Exclusive — Kicking off COP27 with Clover Hogan
At just 11-years-old, Clover Hogan declared herself an environmentalist.
Ever since, she’s been working tirelessly with her organisation Force of Nature to mobilise change by empowering young people to step up rather than shut down in the face of the climate crisis.
At a time as nail-biting as COP27 — following decades of failed promises and with an increasingly uncertain future on the horizon — she believes we must channel our emotion into action and come together as a community so that world leaders will truly listen and, hopefully, get things done.
We sat down with Clover yesterday to learn more.
Thred: COP is in its 27th year, yet world leaders are still failing to treat the climate emergency like an emergency. How efficient do you consider the solutions that have been presented so far?
Clover: Because certain solutions get a disproportionate amount of air time, we talk a lot about some of the technological solutions that are going to ‘save us’ without necessarily getting to the heart of the crisis. For example, you might hear about carbon capture technology without any acknowledgement of the role of trees (which are the best carbon capturing tech we have) or the importance of restoring and protecting nature. And critically, I think one thing that often gets missed out is the role of people. It’s really easy to talk about environmental and social justice as two separate things, but we can’t protect nature without building fair and equitable communities. A big focus at the moment is loss and damage. There’s a certain degree of climate collapse that’s already locked in because of historic emissions meaning that countries — largely in the global south — are already locked into the repercussions of this. Those, like Pakistan which this year has witnessed the displacement of millions due to catastrophic flooding, which have contributed the least to this issue. They are the ones that need to be supported by the countries with the resources and wealth to fund a just transition. At COP26, funding was pledged, but it still hasn’t materialised.
This year we’re asking to see the money that was promised.
Thred: What was your main takeaway from last year’s summit and what improvements do you wish to see reflected at this year’s after the many climate catastrophes we’ve witnessed since?
Clover: Last year we saw a lot of representation of civil society and young people, yet we’re still hearing from a lot of those voices in a tokenising way. As a young activist, you often see yourself either being invited into the room and being the only young person there or not actually involved in the decision-making process whatsoever. It’s not enough anymore to just give young people a microphone or even a seat at the table. Young people are the ones inheriting this. So are frontline communities, Indigenous communities who need to be involved in the decisions that are ultimately affecting us. Unfortunately, global leaders today are disproportionately pale, male, and stale. Older, white, men who are making decisions they’re potentially not even going to live long enough to see the consequences of. We need women at the table. We need young people. We need frontline communities.
Thred: In the context of previous efforts (or lack thereof), do you deem the goals outlined so far within reach or too ambitious? What should we measure the success of discussions by?
Clover: Even if a lot of world leaders are in denial, the urgency of these solutions is hard to ignore. The really scary thing right now is that according to most of the recent UN research that’s come out, there is no viable pathway to 1.5 degrees which, as we know, is a climate catastrophe tipping point. We’re going to see runaway climate change in many parts of the world if we fail to limit emissions and that’s terrifying because even many of the global commitments that have been made so far don’t put us on that path — let alone action. This being said, I don’t think it’s effective to lean into the doomism and despair of ‘it’s too late’ because that’s a privileged response. There are already so many people living through climate change, already being displaced, already losing their lives and their livelihoods. They don’t have a choice to say it’s too late or too far gone. For them, it’s do or die.
Thred: How can we (as activists and individuals committed to the cause) be amplifying the voices of frontline communities — those most disproportionately impacted by the crisis?
Clover: For one, it starts with acknowledging your own privilege. I’m originally from Australia, now I live in the UK. Both of these nations have colonisation in their history. These countries are wealthy because they’ve extracted it from the global south — which is now bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.
On this note, it’s essential we recognise our history. That we acknowledge the climate crisis is a symptom of a system that has extracted values from these communities. One that’s also failed to pay reparations or loss and damage.
Secondly, we need to constantly make sure we’re opening the door behind us, uplifting the voices of others. This is why so much of what we do at Force of Nature is not solely about helping young people translate eco-anxiety into action, but about helping them develop the skills to make a real difference in the world. We do this with a whole host of training sessions. These range from showing young people how to speak up — to use communication as a tool for change — to teaching them how to critically advise decision-makers on business and policy which is where a lot of the incumbent power currently lies.
From there, we create opportunities to ensure those young people have a seat at the table. We acknowledge the influence and resources we have and assess how we can best distribute that to ensure the voices that need amplifying are being amplified. We’re mobilising mindsets for action.
Thred: And how can we be pushing for better representation and inclusion from a top-down level?
Clover: As a starting point, always ask yourself who isn’t in the room. Every time you walk into one of these spaces, question who isn’t being represented. And then put the effort in. Essentially, if you recognise that it isn’t easy to identify who isn’t present, put in the work to guarantee resources are available for easy sign posting. This is simple. Ask people what they need. Is it funding? Connections? Blue zone access? Ask, and then do what you can to remove any barriers to action so that they have an opportunity to engage.
Thred: Why do you think it’s so important that young people be the change they want to see?
Clover: Again, we’re inheriting the worst impacts of this crisis. For this reason, young people are some of the most vocal about the need for urgent change. We’ve even seen non-violent direct action, young people disproportionately represented, but throughout history, every social movement has triggered change. It’s always been younger generations at the forefront.
There’s something inherently disruptive about being a young person, looking at the world around you and saying ‘I can imagine a really different way of doing things.’
We have natural changemaker characteristics and the ability to think differently. We spend a lot of time talking about what we’re fighting against but it’s so important to actually say what we’re fighting for. When we ask young people what the world they want to inherit is like, the ideas they generate are incredible, creative, passionate, and imaginative.
Thred: Tell me about Force of Nature’s Climate Cafe’s and how they’re providing a much-needed space for connection, communication, and collaboration to encourage radical, new ideas.
Clover: Well there you go, there’s the answer. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. At Force of Nature, we’ve spent years creating space for conversation, for young people to share how they’re feeling and find solidarity with others. During these conversations, when we asked people how they found the experience, they would tell us that it not only gave them a greater sense of empowerment and agency, but made them feel connected through community. The hardest part about experiencing eco-anxiety is feeling alone with a lot of those really tricky emotions without the tools to navigate them. So, while the spotlight shines on Egypt, we wanted to create safe spaces for people to come together, which is why we’re hosting this incredible Climate Café. We have people coming from all walks of life, spanning every generation, to have candid chats. In addition, we have some 100 decentralised climate cafes, providing micro grants to activists to remove accessibility barriers. For me, this has been the most impactful part of the initiative, seeing people take it upon themselves to say ‘we’re not going to let some leaders in a room make decisions for us, we realise power lies with the people — with community mobilisation.’
Thred: What are your personal tips for keeping our eco-anxiety at bay during the next fortnight? How can we continue to channel it into action once COP is over and we inevitably have a lot to digest?
Clover: You are not alone! A lot of us are used to going through the motions without addressing how we feel — this applies to all of mental health. But if you allow yourself to open up to a friend, a peer, someone within the Force of Nature community, it’s a really great starting point that will show you your emotions are so valid and so powerful. Try not to switch off. Feel those feelings — feel the pain and overwhelm of the crisis — and know that’s your superpower. The superpower that will motivate you, and others, to act.