The voice of the future: Q&A with 14-year-old Ava for #NextGenJan

14-year-old Ava Broinowski was one of thousands of school children who chose to take a day off school in November 2018 to Strike 4 Climate Action

Ava and her peers were the inspiration for The Clean Collective’s #NextGenJan campaign. Running every January with 2019 being the inaugural year, #NextGenJan aims to send a strong message about the impact of plastic pollution and climate change on the planet, and share simple steps we can all take towards a brighter future for us and, more importantly, for the next generation, who will be the most effected tomorrow by our actions today.

A huge thank you to Ava for answering our questions and getting involved in #NextGenJan 2019.

How old are you, Ava? And where do you live?

I’m fourteen, and I’ve lived in Erskineville, in the inner-west of Sydney, Australia for most of my life. I love it here – there’s such an abundance of culture and art, as well as a warm sense of community.

What are your aspirations for your future? Is there a career you’d love to have? Would you love to travel? Tell us what your dreams are for your future.

Honestly, there are so many things to experience and places to go that I’ve dreamed about, especially recently, since I’ll be beginning my High School Certificate in just over a year, and have started thinking about my future. I don’t think I’ve set out any boundaries for career paths, though I know I’m dreadful at maths, so nothing to do with that, but if I could freely choose I’ve always wished to be a painter and artist. I draw and paint very often and I’m never far from my little sketchbook, which all of my friends quickly find out whenever we go out together. Although, becoming an artist is a bit of a far-fetched fantasy, so I’ll most probably specialise in something else – maybe law, maybe journalism, or history – just to keep me afloat.

In terms of travel, I want to see the world! I’ve already got a steadily growing and very long list of national parks, cities, and festivals I’d like to go to, and it would be a dream to travel for a year before I begin university. If I were to pick a few from my list specifically, I’d love to see the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, go to the Yosemite and Willamette National parks in America, visit the many magical caves and forests in Iceland, and travel to France for a while too, as I study French at school and enjoy it very much. Although what I think would make these places all the more special to me is if I could see them with friends. I know many of my closest friends plan on travelling after high school too, and I’m usually my happiest when I’m around them, so travelling the world together would be an absolute dream come true.

When you think about growing up and your future, what scares you (and your friends) the most?

I think there’s definitely the obvious tedious and daunting tasks of paying taxes, bills and insurance that immediately makes adulthood fairly terrifying, but I know that many people my age – my friends and I – are looking forward to having our own independence and freedom.

Overall the main issue I’m personally quite concerned about is how much there is to fix in our current society, and how my generation, and of course the other generations who have their lives ahead of them, are going to inherit our planet.

It sounds pretty grave, but almost every day we hear a new statistic, on the news, in the classroom, even at lunch and recess with our friends, stating some new increase in temperature, acidity, pollution, or natural disasters (take your pick) plaguing the earth.

Most of us have become pretty desensitised to these little, scary bits of information, and some people don’t really even believe them, but in the back of our minds, especially of many from my generation, we’re all pretty worried.

You took part in the recent School Strikes against Climate Change in Sydney – why do you think it was so important to take a day away from school to attend this protest?

I have a couple of answers to this, and admittedly one of them is that I was looking forward to participating with a group of my friends, and taking the day off school to fight for a cause we believe in sounds pretty exciting.

Aside from that, I simply believe that, considering kids can’t change anything officially as we’re evidently not governing the country, action needed to be taken to at least let those in power know how much we care about things such as reducing Australia’s carbon footprint, using renewable energy, and taking all the measures required to ensure the planet doesn’t heat up by even half a degree more.

I’m aware that many people believe that the School Strike was a waste of time, or that it won’t do anything, but I think that thanks to the thousands of people who participated, we at the very least massively raised awareness about how many of us are concerned. Also, thanks to Prime Minister Morrison’s little rant in parliament regarding how kids should stop being activists, we know that he also got the message, to some extent.

Overall, we wanted to show the country, and specifically the people who can do something about the issue of pollution and climate change, what the future generation truly cares about, and what we will fight for in order to help make a change.

Do you remember what it was that first made you take notice of the environment/issues around climate change? Take us through your journey since then?

Well, all my life I’ve lived in the lovely city of Sydney, free to go swimming or snorkelling with friends pretty much whenever I want, I’ve always loved swimming and observing all the beautiful shells, coral and marine life that Australia is so lucky to be home to.

When I was 9 – if I remember correctly – my mum wanted to take me on a trip to an island in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland. She said she wanted to take me “before it was too late”, which is something I didn’t really understand at the time.

Anyway, that trip was absolute heaven for me, I saw so many animals and beautiful sights: baby turtles, reef sharks, coral, clams the size of a suitcase, and I really enjoyed all of my time there. But as I continued to grow up and become more aware of politics and the news I began to hear about the many threats that the Great Barrier Reef was facing, from oil spills to increasing water acidity, all of which were killing the natural wonder.

I’d say that ever since roughly grade 6, when I was 11, I’ve been very aware of how much pollution is on the streets, and how much of that ends up in the ocean, as well as the risks that fossil fuel burning poses to the planet.

During my first three years of high school (the third of which has just ended), I learned about all forms of pollution in classes such as Geography or Science, and a lot of the issues regarding climate change also pop up in casual conversation sometimes with friends or family.

As a result I’m now very careful about how much water, energy, food, or materials I waste, and I simply try to ensure that anything I do is as environmentally friendly and waste-free as possible.

