Beth Doherty is just like any other normal 17-year-old leaving cert student. Juggling her school studies with her personal life can be a real struggle at times, but throw climate activism into the mix too and you’ve certainly got a full plate.
Not only is Beth sitting her leaving cert and navigating life as a teen, but she’s also the co-founder of School Strikes for Climate Ireland and sustainability officer for Fridays for Future Ireland, as well as part of the climate justice team with the National Youth Council of Ireland.
Stealing a few minutes from her busy day, we caught up with Beth to chat about all things climate activism, life as a teen, and why it’s important for young people to use their voice.
How did you get involved in climate activism?
“I first got involved in climate activism in December 2018 when I was 15 years old. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which marked 2030 as the point of no return had just come out, and the severity and urgency of the climate crisis finally struck me.
I wrote an article for a newspaper, and then a couple of friends and I decided to start working to organise climate strikes in Dublin for March 15th and it went from there! I’ve been involved for two and a half years now, working nationally and internationally. I had absolutely no experience in activism beforehand, and it’s 100% not a requirement to get involved!”
Can you talk us through some of the work you do?
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“I work with a few different groups! I’ve been a part of Fridays For Future since February 2019. Pre-Covid, I would work with other members to organise climate strikes in our city, as well as work together to coordinate at a national level.
Unfortunately, we can’t get out on the streets anymore, but we’re continuing to keep momentum and we’re organising an online strike this Friday, 23rd April, open to everyone!
I’m also the current Sustainability Officer of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), where I work to represent second-level students in all areas of sustainability, particularly education and the development of skills-based development education. I also work with my local Comhairle na nOg.”
How do you manage juggling your activism alongside your studies, and being a teenager having a social life?
“It was definitely tricky at the start and burnout is a very real issue in activism! It’s really important to know your capacity and be able to take breaks when you need to.
I generally make an overall plan at the start of each month, and then a plan at the start of each week to balance studying for the Leaving Cert, activism work, and any Zoom meetups with my friends! I’ve also been lucky enough to make some of my closest friends through activism, and those support networks are absolutely crucial.”
Why do you feel it’s important for teens to be active in tackling climate change?
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“Youth voice is incredibly important for driving change on the climate crisis. Now more than ever we need young people to stand up and challenge the status quo, and to bring solutions and a path forward for an issue that could’ve and should’ve been solved decades ago.
We’ve been born into a system built to enable unfairness and climate change, and it’s imperative that we stand up against that and drive change. We need young people to get out there and have their voices heard. Whether that’s organising together or attending events such as the upcoming NYCI consultation on EirGrid’s strategy for transitioning to 70% renewable energy sources by 2030, which is open to all young people from 15 to 25.
We can’t afford to be silent in the face of the crisis happening right in front of us every single day, and we need every single young person to get involved and stand up.”
What advice can you give to other young people looking to get on board with climate activism, what is the best way to go about that?
“My first piece of advice is to take the jump. It can be really intimidating at first, but you don’t need to be perfect to be an activist. None of us are perfect, none of us know everything about the climate crisis. The most important thing is that you want to make a change and you want to challenge the world around you.
People are always willing to talk to you and help you get involved. You just need to reach out! DM Fridays For Future Ireland at @fridaysforfutureireland or email email@example.com if you want to get involved in the ISSU!
These are just some of the ways to get involved, and you can also get something started in your community. Reach out to your representatives or start a conversation with the people around you. Don’t be afraid to get involved, we need everyone to tackle this.”
Beth will be attending an online Youth Assembly on Wednesday, 21st April hosted by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). The Assembly is being held as part of an EirGrid consultation exploring how to redevelop the electricity grid to have more focus on renewables and the assembly is open to all young people and youth workers / leaders aged 15-25. Ireland has set a target of using 70% renewable energy sources by 2030, and the EirGrid consultation is seeking the public’s views on how best to achieve this.
If you’re interested in getting involved, the Youth Assembly will take place on Zoom between 7pm and 9.30pm on Wednesday, 21st April and you can register to attend here: https://www.youth.ie/eirgridconsultation.