Courtesy of Pexels

During this past July, a new record was set for the world’s hottest July. Of course, the climate battle is considered existential and prioritized by young climate activists who fear a future mired in inaction. Still, even as we near these critical junctures of irreparable damage to our ecosystems, it seems the words of reputable scientists continue to be drowned out and unheeded. Thus, the role of environmental activism in pressuring governments and shifting national agendas is paramount.

Social activists demanding political change is a battle-tested phenomenon that supports  widespread national changes. Tactics of organizing movements united around a single cause, such as the Civil Rights Movement, with one goal were effective when pushing for massive political change. But, while these movements set an invaluable example for social revolution, there fails to exist an international instance of the same widespread sociopolitical change. 

A world order in which all countries are united in addressing climate change is hardly naïve to wonder about. As idealistic as it sounds, the nature of the current world order, where nations are rewarded for acting in their own self-interest, presents a surfeit of obstacles that disincentivizes any one charismatic leader from approaching it. The complex international system needs a serious, constant and measurable commitment from every major actor on the global stage. 

The United Nations is the only set of institutions attended by almost every nation in the world. This global institution intertwines the world’s best intentions with the everyday work of diplomacy and humanitarianism. Yet, as large of an outreach and outlet as it might be, even young people recognize that it is far from capable of achieving the lofty goals the world must achieve. The United Nations’ main weakness is that it lacks the mandate to affect change among its Member Nations. Without the power to demand that Member States enforce any resolutions passed by the General Assembly, global frameworks regularly face the excruciating process of ratification in each Member State. In a critique of the current status quo, any reform to the United Nations requires consensus of all Member States. With admiration for the success of nonviolent protest throughout the course of history, Climate Change can only be sustainably solved through widespread cultural upheaval and social activism. 

While the most recent demonstrators of environmental activism have resorted to extreme demonstrations by vandalizing buildings of major corporations and interrupting major sporting events, this only hinders the climate movement. It gives the opportunity for climate-deniers or opponents of climate activism to delegitimize the global efforts by labeling climate activists as extremists. Moments where beloved international icons like the Mona Lisa or the Trevi Fountain are defamed, undeniably generate publicity but paint the efforts of climate activists everywhere in a bad light. Instead of relying on wrecking or defacing infrastructure, climate activists should display a sense of urgency without committing crimes and convince people from all backgrounds to become responsible stakeholders. 

Even though the international community agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals and made commitments to change, the low probability of a reformed United Nations means that environmental activism has a special role to play in achieving the world’s goals. 

Realistically, in the context of political polarization, a hypothetical international climate activist movement would face major challenges from legislatures and special interests around the world as it demands major shifts in our way of life. However, the justice that climate activists seek is one that secures the future ahead based on a moral imperative includes and implicates everyone.