The Western Isles Youth Action Climate Group – which they have more eye-catchingly titled “The Western Isles Warriors” – was set up last year during lockdown and is designed to bring together young people over 12 from the Butt to Barra who wish to engage with the environmental debate.
A feature of COP26, with the world’s political leaders gathered in Glasgow, has been to highlight how young people are generally much more engaged with the issue as it they who stand to be greater affected.
Youth engagement officer Katie Denehy, who is supporting the group, said: “Young people in our islands are passionate about making a difference. Meeting regularly over Zoom gives them the opportunity to talk about climate issues and look at positive action for change in their communities.”
Among the issues discussed has been recycling and the problem of single use plastics. The group have also invited speakers from organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society and WWF and recently members of the group participated in the 1.5 MAX Global Schools’ Climate Summit, where they had the opportunity to raise local issues and work with young people from schools across Scotland and international partners in Nepal, Mozambique and Malawi.
“The summit was very educational – it gave us an opportunity to talk with people from different countries and see how drastically climate change affects their lives,” said Heidi MacLeod, age 15, “We also had meaningful conversations about what we can do here to combat pollution.”
During this summit, the group were visited by Angus Brendan MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP and were able to ask questions and raise environmental issues from their local areas.
Anna MacKinnon (12) from Barra said: ““Rising sea levels are going to affect everybody in different ways. Following a flood one year we found a live crab on our football pitch.” Anna told us. “If the sea levels continue to rise, we will lose our recreation grounds and a football pitch is no use to fish!”
Lydia MacDonald, age 13, from Lewis said, “The Western Isles is a place we should treasure and keep clean and free from pollution, if we all do at least a little it can make a difference.”
For Ronan Macphee, age 18, from Benbecula, the time for action is now.
“My biggest worries for my island (Uist) and future are rising tides and coastal erosion. I’m worried and scared for the future and what it will do to our islands. We might lose parts of our beautiful islands by 2050 - our culture, history and memories that generations have created on this island,” Ronan said. “I really hope COP26 will help us in some way. I’m begging for help from anyone, please help us and we want politicians to listen to us before it is too late”
The young people are keen to know what the strategic policy and plan is from CnES in combating rising tides in the Western Isles and have invited CnES representatives to their next meeting to discuss this.
The Youth Climate Action Group WI is open to young people aged 12+ and meets regularly on Tuesday evenings via Zoom, allowing young people from across the islands to attend. If you are interested in coming along, please email Katie Denehy CLD: [email protected] or Eilidh Mackay CLD: [email protected]