Student Activist Daisy Jeffrey Shares the Importance of Optimism

We need to talk about hope amidst coronavirus and the climate crisis

When I was initially asked to write a book for the On series, it was titled On Change, which, if you ask me, is a hell of a lot easier than On Hope. Writing about hope requires hopefulness, which I find is sometimes in short supply, particularly when the world really does feel like it’s falling apart. It’s rare to have to deal with one existential crisis, let alone two. Humanity is now having to grapple with a global pandemic and the climate crisis running alongside each other and while the focus is justifiably on COVID-19, the window for preventing the most catastrophic effects of climate change is shrinking faster than ever. When we reach the other side of this pandemic, our government and those around the world will still need to take immediate drastic action to address the climate crisis, but I worry they won’t. There is a lot of talk about “returning to normal” after this pandemic is over, but normal is still a world in crisis. Yes, at the moment we might be seeing beautiful images of the Earth regenerating, but it will regress just as quickly if we return to our old habits when this is all over.

Right now, it’s 10am and I’m struggling my way through Grade 12 maths study for the day. In the early hours of the morning, I was discussing digital campaign strategies with strikers from around the globe, as part of my role as an organiser of the School Strike 4 Climate organisation in Sydney. Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t really get the good end of the stick when it comes to international meetings, which I’ve been doing a lot of in the past year. The reality of having been awake and engaged in the middle of the night has caught up with my brain, which is now screaming for sleep – or coffee.

So, how do I balance activism and school while staying positive? I’d love to say that I’m completely on top of things, that I’m freakishly organised, but I’m not. It’s all a bit of a shemozzle really. My mind is always in a million different places at once – trig over here, Adani over there, and the COVID-19 pandemic (and a desperate need for caffeine) at the front.

But I find hope in the laughter I hear at school (though I only get to hear that laughter through Zoom calls now) and happiness in the tall sunflowers around the corner from my house. I find hope in the eyes and voices of the young people who strike for climate action. I hear it in the excited voices of adults congratulating young people on our activism; although sometimes an adult placing their hope upon us can feel more like a burden than encouragement.

That is why when you ask me about hope, I will tell you it comes from you. If there was ever a time to use your voice, now is the time. If you think your voice doesn’t matter, remember that there are millions of people who feel exactly the same as you do and if you do not raise your voice, then who will? You could be the voice that changes everything, so please take that chance. For now, stay home, but even amid this crisis, keep striving for what you believe in. Post on social media. Join a climate strike online. Join millions of people around the globe in fighting for a better world.

We need hope, but to build hope we need action – even if that action is online, instead of rallying in the streets. We need you.

On Hope by Daisy Jeffrey (Hachette, $16.99) is out now. This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of marie claire. 

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