Imagination Activists: The Panacea for Climate Change?

The UN issued a profoundly dire report on climate change, insisting that we still have an opportunity to mitigate the biggest impacts. Younger generations are heading the call. How? Attend the Sustainability Symposium 2023 to find out.

In yet another gut-wrenching report just released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists from across the globe insisted that urgent action is needed if we’re going to “secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

The report outlines the stone-cold truth supported by unassailable science: “Without urgent, effective, and equitable mitigation and adaptation actions, climate change increasingly threatens ecosystems, biodiversity, and the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of current and future generations.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres referred to the report as “a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.”  

Amidst the urgent warnings about current impacts and imminent risks, there was some good news: scientists confirmed that it is still possible to hold global warming to relatively safe levels (near 1.5 degrees Celsius), staving off the worst impacts of the rapidly changing climate. 

The authors also underscored that we have market-available, cost-effective solutions to dramatically reduce carbon emissions (like renewable energy, regenerative agricultural practices, and electric vehicles) and mitigate climate impacts (like coastal barriers and early warning systems.) They also reiterated that a deep, rapid, and sustained course correction would lead to a decrease in global warming within two decades.

But here’s the rub: the disquieting report states that even if industrialized nations slashed emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, we would still only have a 50% chance of staying under the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.

Even small delays in massive climate action would make that global goal unattainable, and given that the world’s two biggest polluters—China and the U.S.—continue to approve fossil fuel projects, it’s difficult to see a clear pathway to reaching our targets.

Quantum Push?

It’s pretty clear that our challenges won’t be solved by today’s leaders. Perhaps the answer lies in tomorrow’s leaders—younger generations who are forcing a tectonic shift, demanding the explosion of paradigms that underpin our financial and cultural systems.

These younger generations are denying the master-myths of perpetual economic growth at any cost and the relentless march of progress in the form of extraction and excess.  They’re calling for a complete reimagination and restructuring of our society with environmental protection and social justice as guiding principles. 

While more than half of these individuals believe that humanity is doomed, they’re also willing—and eager—to step up and act, finding new narratives to provide the antidote to their pervasive eco-anxiety. With vision and imagination, these leaders are working to change policy, reform ownership models, transform food systems, and revolutionize energy grids.

Progressive activism attorney and political advisor Cheyenne Hunt is one of a growing number of Gen Z activists that are mobilizing to create a radically different future. Hunt works on the Hill with members of Congress to draft, research, and enforce climate policy.


She corroborates that “Gen Zs are feeling climate dread as a result of urgency.  We feel a sense of real tangible fear and disappointment and also a deep sense of responsibility—we can’t separate those out.  We’re the first generation that knows we’ll see life altering effects from climate change, so we’re taking this issue personally.”

Hunt confirms that while members of her generation are making decisions about lifestyle choices and jobs that will reduce their environmental footprint, they also know that “the vast majority of change needs to come from altering business models.  We’re not buying the argument anymore that it’s all on us.”  

“Corporations are the biggest offenders,” she continues.  “They need to scale solutions immediately.  We have low levels of trust.  Companies have eroded our trust in their messaging—there have been too many instances of corporations doing one thing and saying another, and we’re keenly aware that we’ve been nefariously lied to, especially by the fossil fuel companies who have known for longer than Zs have been alive that they were ruining environment. We’re skeptical and angry.”

But Hunt and her peers are hopeful that we can “make a just transition away from the companies that have proven that they don’t deserve our trust to those that offer sustainable, equitable alternatives.” 

Hunt insists that she and her colleagues are rising up to take their place in the halls of power, working on legislation, drafting bills, and seizing leadership roles so they can affect change.  “We’re committed in a more personal way than any other generation to this transition,” she avows.  

Learn From Next-Generation Activists

How does Hunt suggest that we make the transition?  Attend her session, The Great Reprioritization: Turning Talk into Action, at Green Builder Media’s upcoming virtual Sustainability Symposium 2023: The Great Conversion on April 19 & 20 to find out.

Registration is free, so reserve your spot today!

A heartfelt thank you to Trane Technologies and Whirlpool Corporation for their continued support of our annual Sustainability Symposium, as well as their total commitment to corporate sustainability.