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THE BIG STORY

you manage to stay optimistic? Anna: I’m torn between keeping up optimism and then facing the reality of the situation. I’m aware that if students feel disheartened and scared they might go into denial, try to pretend it’s not happening (even more) and not do anything about it. So I try to keep that sense of empowerment and hope going. I spend time out in nature – swim in wild lakes, climb mountains, go out into the woods. That’s what helps me stay calm. Brianna: For the Pacific Islands, I really believe that it’s our religion. A lot of islands are strong faith communities, and often when there’s a cyclone people will flee to churches. Every village has a church – it is literally a place of refuge for us. Prayer and the spiritual aspect is therapeutic.

Solidarity also keeps you optimistic. And feeling that you have a team, that you’re not alone. It’s a huge energy boost when we see people striking all around the world, and we see someone like Greta, because it gives us the feeling that we’re all in this together. It’s not just one person yelling from outside the UN building or our government. And where there’s mass numbers, there’s power.

This one is actually a question from my nine-year-old son, who joined the climate strike in February. He asks, ‘How do we stop our planet getting hotter?’ Anna: In the UK, our first demand is definitely the most important: to declare a state of climate emergency, because that would then involve implementing loads of policies. We’re discussing a Green New Deal in the UK, like the one they’re discussing in America. And we have key organizations and MPs involved. Brianna: My demand for governments around the world would be: divest from fossil fuels. Accept the science: fossil fuels cannot be the future of this planet. Second, we need to transition to 100-per-cent renewable energy, as soon as possible. And third, increase climate change awareness in the media and update school curricula. Young people in school now will be the ones to take over from this current political system and implement all the change that we’re debating.

What gives you hope that the world can halt climate breakdown? Brianna: Maybe the fact that Anna, literally across the world from me, has the same passion. Without talking to each other before we’ve found ourselves on the same journey. There must be so many of us and it’s only a matter of coming together. That makes me hopeful because I could see true change coming from someone like Anna. Anna: Thank you, that means a lot. Seeing the movement grow gives me hope. Since February, we’ve got a whole new continent on board – I set up a Latin American co-ordination WhatsApp group after students contacted me from Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Now they are all chatting together. New countries are joining all the time – Estonia and Iceland had their first strike not long ago – and that brings a sense of unity. l

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