News"I'm not perfect, that's not the point either"

"I'm not perfect, that's not the point either"

The 17-year-old student Raina Ivanova from Hamburg is committed to climate protection. In a new book she and 59 other young people around the world tell about their struggle for a better future. A conversation about fears, arguments and why giving up is not an option

Ms. Ivanova, how did you become a climate activist?

It started when I saw the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. I was twelve at the time and couldn’t believe that we had known about climate change for so long and that nobody would do anything about it. Then I was able to give a presentation on climate change with two friends. I did some research and came across all the depressing facts and statistics that show that if we keep going like this, the temperature could rise by five degrees and what all of this means for us humans and me too – at this point I will probably still alive. After that, I started changing things in my life and going on Friday-for-future strikes. The topics of climate change and sustainable living have become much more prominent in our everyday lives at home. And I started talking to my younger sister about it, she was seven years old at the time. That was one of the most shocking moments when you see your little sister, who will also see it all, cry and see the fear in her eyes when you report what we are rushing to with the climate catastrophe.

Would you even call yourself a climate activist?

I find the term strange. If people ask me how I would describe myself, I would say climate activist because people associate something with it. It is not so important to me whether I am called that. Because sometimes all the other aspects that are behind climate activism do not come to the fore: Working for a healthy environment enables me to do many other things at the same time. If you look at who is most affected by the consequences of climate change, then these are poorer countries in the global south. And we know that people of color are more affected by natural disasters than whites, for example, and that women are more affected than men, especially in developing countries. If I stand up for climate protection, it also allows me to stand up for these other problems to a certain extent. We need an intersectional approach anyway in order to be able to make a difference.

Let’s talk about the book: Which articles do you find particularly inspiring?

Hard to say. I am now going to name Catarina Lorenzo, also because I know her and she is part of the UN complaint. I find your story super inspiring. I find the contributions of the young people particularly impressive, who have already experienced much worse than me because of the climate crisis, because the places where they live are more affected. And how they then draw inspiration and strength from the disasters that happen around them to do something good and approach the problem with so much optimism, that’s very impressive.

In your text you also write that you can draw hope and confidence from the crisis instead of fear. How exactly do you mean that?

I think that’s an extraordinary quality of my generation. Basically, it’s pretty depressing when you look at the direction we’re currently racing in. The IPCC report that has just come out also reports on the scenario that we will reach 1.5 degrees warming sooner. None of this sounds good, and we’ve known for a long time that it doesn’t look good either. Young people take these studies and scientific findings and incredibly sad pictures and videos of storms in order to draw the strength from them to initiate global movements and strikes like with Fridays for future. You are committed to a sustainable future instead of saying “it is hopeless anyway”. That we put pressure on and don’t give up, even if things don’t look great at the moment – that’s what I wanted to say.

You mention the IPCC report. Do you think the report really accelerates political action?

Hard to say. I would like to hope that politicians have now been shown more clearly how serious the climate crisis is. Basically, everyone knows that. I don’t know whether that will have the impact it should have on the politicians currently sitting in parliament.

To person & book

Raina Ivanova is a 17-year-old student from Hamburg. In 2019, together with Greta Thunberg and 14 other young people in New York, she submitted a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, because children’s rights are being restricted and violated by the consequences of climate change. For climate protection, Ivanova is involved, among other things, in Friday-for-future strikes, as part of the Unicef youth advisory council and through the youth forum “Youth: Present” of the “World Future Council”.

The book: 60 young climate activists from around 50 countries on all continents report in short texts for their generation in the fight against the climate crisis. What drives them, what motivates them, with which ideas they want to inspire others to save the climate. The only author from Germany is Raina Ivanova, who also wrote the foreword in the German-language edition. ansi

Akshat Rathi (Hrsg.): „Klima ist für alle da. Wie 60 junge Menschen uns dazu inspirieren, die Welt zu retten.“ Blanvalet, München, 320 Seiten, 18 Euro

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Akshat Rathi (Ed.): “Climate is there for everyone. How 60 young people inspire us to save the world. ”Blanvalet, Munich, 320 pages, 18 euros

Back to the book: in many contributions activists complain that because of their young age they have to fight in order to be taken seriously. Did you have the same experience here in Germany?

