My mother always said this would happen. You start off visiting odd blogs, chatting with strangers, and you end up stalking young women on the internet.
Some people point me to Agenda 21, Bilderberg, the 1001 club – the sinister organisations which are behind everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people are looking into these things. It’s interesting to know what Prince Philip and Prince Bernhard get up to behind closed doors. Everything needs exploring – but at both ends.
I started looking at the UK Youth Climate Coalition in the previous article with the idea of doing what Alex Cull and I once discussed doing, and what Barry Woods has also explored – sorting out the tangled web of Green NGOs with a view to discovering who’s financing whom, and why. An enormous task.
I finished the previous article saying “they’re being groomed” – meaning that young environmental activists are being indoctrinated with ideas they don’t understand, by political forces who pretend they are simply harnessing the energy of youth to put pressure on the politicans to act, but are in fact cynically exploiting them for their own ends, and, of course, training the next generation of professional activists. (Ben Pile has examined the business of green pseudo-grassroots movements in many excellent articles at
Omnologos questioned my use of the word “grooming”. So I thought: “Am I exaggerating? Instead of looking at the organisation, its structure and financing, why not look at the people themselves?” They reveal enough about themselves, goodness knows.
It would be so easy to write a funny, sarcastic article about the UKYCC activists – roaming the planet from Qatar to Rio, forming human pyramids, and designing cool t-shirt slogans to save the world. But they’re young and idealistic, and if I’m right, they’re victims and not villains.
So I decided to take the first bunch of activists, the ones who went to Poznan in 2008, just a few months after the two winners of a WWF trip to the Arctic formed the group, and find out what had happened to them, four and a half years later. Were they a bunch of hippy dropouts living off the state, or smoking themselves silly on a beach in India? Had they discarded their youthful idealism and integrated into “normal” society? If sociologists won’t do the job, I thought, I’ll do it for them.
There are ten of them listed in the 2009 annual report, (though other accounts say that there were fifteen). They went on training sessions organised by the WWF, People and Planet, and the Otesha Project, and took the train to Poznan (one said he’d hitch hike) to attend the the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 14th conference (COP14) which was held from June to September, 2008.
What follows is what I learned about nine of them from a morning’s googling. (The tenth, Katie Roberts, I couldn’t trace, because her name was too common). I don’t do Twitter or Facebook, and doubtlessly anyone who does could find out a whole lot more. Some of the information comes from personal blogs. There are certainly gaps and errors (particularly of chronology) for which I apologise. I’ve not said everything I’ve learned, and I’ve left out all links, except one.
Taken overall, and bearing in mind that people put the best face on things on personal blogs, job descriptions etc., the conclusion to be drawn is pretty evident. These are not treehuggers who will finish their days living in caravans on a hippy commune. I‘ve read a lot about some of them, and been moved by some of the things I’ve read. They’re the blogger generation. Many of them write, and write well. These young people have a future. Probably, they are the future.
“How old will you be in 2050?” was the cool slogan one of them came up with. Well, I’ll be 104, and in 2050 I’ll still expect a minimum of respect (even if I’m not there to demand it) and though I’m quite willing to accept the fact that the ideas in vogue then will be rather different from today’s ideas (and even more different from my ideas of yesteryear) one thing I’m certain of – I want there to be more than One Idea – theirs.
So, at the risk of providing Richard Curtis with the plot for a sequel to 4 Weddings.. here goes..
Degree from the Centre for Human Ecology. Environmental activist. Was among those arrested in 2009 for planning to disable a power station. was acquitted in the summer of 2011 at a trial at which James Hansen appeared for the defence. Wrote an article on the Guardian CiFBelief page “Love of strangers is a vital, open act and a risk worth taking: Turkey shows we would do well to remember the dwindling art of hospitality”.
2. Jamie Andrews
B.A. in History from Sheffield. managed a European Commission renewable energy project and now runs an internet-based train-booking agency. Writes for Wired, the Ecologist, G Music Magazine. Went to Copenhagen in 2009.
3. Guppi Bola
MSc in Global Health Sciences from Oxford University . At Leeds University, where she studied biomedicine, she co-founded the Healthy Planet campaign and encouraged the student global health network Medsin to take further action on the issue. She worked in the Health and Education Campaigns team in Oxfam, as well as working closely with the Global Climate Campaigns team in the run up to Copenhagen. A campaign coordinator at both Oxfam and the UK Youth Climate Coalition, she wrote the January 2012 Oxfam report: Who got left behind? How rising inequality is affecting countries across the G20.
4. Dan Vockins
Campaign manager at 10:10 which he helped found in 2009. Leads 10:10’s special projects work including Lighter Later (a move to change the clocks for lighter evenings) and Solar Schools (a campaign to help schools crowd fund the cost of installing solar from the local community).
Was campaign coordinator for The Age of Stupid climate blockbuster and president of the Students’ Union at Sussex. Is a trustee of the youth organising charity Envision.
5. Malachi Chadwick
MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of York, where his research focused on intergenerational ethics and the role of individual action in addressing climate change. Has worked as a press photographer, designer and driver of bin lorries. Currently works as Content Manager for 10:10. Recently co-wrote the Rough Guide to Community Energy. His worst moment at 10:10 was forgetting how to operate a door handle on the way out of a meeting with Boris Johnson’s aides.
Studied law at Bristol University. Director of Dyfydol, a Welsh youth forum on Sustainable Development,. What she saw at UN climate negotiations – poor countries struggling to get their voices heard against rich countries with hundreds of delegates – prompted her to found an organisation called UNfairplay. UNfairplay volunteers helped poor countries as well as lobbying to make the system fairer. “It sounds boring [doing admin to help poor countries at UN climate negotiations], and in all honesty it is pretty boring, except it happens to be essential.”
Currently working with indyact.org/ based in Beirut. Gave John Vidal a good fisking on her blog at
7. Amy Mount
started blogging in 2008. In December 2008 Ed Miliband bought her a beer. Has been a graduate student at Yale since Aug 2011 “thinking about the political economy of the environment, justice within and between generations, and international relations, amongst other things”. Recently attended a talk by Tony Blair at Yale. Wasn’t impressed.
8. Lizzie Gawen
Bsc Hons in Third World Development University of Derby. Likes “poetry, justice and truth”. Ethics and Environment Officer The University of Derby Students’ Union.
Currently Groups Worker for the Student Christian Movement, running and planning national gatherings and support groups through visits, encouragement and training. Has taken part in direct action with organisations such as People & Planet, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Whilst volunteering with the UK Youth Climate Coalition she coordinated a project facilitating a 20 strong youth delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
9. Kirsty Schneeberger M.B.E.
Coordinator of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, has participated in the UN climate negotiations since 2008, advocating for intergenerational equity to be integrated into the process. Through this engagement at the UN Kirsty developed the campaign “How old will you be in 2050?” leading to the online advocacy platform Think2050. Has worked with a number of environmental charities in the UK, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), and the Otesha Project, a youth-led organization that helps young people to become agents of change. Kirsty was the founding Coordinating Chair of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Youth Advisory Panel.
Works currently at the New Economics Institute as Stakeholder Forum Coordinator of the Global Transition 2012 initiative. Her policy and advocacy work focusses on the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and the institutional frameworks for sustainable development governance.
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So there you are. I’ve written to one or two, telling them what I was up to. Comments, corrections and additional information welcome, but please use discretion in comments.