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Looking to the future for hope

Alfie Smeele has, for as long as he can remember, been aware of climate change as an issue.

As the 2021 environment prefect at Christchurch Girls’ High School, Alfie has now been able to ramp up efforts to campaign for change.

Immersed in a circle of young climate change activists across Christchurch, Alfie has experienced the negative impact that fighting for change can have on all those involved – himself included.

“When we look at this issue, it’s hard to think of ourselves as having any real chance or being able to solve this issue because it’s such a big issue.”

To avoid losing hope and getting despondent, Alfie and his friends “focus on the things that need to be done rather than the bigger issue”.

“It’s the next tree planting, it’s the next strike. You put all your energy and action into the next little detail you need to do and then you hope that makes a difference.”

While Alfie finds some hope in daily actions, like recycling or composting, he says finding comfort can only come from seeing radical change being made.

“The things that keep me going are seeing the major changes go through like the Zero Carbon Bill, which was a massive sigh of relief and showed me that the pressure we put on the government was worth it and there is still hope.”

When it comes to staying up to date on climate change news, Alfie tries to keep up – particularly if speaking on an issue, but he knows when to take a break from the news cycle.

“At the end of the day I know climate change is an issue, I know the basic science behind it and I know what’s going on in the world so I don’t feel the need to be in the news every single day.”

To look after his own health and wellbeing, Alfie also actively avoids engaging with climate deniers.

“I use my platforms to educate and speak up but I don’t have debates if it’s not worth it – it can be incredibly draining on my mental health to have debates on the essentials to life, like climate change or your own identity.”

Alfie says although he is a busy teenager and has a lot on his plate, he is trying to take more time to do things he enjoys.

“I’ve started reading books again, which I haven’t done in so long because there is never time. And I’m trying to spend more time with my friends and hang out with them more regularly.”

They’re things that help Alfie to switch off and recharge.

Alfie encourages fellow climate change activists to stay hopeful.

“There is still time and we have a chance.”

In the mean time, Alfie will stay busy campaigning for change at school by running a clothing drive, establishing composting and rubbish management systems, planting trees, speaking in assemblies, informing others in library sessions, hosting bake sales to raise funds for the all the work he wants to achieve this year and get a beehive into the school.

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