Caymanian students were part of a youth protest Wednesday at the international climate change summit in Spain.
Steff Mcdermot was among a group of activists who stormed and occupied the main stage at the United Nations COP 25 climate conference.
Youngsters from across the globe linked hands and chanted, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” and “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now.”
Around 50 young people joined climate activist and youth icon Greta Thunberg on stage for the demonstration.
Mcdermot, part of Cayman’s Protect our Future group, is in Madrid for the conference along with two other students, Connor Childs and Olivia Zimmer.
She said she had managed to evade security guards to join the protest.
“As soon as Greta finished speaking, we all just ran on stage,” she said. “She joined in. She was standing on stage with us.”
Mcdermot said young people in Cayman were part of a growing international movement, inspired by the Swedish teenager who this week was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for her climate activism. Mcdermot said the aim was to force politicians to act with more urgency on the issue.
“We understand the science but we see that nothing is being done. We are losing our future and there is nothing happening,” she said. “Cayman is going to feel the impact. We have to understand that this is real.”
She said Cayman had a climate change policy and a national energy policy which were not being properly implemented.
Mcdermot added that she was not concerned about repercussions for joining the protest, because it involved so many young people from different nationalities and backgrounds.
“If one person stands up, you are going to get shot down, but when we all stand collectively, we can’t get shot down,” she said.
“What I am afraid of is the science. It is so hurtful that governments, including Cayman’s government, do not see the urgency of this climate crisis.”
Childs and Zimmer were also in the audience when the protest took place but were blocked by security guards from joining the other students on stage.
Childs said the whole week in Madrid had been inspirational.
He said it had been enlightening to talk to young people from other countries where climate change was already having an impact and to hear from speakers like Thunberg and former US presidential candidate John Kerry.
Childs said youth activism and interest was helping to drive the conversation on climate change in new directions.
“I think it will be effective. The impacts of climate change are going to hurt us – not the ones that are out there making the problem worse. We will face the consequences,” he said.
Zimmer said the trip had been “life changing”.
“The interesting part is meeting people from around the world and hearing how climate change is affecting them now. It is not just a future problem.”
She believes Cayman has to act to protect the islands and its people.
“Cayman has an amazing opportunity to become a world leader in implementing policies and regulations that treat the effects of climate change. We need to put pressure on our politicians to make sure it happens,” she said.
The 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is taking place in Madrid from 2 Dec. through 13 Dec.
The three Cayman students are part of an International National Trust Organization delegation.