What do you think the biggest risk is to our planet today?

Pollution, hands down. However, that is an incredibly broad topic, so I’ll try to be a bit more specific:

  • Air pollution as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, and excessive use of petrol-powered vehicles
  • Water and earth pollution as a result of immense amounts of littering and waste of resources such as material, and food

It should also be known that there are many other issues that threaten the wellbeing of the planet, such as the wasting of resources, overfishing and culling, and rapid deforestation, however I believe that the most threatening and immediate risks, currently, have to do with human-generated pollution.

In 2018, we’ve seen an increase in young Aussies showing how much they care about the future of our planet, whether that’s through challenging politicians on Q&A, developing innovative products to tackle plastic pollution, protesting in cities across the country or speaking out via social media. Why do you think this movement is happening now?

I think the whole movement has been building up for quite a long time, specifically in my generation, but I’d say that in the past few years the massive risks threatening the planet, and hence our own wellbeing, have been broadcasted very regularly in the media. The issues can be taken note of even on platforms such as the weather forecast, where many Australian people can’t believe that temperatures could rise to even 45+ degrees for an entire week.

Ultimately, my generation, especially since a lot of us are beginning to grow up and therefore having to think about our futures, has become increasingly aware of climate change, and, to be frank, don’t want to inherit a world plagued by climate chaos.

How do you think adults could help improve the prospect of climate catastrophe? What do we need to do to protect your future?

First of all I’d just like to say that it’s super reassuring that such a large amount of adults are all on board to help fight climate change and pollution. Anyway, there are just a couple of simple lifestyle changes that can really help improve the planet’s wellbeing in the long run.

Here’s a list of a couple of things you could do:

  1. Always make sure your energy consumption is actually necessary. For example: if you’re cold put on a warm jumper or wrap yourself in a blanket instead of turning on heating. Less planet-destruction, far more soft and comfortable. Or if you have to go out somewhere and it’s easy to walk or ride a bike, do what’s better for the planet and don’t drive, as long as it won’t make you too late!
  2. When buying products, try to make sure they are made of recycled material. This gesture could massively help limit energy consumption as the factories used to produce pretty much any product use plenty of energy, water and materials, and also produce massive air and water pollution. Something as simple as making sure the things you buy are recycled can easily help cut down on the amount of energy you indirectly use.
  3. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth and don’t waste shower or bath water. A surprisingly large amount of water is wasted when people forget to turn off the tap whilst brushing their teeth. The water isn’t being used for anything and is just left running when you’re not actually using it and this excess use can add up to thousands of litres per year being wasted. So make sure to turn off the tap, this isn’t limiting the amount of water you use, simply conserving what you wouldn’t use in the first place!
  4. Make sure to throw glass, aluminium, steel cans and paper in the recycling. The materials mentioned are products that can be recycled and put to further use. This means that you’re not only saving them from being put in landfills and taking decades to decompose but also cutting down on the energy and pollution used to produce more of the product. It’s very easy to make sure you put the right materials in the right bins and it can very well save the planet.
  5. Finally, just don’t litter. Just don’t, it’s simple, and it saves the lives of marine animals, and doesn’t tamper with gorgeous places such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Looking twenty years into the future, describe to us the following:

a. How do you envision the world looking, if nothing changes?

That’s pretty hard to say, but I guess, to be super pessimistic, but also unfortunately realistic, most animals would have lost their habitats, whether on land or in the water, and natural disasters, extreme temperatures and impure air would become known as normal. Places such as the amazon rainforest or the Great Barrier Reef would probably have almost completely died and been destroyed. The ice caps in Antarctica would most definitely have nearly melted, causing sea levels to rise and the destruction of many human-made cities, towns and infrastructure. Overall, it’d be pretty grim, for the planet, animals, and certainly for all of us.

b. And on the other hand, if governments, businesses and those in power made crucial changes from today, how would you dream of the world looking?

In my dream world, with an abundance of renewable energy sources, replenished forests and marine habitats, and hardly any single-use plastics or other materials, we’d live in a very different situation. I’d say life would be similar to how it was a few decades ago – but of course far more modern – with far less threats of natural disaster or extreme temperatures. We’d be able to continue enjoying the luxuries of swimming in clear, clean water, and breathing in fresh air, enjoying an ice-cream on a hot day, but not having to face regular bushfires, staying in to watch movies and drink hot chocolate when it rains, but without the possibility of flash floods.

Quality of life, all over the world – at least in terms of natural wellbeing, would be, very simply, nice.

Thank you so much, Ava. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to provide my perspective on climate change, thanks so much for the platform. Hopefully those who feel strongly about the cause can just keep on working towards a beautiful, clean planet, and all the best for the future!

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Charli Ferrand

Charli wrote her first novel at the tender age of 9, then dabbled in the idea of becoming a professional ballerina for a few years, before returning to her love of writing, acquiring a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Film & Broadcast from Cardiff University in the UK. A three-month holiday in Australia turned into a 11 year residency, during which Charli cemented her career in PR & Marketing Communications working with some of the biggest brands in the world. She also gained her citizenship, discovered her passion for sustainability and eventually ended up coming full circle, combining her professional skills with her love of the planet and oceans into her role as Editor-in-Chief of Earth Collective. A trained journalist, experienced communications professional and qualified Mental Health First Aider, Charli has her finger on the pulse of the latest political and environmental developments around the world. You can find her writing about current affairs, political activism and mental health.

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