I don’t think that’s any less of a problem in Germany than in other countries. It depends who you’re talking to. If you talk to someone who is interested in what you are committed to and who is on the same side, then you don’t have to convince that person – then age is also irrelevant. In my experience, however, when I spoke to older people who were not convinced of the necessity of climate protection, it was already difficult to assert oneself, even if my arguments were not weaker. That’s because I’m younger, and I suspect that the adults think that that’s why I don’t know my way around well enough. That is quite a problem. That is why we always show that one should not actually listen to us, the young generation, but to science. This is what we should all have to listen to.

How important is the dialogue between the generations? Assigning blame to the “adults” are justified.

This is a problem that is already in the title of the book – “Climate is there for everyone”. Because the climate crisis is too often labeled the problem of the younger generation because we will see it for longer. I think it’s a shame when a generation conflict arises out of it that one says – as it was said: “The old people created the problem, now the young have to sort it out because the old people are no longer interested in it and will no longer be there if it’s getting serious. ”On the one hand, I think that’s wrong because climate change is already here. It’s everyone’s problem anyway. A generation cannot and should not solve this alone. On the other hand, I think it’s a shame when there is a lack of solidarity. Many of us young people do not even have the opportunity to campaign for climate protection as much as adults do. Because if we are under 18 we cannot choose. Or we don’t have our own finances. That is why everyone has to work together on the crisis, because otherwise it does not work and it is not fair. The climate is there for everyone, so everyone must work for it.

One sentence from you: “What bothers me most is that my friends now feel like I judge them every time they drive somewhere or buy something made of plastic.” Is that so?

It was like that in the beginning, especially with people who didn’t know me very well. All of a sudden I had this big climate protection stamp on me and the feeling that the people around me behaved differently. When we went to the supermarket, they didn’t buy plastic but glass bottles – which of course made me happy. The reason I wrote this is that I’m not a fan of condemning individual people for not living 100 percent plastic-free and CO2-neutral. In the end, it doesn’t depend on the one plastic bottle, but on all the resources that we do not see but consume every day. Water is a very good example. They say you want to save water. Then it is not the smartest thing to shower for three minutes instead of ten. Of course you should do that. But it would make more sense to pay attention to the food you consume and see how much water goes into production there. If you shift the focus like that, it can make a difference.

Are you always consistent yourself when you have two options of always choosing the better one for the climate?

No, and I don’t think that is possible in the world we live in. If I were to say that it is so incredibly important to me that I live plastic-free and CO2-neutral, then I would be so exhausted because of certain things that I cannot control. Or I would isolate myself to a certain extent if someone brings something that is wrapped in plastic and I say, “Sorry, I can’t eat.” So don’t get ready. I do as much as I can and have made a lot of changes at home. Much of it is simple: I haven’t bought plastic bottles for years, my toothbrush is made of bamboo, I only use sturdy shower blocks. Clothes have a big influence on the ecological footprint, that’s why I buy secondhand – and not more because I have enough. These are things that I pay close attention to. But I’m definitely not perfect, you don’t have to be. If we drive ourselves insane because we are after perfection, we will race past the goal. Because it has a greater impact when many people act imperfectly but change something – and are not 100 percent climate neutral, but a solid 70 percent. That is more beneficial than if just a few people completely stop emitting CO2.

How do you look to the future in terms of the climate? Positive? Hopeful? Unsure? What predominates?

To be honest, I don’t think about the future that often. On the one hand, because it makes me sad when I realistically estimate the direction in which it is going. On the other hand, because I don’t quite see the point in it. It is of course very important to see what the consequences of our actions now are. But I think it’s clear anyway that it is super urgent to act now because we don’t have time. That’s why I try to do as much as I can in the now. And then I also have an optimistic attitude. Because being pessimistic and not believing that we can change something, that would not do me mentally good and ensure that I will do less or nothing more. I don’t like to think about future scenarios, that would make me sad and depressed.

Interview: Andreas Sieler

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