The Climate Activist, Kate Harty

Personally, when I started out with my activism I was inspired by other activists around me. When I heard their stories and their opinions it helped to encourage me to take action. Every activist has their story. It is their stories that influence other people to take action. Due to this, I have interviewed some activists and I’m hoping that their stories inspire you to start your story.

Kate Harty has always been involved in climate activism from a young age. As Kate says “I come from a family of environmentalists in one way or another, so I was always taking small actions such as turning off lights, recycling, cycling and walking etc.” It is more families like that, that we need. We need parents and guardians who encourage their children to live more sustainably and to take action. This encouragement led to Kate “joining the green schools committee in [their] school 5 years ago.” Then their activism just grew from there on.

When asked about where Kate gets her inspiration from they said, “My grandmother was always a huge source of inspiration. She did environmental activism for about 30 or 40 years, right up to when she died. I remember making posters with her for a climate rally when I was about 7 on repurposed paper. Her actions were always small and often went unnoticed, but she inspired so many people.” This heart wrenching reply really shows how no action is too small. Even if you do small things often, it can have the hugest of effects on the people around you.

Kate's favourite part of the climate protests and strikes “is feeling like I’m getting my voice heard, like I’m able to make a difference in the world.” Kate began striking on the 15th of March 2019 and as Kate says they have “got to meet lots of amazing people through activism, especially through online actions and groups.” By joining strikes and protests you can meet many people with the same passions as you. You are connected with all of these people around you and you are in an environment full of those who are fighting for change. The passion is almost contagious.

Eco-anxiety is a feeling of panic and terror when thinking about climate change and what the future holds. This eco-anxiety can be found in many people because they receive devastating information about climate change and they don’t know what to do. It is a feeling of being engulfed by negativity where you just can’t find positivity. This eco-anxiety can lead to someone becoming too overwhelmed when thinking about climate change and climate activism or justice, so they end up ignoring it and turning away from it because it is too much. When asking Kate about eco anxiety I asked do the strikes help with it? Kate said “Definitely! The protests help a lot with dealing with eco-anxiety and it helps to have somewhere to channel it.” With eco-anxiety it can be difficult to deal with sometimes but you have to find somewhere to channel it or someone to talk to about it so it doesn’t stop you from helping to change the world.

Hate can be an unfortunate aspect of climate activism. Many people have mixed emotions about climate change and climate justice and so they can lash out at those trying to protest or take action. Of course, with anything, no one will ever agree with everyone. When protesting or being involved with activism, hate is an aspect that activists have to endure. When discussing hate Kate said that they have experienced hate because of activism and they have experienced it “Both on facebook and in person.” Kate had a great line that struck me with surprise and made great sense to me. The positive side to all of the hate is that “it means that we’re speaking the truth that needs to be spoken, and people often shoot the messenger of bad news.” Through activism the hate can prove that our work is working.

From taking part in activism you can learn a lot and I found it useful for other activists to share some of their knowledge and experience with me, to help me with my own activism. With Kate, “The biggest thing [they] learnt is that we can’t win this fight if we’re fighting purely out of fear or anger. We also have to fight out of love for the planet, other activists, the solutions, and with a certain amount of hope, even though [they] knows it’s challenging.”

When asked if it was hard for Kate to get involved with activism Kate said no, “because I have a supportive family and had a supportive school, but I’m quite privileged in that way and when you don’t have that support it can be quite challenging to start.” If you are starting out activism and you can’t find support from home or school, try to join a climate action group where you can get support from other people who believe in the same things you believe in and are fighting for change.

Mental health is a very important aspect of activism. We must take care of ourselves so that we can care for the planet, so it is important to look out for your mental health. Kate takes care of their mental health by taking “regular environmental breaks, where [they don’t] read the news, don’t check messages and just focus on something else for a while. Getting out into nature also helps.”

Kate's advice on joining climate action groups is, “Whatever group you feel most at home with!” is the group that you should join. “It’s OK to join a group and then find it’s not for you and move to joining another group. We’re all fighting for the same cause.” That is what is so special about sharing a passion, everyone is on the same page and they want what is best for one another because they are fighting for the same cause.

When asked about any actions to recommend to other people Kate says “While striking isn’t for everyone, it’s probably top of my list for people to try. Not only is it empowering a lot of the time, it’s also good at spreading the message quite far, depending on where you strike and for how long. The next action I’d recommend is lifestyle changes, and this can be done alongside striking. This would include reducing your waste, walking and cycling when you can and small acts of advocacy, eg asking for paper rather than plastic bags, or bringing your own; asking for local products; checking the ingredients list and reducing meat intake etc. And remember, it’s up to all of us to do things imperfectly, not up to one person to do everything perfectly!” And I’ll leave you to ponder on those inspiring words, which will hopefully help encourage you to take action or continue taking action.

Thank you Kate for your brilliant, insightful answers!