By: Devi Thomas, VP of Marketing Communications at Salesforce.org; and Frida Berry Eklund, Founder of Our Kids’ Climate
This Mother’s Day, I find myself pondering how much my kids have actually taught me. Even as a child, I was always drawn to all the great causes out there. But now, as a mom to two boys, my kids have shown me the well-paved path to a lifestyle of accidental activism. From planting trees to cleaning parks, eating less meat and reusing plastics, my kids are real examples of living a values-based existence day to day so we can all do better for each other and the world.
I believe that our children’s generation is key to creating lasting change in equality, justice, climate change, and human rights. We need to involve them, learn from them, and do better ourselves in protecting them. And I know Frida Berry Eklund, the founder of Our Kids’ Climate, agrees. Gen Z has discovered from a very young age just how much damage has been done to the world and they’re not going to rest until they fix it. I think this is my gift from my kids this Mom’s Day — and it sure beats flowers. It’s the gift of having my children teach me that everyday actions can make a world of difference.
Devi Thomas: Frida, tell me more about Our Kids’ Climate, and why is it important?
Frida Berry Eklund: My climate-parent group, Våra barns klimat, founded Our Kids’ Climate in 2015, with an aim to bring the perspective of concerned parents to the UN Climate Summit in Paris. Since then, the network has grown exponentially, not least due to the millions of kids taking to the streets through initiatives such as Fridays For Future, The Sunrise Movement, and different youth-led lawsuits. Behind these kids are millions of concerned parents.
Our Kids’ Climate is a global collaboration of 58 climate-parent groups from 23 countries, working together to engage parents, caretakers, and families in climate action. Our common goal is to protect the kids we love from the climate crisis.
For the UN Climate Summit in Madrid in 2019, we wrote a ‘parent plea letter’ to the delegations calling on them to visualise their kids’ futures, as they were making decisions. The letter reached an estimated 500 million people through global media. We’ve supported groups with small microgrants at key times to help them mobilize people in their communities, and we’ve run a communications training program with some of the world’s most renowned environmental journalists to help parents build their media capacity.
There’s a lot to do for our small team of four mums who run Our Kids’ Climate part-time, but we are convinced that parent power can change the world! The parent movement has huge collective power, but it has not yet realized its full potential.
DT: As a leader in the parent-child movement around climate change, how do you encourage parents to think about and talk with their children about climate change?
FBE: 1. Start talking about it! Even with young children. Telling the truth is key. We need to normalize those conversations, and then involve our children in acting with us for the climate. It’s important we understand that the climate crisis is for us adults to solve. It’s in the next few years that decisions are taken, or not taken, that will impact our kids’ lives forever.
2. Read up on the topic. It’s important to know a little about the issue and what some good resources are, to help us have those conversations. Learn about the problem, the effects, and the solutions.
3. Make space for our childrens’ feelings in all this. We can see in many young people that they are upset, angry, and disappointed in us adults for not doing enough. Many grown-ups skirt around the importance of the topic, both at home and in school. We need to help our kids name and confirm their emotions — they are reasonable reactions to what’s going on around them.
4. Act — with or without your children. It’s important to show our kids that we take the issue seriously and we’re ready to both support them and do our part. Focus on things that can have ripple effects, like influencing your work to adopt a new travel policy, helping your sport club organize carpooling, or taking part in local decision making. It’s important that kids see us acting for their future.
5. Help children that are worried or are experiencing eco anxiety by finding a group or organization with like-minded people. There’s a real strength in acting together with others, and it can have a real impact. This is key to creating hope in young people.
DT: So why are parents important to tackle climate change?
FBE: Parents are found everywhere: in boardrooms and parliaments, in factories and farms, at school gates and community centers. The parent voice carries acute moral and emotional weight. It embodies the universal instinct to protect and care for children. Parent-led actions can resonate with diverse publics and policymakers, many of whom are parents and grandparents themselves, and can cut across ideological and political boundaries. Moreover, as parents we perform miracles on a daily basis in the name of the welfare of our children — parenting is a real superpower!
DT: With 58 parent groups in 23 countries, how have you built this movement?
FBE: I’d say three things:
- Motivation — As a parent who has been involved with climate change since 2008, I know what’s at stake for our children. The science is frightening. Even if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, because of delays in the climate system, we still have 20 or 30 years of past emissions to come in the pipeline (no pun intended).
That means our children will see a very different world to the one we have grown up in. Knowing this, it’s imperative that parents understand what’s at stake and take action to protect our children. In fact, that is a thought that has me up at night: why aren’t more people acting as our children’s lives, health, and futures depend upon it?
- Tenacity — Climate change is not a quick-fix problem, and building a movement takes time. I was lucky enough to find like-minded parents across the world who shared my vision of working together to help more parents get involved in climate action. We’ve worked tirelessly to grow the movement, and support new groups as they’ve formed. We’ve mentored, advised, and convened people from across the world.
It has also meant many (thousands) of unpaid working hours to make this happen, over several years. In the process, I have experienced exhaustion and decided to quit my day job to focus solely on building this movement with the tools at my disposal.
- Networks — When the idea of Our Kids’ Climate formed back in 2015, I was fortunate enough to have a very large network of people across the world because of my past work with a big nonprofit. Many were willing to step up and help. Working together with others is key to building a movement.
We don’t want to duplicate what others do, but rather bring our own unique perspectives to compliment other initiatives, and create our own initiatives. Over time, we’ve really honed in on our unique contribution and power within the broader climate movement. At its core is that parents can speak from the heart about what matters most to us: our children. And all children. Our love and care can move mountains and reach people in a way facts and graphs can’t.
DT: What role has technology played in helping you globalize your movement?
FBE: Technology has been key in terms of enabling this global movement to grow. As we were already working digitally before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it has not been a big adjustment for us to keep working effectively together. However, for many of our groups, not being able to gather in the streets, halls, and schools has been a big problem. We’ve learned a lot since 2015 about how to use email lists effectively, organize global calls across multiple time zones, and use digital platforms to plan our work.
Our work, now more than ever, needs to harness the power of digital tools to succeed.
DT: What’s the best way for parents and kids to get involved in the climate change movement?
FBE: There is no best way! The best way is what feels right for you and your family situation. Remember though, we don’t need a handful of people doing things perfectly, we need millions to take their first step.
We’re currently organizing a Climate Fellowship Program for parent leaders from at least eight countries, organizing Mother’s Day campaigns across the world (#OurOtherMother) and planning for the upcoming UN Climate Summit in Glasgow at the end of the year. Simultaneously, our small team is actively looking for funding to support more parents to start organizing for the climate in their communities across the world.
Talking about the issue and acting to contribute to the solutions is key. Opportunities to be part of the solutions are everywhere, and we need everyone!
Read more about incorporating sustainability in schools.
About the Authors:
Photo credit: Appendix Fotografi
Frida Berry Eklund
Founder of Our Kids’ Climate
Frida Berry Eklund is the founder of the climate-parent coalition, Our Kids’ Climate, and spokesperson for Swedish climate-parent group, Föräldravrålet. She is also the author of the Swedish book, Talk To Children About Climate.
VP of Marketing Communications at Salesforce.org