect our Global Commons. Together, we are striving to wake the world up to the reality that the loss of the Polar ice will impact everyone.”

“The Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are the thermostats of our planet. Now, the impacts of the rapid changes that they are experiencing and accelerated melting are destabilising the global climate. In turn, provoking floods, droughts, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, and a whole host of social issues. Understanding the intersectionality of the ice crisis is crucial and drives home why we must unite all sectors to protect the Polar ecosystems.”

“We hope to drive policy change to defend the Central Arctic Ocean from exploitation – to protect the ice we have left. Our reason for this prioritisation is simple: you can’t plant ice.”

“As an intersectional crisis, the ice crisis cannot be treated in isolation. At Global Choices, we encourage intergenerational cooperation, empower youth leadership and advocate for inclusion, especially of Indigenous wisdom, in climate action. As a network we support one another's initiatives and campaigns, from forest conservation to calling for a Moratorium on deep seabed mining. Just as the Global Commons are deeply interconnected, our efforts to protect them must also be.“

“My advice would be to find your community, there is an abundance of dedicated organisations and networks taking bold action to protect our common home. Engaging with the intergenerational and international Arctic Angels community that genuinely supports and empowers one another motivates me everyday. If you want to take action on the Polar ice crisis, get in touch with us via”


“What’s so amazing about all of us is that even if we are coming from such different countries, such different perspectives, we all recognise the importance of the ice crisis and we are talking action to protect the Polar ecosystems, prioritising the unprecedented loss of the Arctic sea ice.”

“Some people might ask, why would I from the Philippines, who has never seen snow, care about the ice? But we have to remember we cannot treat parts of the climate system in isolation, they are all interconnected and it all starts with the Arctic which is heating faster than anywhere else on the Earth.” 

“This has direct and indirect impacts on everybody. We are seeing rising seas from melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica which will impact island nations in particular. We already have the second highest number of internal displacements for climate refugees and this is just going to increase more and the thought of leaving the Philippines, not having a choice but to leave my own country, because of the climate impacts is something that hurts me a lot.”