For a millennial, going to a conference that is called a festival is pretty epic in itself! The two and half days involved panels and workshops covering everything from leadership, to climate change, to health and wellbeing, to racism, to sexism, to overcoming all odds!
It felt a bit like a youth quake! I heard true stories and experiences from the young leaders of today who are moving, shaking and building a future that looks after us ALL. Below are the three takeaway points I would like to share with you:
Everyone’s voices must be heard.
Climate change. Plastic pollution. Biodiversity loss. All incredibly pressing environmental issues we face today. But how can we solve these issues if we don’t look after the people in our own communities? Representation, discrimination and racism were common themes that came out of FFTF. As we learnt on 15 March, racism and discrimination kills. The festival explored how to abolish inequality and create cities, places and systems that cater to everyone’s needs. BUT we need more than just conversations. We need systems change. Whether this is pushing the government to ensure no one is missing out, speaking out to racism or sexism, or creating workplaces that allow the opportunity to express who we are and what we believe in – we have to act now and stop pretending like racism doesn’t exist in Aotearoa. The first step is to accept that there is a problem. Start by educating yourself on NZ history. Connect with people in your community and have empathy for all the communities around you. Accept that you may not be an expert and that is ok. But understand how you can mobilise your privilege to enable change? Creating a system that allows everyone to flourish is absolutely essential for the success of our nation.
The issues we face today can be daunting and overwhelming. We have been told over and over we only have a few more years before the impacts of climate change are irreversible. There is an urgency to act and the number of young people leading the way is exponentially growing. Sophie Handford, NZ Student Strike for Climate leader, saw Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg’s climate activism on Facebook and instantly saw a need for NZ to be involved – “there is no grey area when it comes to survival, we either reduce emissions or we don’t, we either survive or we don’t.” When you know this, the thought of speaking out is far less scary compared to the future we are heading towards! The transition isn’t going to be perfect and it is ok be vulnerable. But we must come together and be brave – courageously brave. We have the opportunity to shape the future through what we do today! And we must act now.
Remember your why.
As the leaders of today, the festival reminded us we need to know our ‘why’. What makes us get up after the 5th hit on the snooze. Why do we work? What are we deeply passionate about? Take some time out of your day for self-love and self-understanding. Look deeper. Why? Te ao Maori teaches us we must look back before we can look forward. Be proud of who you are and your whakapapa. Respect those that came before you and respect those that have been leaders in this space for a long time. Learn from what they have tried. Small connections can lead to larger imapct. Close your eyes. Find a space to come up with the solutions. How does this look? Dream big and push the boundaries!
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend Festival for the Future. I left TSB Arena with huge admiration for the number of inspiring young people in the room. I have so much hope for what is to come and what we can achieve when we collectively come together. So, find your passion and act now!