Be Climate Clever: An Interview with Amy and Ella Meek
Hi Amy and Ella,
It’s wonderful to ‘meet’ you! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me.
You have both been passionate changemakers from a young age. What can you tell me about your journey into activism? Where are you hoping it will take you?
We first started Kids Against Plastic back in 2016, after studying the recently released UN Global Goals. In the 6 years since then, our charity has grown in lots of directions! We’ve done talks at schools and conferences around Europe, at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, and at two TEDx events; we’ve had over 50 cafes and businesses and over 1300 schools signed up to our Plastic Clever scheme (a positive award scheme that encourages a more discerning use of single-use plastics); and, we’ve personally picked up over 100,000 pieces of plastic litter! But most importantly, we also run our KAP Club, a group of over 180 kids from around the world who we support in their own action against single-use plastics.
As to where it will take us? That’s a question we’re still figuring out! Our journey has been one that we could never have imagined when we first began Kids Against Plastic, and we’ve learned and developed so much along the way. But that’s why we’re really focussed on youth empowerment as part of the charity – we’ve seen ourselves first-hand the benefits it can have, not only on the planet but on ourselves as kids. So, our amazing Kids Against Plastic Club and the Plastic Clever Schools initiative are our main focuses for the future, to try and help as many young people as possible learn about environmental issues, and importantly feel like they can play a key role in combatting them.
Be Climate Clever is the follow up to your first book, Be Plastic Clever. What is your collaboration process? How - if at all - did your writing process change in the interim?
It surprised us how much writing Be Climate Clever differed to writing our first book! Climate change is a monster of an issue, especially compared to plastic pollution which is dwarfed in comparison. There are so many different parts to it, all of which have a wealth of scientific information behind them. So, taking climate change and turning it into an understandable, readable kids’ book was a pretty daunting task, which we got around by planning, researching, and then planning again!
Once we got our heads around how the book would fit together, and which areas to focus on in particular, the writing process was similar to Be Plastic Clever – we still wanted to keep the light tone of the first book, so it was just a case of getting our heads down and getting fingers to keyboards.
I really appreciated the clarity Be Climate Clever offers - jargon-busting is so important! As you note, when it comes to discussions about climate change - especially within the media - there is a tendency to overcomplicate. By contrast, kids are often more incisive: they tell it as it is. What can kids offer to activism?
Exactly as you said – a unique voice, and a unique urgency. Kids don’t bother to sugar coat environmental issues. They cut straight to the point, and in a crisis like climate change that is distracted by so much rhetoric and excuses, that’s an important skill to have. Plus, young people see that they can’t just sit around and wait for action to happen to tackle climate change (or not!). This issue is already directly affecting our futures. If we sit back and let someone else do the work, where’s the guarantee that we’ll see that change happen in time?
Kids often do not feel as though they have a voice. Adults are making big decisions about matters that will ultimately affect the lives of young people, and yet young people are unable to vote until they turn eighteen. Society also frequently fails to listen to our voices besides. Why do you think this is? How can kids use their voices to shout about issues that matter to them?
I think kids of all ages are consistently underestimated. The problem is often that we don’t expect kids to be interested or understanding of the crises facing our planet, and so we don’t do enough to help them connect with them. Especially when it comes to environmental issues, kids are often dismissed as ‘being too young to understand’ or ‘too young to do anything about it’. That’s not true! We’ve been running our charity Kids Against Plastic for over 6 years now, working with kids from the age of three upwards to help them tackle plastic pollution – we’ve seen first-hand just how well young people grasp these problems, and the power that they have to be the positive change that they want to see in the world. The key is to not let society’s expectations of what you can achieve define you. We may be told that we have to wait until we’re 18 to have a say in matters that will affect us, but the truth is that we don’t have to – and starting to make a difference at school or at home can be the best place to start.
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such an enormous issue as climate change. What are some small things that we can do right now?
- Firstly, get educated! And we’re not just saying this because we’ve written an educational book about climate change 😊 Learning more about the issue, the impacts it will have, and how we can combat it is the best first step to making a difference. There’s so much disinformation and deliberately misleading facts floating around when it comes to climate change – cutting through the noise and making sure you grasp at least some aspect of this issue is so important.
- Spread the word. The more people who know about climate change, the more people can do something to tackle it! Collective change is immensely powerful, but for it to happen everyone needs to see the role that they can play.
- And finally, look at what you’re feasibly able to do, or what you’re comfortable doing. To take action against climate change, you don’t just have to grab a megaphone and go striking! If you’re more comfortable starting your action at home and reducing your energy usage, food waste or plastic consumption (all of which link closely to climate change), then start there! Or, start your own local campaign! Find an action that suits you, your skills, and your time – and get started!
I'm so inspired by your journey, especially as young women in the public sphere. Who has inspired you - whether in your personal life or else more widely?
It’s really been a journey for us over the years running our charity, and we’re so lucky to have had lots of incredible people supporting us and inspiring us along the way. We’re constantly inspired by the people we meet and follow through our charity – from David Attenborough who first showed us the beauty of the planet in the documentaries we used to watch when we were kids (and still do!), to oceans advocate Emily Penn who supported us in learning more about plastic pollution, to incredible indigenous activists like Hamangai Pataxo (who we were lucky to interview for Be Climate Clever). There are so many amazing individuals dedicating their lives and energy to tackling the climate crisis.
But we have to stay that our family have also been huge inspirations and supporters of us in our work. Our parents have been with us from day one, helping and guiding us, and we’re very lucky to be running our charity as sisters who can support each other through the journey together.
Be Climate Clever is packed full of practical advice, from public speaking to lobbying your local MP. But what is your main message to any budding activists?
Don’t feel like climate change is an all or nothing issue. If the idea of going to a weekly protest or public speaking isn’t appealing to you, that’s totally fine! There’s no one right way to help tackle climate change – the important thing is to do something, no matter what that may be. It could be walking to school once a week instead of being driven, or making sure your parents turn off the heating at home when you’re not in, or even just telling your friends all about climate change. Don’t ever feel like your action is too small – it’s a step in the right direction, and even small changes can make a huge positive impact if everyone did them. Tackling climate change needs lots of people doing something, not one person doing everything perfectly 😊
Be Climate Clever by Amy and Ella Meek is published by DK, 7th April 2022. £6.99. DK.com