Empowering Young People

Reading graduate, Jack Abrey, speaks to CONNECTED about the global climate campaign he is leading for the Scouts, the importance of empowering young people, and his involvement in the University of Reading’s Climate Education Summit.

Jack was a member of the Scouts from age six to 18 and, after studying human and physical geography at the University of Reading, embarked on a full-time career with the charity.

Jack explains why choosing a career that would have a positive impact on others was important to him: “Scouts has always played a large part in my life and I wanted to give something back. The values of the Scouts – of integrity, respect, care, belief and cooperation – align with my own, making the Scouts a great fit for me.

“I do this job because it genuinely makes a difference and I get to support causes that are close to my heart. As Scouts, helping others is in our DNA, and we’ve been helping to leave the world a little better than we found it for over 100 years.”

A crucial way in which the Scouts are striving to leave the world better than how they found it is through their global climate campaign, #PromiseToThe Planet, which Jack is leading on as Programme Delivery Executive. He tells CONNECTED how important it is this year to drive the momentum to fight climate change, and why we need to recognise the vital role of young people in the climate crisis.

Promise to the planet

Jack explains that looking after the environment, young people’s passion to make a difference, and the drive to leave the world in a better place have all been constants throughout the history of the Scouts – and these passions combined created the campaign which launched on 1 June.

Jack said: “Naturally the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties [COP] taking place in November is a big focus on everyone’s minds this year.

“But we know that the climate crisis is very much at the forefront of young people’s minds every year. They’re constantly telling us that it’s one of their biggest concerns; young people aren’t naïve and they want to take action.

“With COP shining the spotlight on the climate crisis, we were keen to use this year to build some momentum behind the campaign.”

Jack worked with young people and volunteers from over 20 countries, Scout’s international offices, WWF (World Wide Fund) and the government to discuss and co-create what they could do on a global scale to empower young people to take action and help tackle climate change.

He said: “The campaign has been designed by young people, from all over the world, at every stage. It is based on what is important to them, and what policy asks they want to present to world leaders.

“I’ve simply facilitated the campaign on behalf of our Scouts to give them greater, collective impact – to show how a small action such as a Scout in Uganda planting a tree becomes something that will genuinely help to solve the climate crisis if 57 million Scouts undertake the same action.”

There are four strands to the campaign – recover, reduce, recycle and rethink – with the aim to get people to carry out social actions, such as planting a tree, following a more planet-friendly diet, or recycling – whether in groups or individually depending on local COVID-19 restrictions. 

The programme of social actions is linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and WWF have also partnered with the Scouts to verify the actions that are undertaken during the campaign.

Jack explained: “This is open to everyone, whether they’re involved in Scouts or not. Personally, I try to do my bit for the environment by eating a more planet-friendly diet, being more conscious in my transport choices and buying from ethical and ‘green’ business wherever possible – I’m keen to join in with my own social actions during this campaign.”

Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, Astronaut, Tim Peake, and Paralympian, Ellie Simmonds, are on board with the campaign too. Jack said: “The launch event featured a video from Bear Grylls, and his promise to the planet is to ensure that young people can have their voices heard by lending his platform to them.”

Watch the launch video featuring Bear Grylls:

Generating momentum

Jack and the Scouts have designed this campaign to have impact for years to come. He said:

“The plan is for this campaign to culminate in a group of Scouts attending COP with Bear Grylls, to show what activity young people around the world have undertaken over the past few months. This group will also call on world leaders to listen and action their bold policy asks.”

To ensure the Scouts’ climate action lasts beyond COP, they have connected it to two of the Scout’s longer-term campaigns – Earth Tribe, the global youth movement for environmental action from World Scouting, and A Million Hands, the Scouts’ flagship community impact campaign which covers six themes, one of which is protecting the environment.

Jack said: “We want to make sure that this short-term campaign is rooted in our core offering and long-term partnerships, so we can have a real impact on tackling climate change. We want to generate enough momentum this year so that after COP we can channel that into other opportunities going forwards.”

Taking action

The inspiration for this campaign comes from listening to the 57 million young people who make up the Scouts.

Jack explained: “The Scouts have never shied away from advocating and lobbying for changes. Our mission is to empower young people to have their voices heard, and enable them to have conversations with decision makers.

“Young people need to believe that they can effect change and be listened to.”

“It’s important for everyone to take action on the climate, but ultimately it’s young people who will inherit the planet as it is and it’s their future – they are the ones bearing the brunt of the last 100 years of industrialisation.

“It’s up to us to ensure that young people know what to do and how to do it in the face of the climate crisis – we need to equip them with the skills to deal with these challenges, as well as working alongside them to do what we can now.”

Climate Education Summit

Jack’s belief – that it’s important to equip young people with the knowledge to help fight climate change – goes hand-in-hand with the University of Reading’s ambition to work with others in tackling the defining crisis of our generation through climate education.

He said: “Climate education is vital to solving this problem and Scouts firmly believe in learning by doing, but the world needs to move away from the assumption that young people don’t know what climate change is.

“They do know and they are extremely worried about it, so climate education needs to focus on saying to young people, ‘we know you’re aware of the problem and you’ve got the knowledge, now here’s what you can do next.’”

Jack will be joining the University of Reading for the Climate Education Summit taking place on 15 September 2021.

He said: “The University has always been a big part of my life, and its mantra really sticks in my mind to this day – reminding me to stand up, to be counted, to not be afraid to go against the grain, and above all, to combat injustice and leave the world a better place.

“Reading will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’m thrilled to be joining them for this Summit.”

Find out more and get involved with Reading’s Climate Education Summit, or the Scout’s #PromiseToThePlanet campaign.