Interview – Anna Taylor – UK Student Climate Network

As millions of young people across the globe take the lead in the Climate Emergency, we spoke to the student spearheading Climate Action in the UK.

…this is a matter of the biggest threat to our future

weathertrending: “You and your peers have really been in the media a lot in the six to twelve months because of the strikes, how did you get into it?”

Anna Taylor: “I’ve always been interested in environmental activism but I first got into striking in December 2018 when the environmental movements in the UK first started really kicking off. There was extinction rebellion really getting big and I first went to a big climate change march in December and it was just after the Australian kids have gone on strike and I’d seen them in the news and I was talking to some people at that march and I was complaining about the lack of youth action across the UK and they said well instead of complaining, why don’t you go and do something about it, so I went and asked a few friends if they wanted to help. And we sat down a coffee shop in South London and started drafting plans for the first UK national strike. And then two months later we had our first national strike with 10000 students in the UK and a month after that we had our second strike which was a deep strike which means it’s like an international strike where countries co-ordinate between each other to make it really big and the number went up to 50000 in that strike and it’s just continued from there.”

weathertrending: “But what was it that initially started you on this path to striking for climate change? Was it something in your home, something at school?”

most young people do feel very scared, desperate, angry

Anna Taylor: “There was no one thing that really drove me to do it, as I said, I’ve just always felt very connected to nature, felt very connected to the environment. I’d climbed a lot of mountains and my parents brought me up doing a lot of walking and climbing outdoors so I’ve always felt connected to it, and therefore a need to protect it. And climate change has always been a concern of mine, it’s more like a graded increase in concern there was no one thing that drove my sudden desire to get involved. I’ve always wanted to get involved it’s simply that in 2018 there was a window of opportunity where I could really get involved and I educated myself on climate change a bit more because the national curriculum at the moment is disastrous when it comes to climate change. And after educating myself on climate change I realised that actually… I don’t think before I’d realised just how urgent the need for immediate action was and I realised that this is a matter of the biggest threat to our future and that people around the world are already suffering as a result of it and that’s what motivated me to strike.”

weathertrending: “It is very interesting isn’t it about finding your way into building that knowledge because the IPCC reports are not exactly bedtime reading for many teenagers, so how do you promote this message amongst your peers and colleagues at school and university when you go there?”

Anna Taylor: “We promote it in a very personal way, promote it in a way that applies to them, that they can relate to and emotionally connect to. That’s not a manipulation strategy, it’s simply a truth that it is something they can connect to because it is intrinsically linked with our generation and our future and I think when they become aware of the reality of the threat of climate change most young people do feel very scared, desperate, angry, there’s a mixture of responses. But whatever they feel it’s normally quite negative and hopeless, and through striking it empowers students and gives them a way to turn that hopelessness into hope and feel like they can do something about it, and striking is very powerful in that sense.”

weathertrending: “You mention anger, not that I want to focus solely on negative emotions, but obviously I’m probably around your parents’ age, and what I’m hearing from people your age is that you feel really let down by us and perhaps the previous generations, is that how you feel?”

Anna Taylor: “Yeah, we definitely do feel let down by previous generations but it’s important to acknowledge that previous generations had less awareness of climate change which is one of the reasons that there has been less action on it before, simply because the education around change was even worse previously. But we do feel like the amount of action that’s happening at the moment should have been happening a few decades ago at least and we feel particularly betrayed by the government because the science is there now, the evidence is there, this isn’t 50 years ago, this is 2019, we have all the science to suggest that climate change is a very real threat and something that needs to be acted upon now and yet the government are still refusing to act and that’s why people feel very betrayed by them.”

weathertrending: “But we do have a zero emissions target for 2050, I take it then that you don’t feel that goes far enough?”

 

Anna Taylor: “No. Firstly, we’re not really on track for reaching that at the moment. Secondly, I think we should be aiming for a zero emissions target for 2030. By 2050 there will be 200million climate refugees worldwide and the rate of climate change is accelerating, new reports keep coming out suggesting that the rate is faster than we anticipated it to be and new reports have come out since that target was set which is why we need to keep adapting our strategies and implement urgent action. With the amount of focus the government has on Brexit at the moment and economic policy and so many other issues means that they’re not focusing as much as they should be on climate change.”

weathertrending: “But 2030 would be a massively ambitious target wouldn’t it, not even a full 11 years from now, with so much infrastructure to change it seems like that wouldn’t be possible. But you think the rate of change could be quicker perhaps? Partly we have an issue still with people not adopting the idea of climate change? Denial is still out there, we get a lot of tweets etc saying “well, if you believe it, it’s a conspiracy.”

Anna Taylor: “Yes, yeah.”

weathertrending: How sure are you?

Anna Taylor: “A thousand percent sure.”

weathertrending: “So how do you impress that upon people?”

 

…it’s important to hold onto that hope…

Anna Taylor: “With climate deniers, it’s really hard to get them to change their minds because they’ve already seen the facts and for some reason they just refuse to acknowledge them. It’s hard for people to connect with reports when they are just figures on a paper but I think we are also seeing the impacts of climate change in the real world today as well. Even in Britain we have seen a rise in temperatures, we are seeing an overall rise in temperature. We’re seeing massive heatwaves, people in the global south are already suffering as a result of climate change, there’s a massive increase in hurricanes, natural disasters and hazards as a result of climate change. So the real world evidence is there, it’s not just a few figures and I suppose the thing with climate deniers is, the only thing you can keep doing is telling them, keep showing them, the facts and evidence and hope that one day they will stop denying and hopefully start accepting it.”

weathertrending: “You mentioned the national curriculum and I think it is a really important part of the discussion because if you need to keep educating people it’s look to the next generation isn’t it? You’d make changes to the national curriculum?”

Anna Taylor: “Yes definitely. Our second demand is to reform the national curriculum so that it accurately addresses the ecological crisis as an educational priority.”

weathertrending: “I have two teenage children, what’s your message to someone of their generation?”

Anna Taylor:  “It’s a scary time to be a kid at the moment once you understand the reality of climate change and it can feel very bleak and overwhelming when you realise the immense size of the threat we’re facing. But school strikes across the world are a massive source of hope and we can do something and it isn’t too late. It’s going to be hard, but it’s important to hold onto that hope that although it’s a massive burden on us and on our generation. We do have the strength to take on that burden and to use it to do good.”