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Generation Change / Geographical

It was back in the summer of 2017 when I first heard about the US lawsuit “Juliana vs US” where 21 youths are suing their government over inaction on climate change.

Since I’ve been following the story, a lot has changed. Youth climate protest is now set to become a new civil rights movement, with a new wave of school strikes and protests drawing 1.4 million students onto the streets on March 15th.

For Geographical’s April cover story I talked to the named plaintiff Kelsey Juliana from the US law suit, and spoke also to some of the voices behind the informal but wildly influential protests that have taken dissent down to the streets.

Extract below. Cover and feature photos by Robin Loznak.

In November 2018 a 15 year old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg announced she would not be attending the award ceremony for the Children’s Climate Prize because other nominees would be making the journey by aircraft. Three months earlier, in the build-up to national elections, she had gone truant from school, instead travelling daily to the Swedish parliament building with a black and white sign – “School Strike for Climate.” Greta is open about her Asperger syndrome. The protest of this solitary child, seated on the streets and protesting with laser-like-focus on an issue that seemed bigger than her years made for uncomfortable viewing.


News of her strike spread. Greta steered her social media followers though the mire of equity issues, year-on-year emission cuts and nationally determined contributions – providing an unflinching fresh voice on the radically challenging realities of climate science. But solidarity, as with any social outlier, was slow coming at first. Drawn perhaps by the international media interest, as much as identifying with her cause, a trickle of children and a school teacher joined in. In Castlemaine, Australia a sympathy strike was called for Friday November 30th. Attempting to limit disruption, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s  condescending rant demanding ‘more learning in schools, and less activism,’ spectacularly backfired, encouraging an estimated 15,000 children in 30 localities across Australia to skip school and join the protest. Meanwhile Thunberg had been invited to speak at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Poland, travelling overland to Katowice by train. ‘You are not mature enough to tell it how it is,’ she scolded world leaders at their 24th annual attempt to mitigate climate change. ‘Even that burden you leave to us children.’ Thunberg is too young to even be a millennial, belonging to Generation Z, born from the late 90’s onwards. Yet here she was making decision makers squirm. Their attempts at climate change mitigation up to that point dismissed as child’s play.


Whilst the US youth lawsuit relied on existing structures of the legal system to achieve climate action, these young people in Europe and Australia were acting outside it. In the closing months of 2018, the Juliana plaintiffs’ much anticipated trial was once again delayed by the government defendant following a decision from Trump’s restructured Supreme Court. Thunberg’s strike against the system continued. By January 2019, the teen who has a diagnosis of selective mutism had an outreach of 356,000 accounts across her social media channels. (UNFCCC Exec. and former Secretary of Foreign affairs to Mexico, Patricia Espinosa, reaches only 89,000). On January 24th Thunberg’s #climatestrike rally-cry called 35,000 students onto the streets of Brussels.


One of them was Maxime Michiels, President of the Francophone students of Belgium. Age 22 (the same as Kelsey Juliana), the Belgian labour science student brought university students out to join school children on their march. ‘It’s important you don’t credit me for the strike,’ he insists, ‘the organisation is anarchic and there is no leader.’  The meeting point, he explains, is arranged on social media. ‘Without Facebook, without Instagram they would not be able to mobilise.’ But – and this seems key to understanding a generation maligned for being glued to their phones – ‘young people have overcome social media,’ going beyond “re-tweet activism.” Now, Michiels explains ‘they actually come down to the streets.’ Placards that day varied from the witty: “Procrastinating is our jobs, not yours;”  to the accusatory: “We skipped school, but you skipped your care of our planet;” to the outraged, “Fuck the system, before it fucks us.”  


Any leader attempting to dismiss these youths as merely bunking off school, only needed to tune into the World Economic Forum. A 16 Swedish girl with Aspergers was addressing the owners of the world’s resources: ‘Some people, some companies, some decisions makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.’  The climate youths were now on all channels.

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The 3000km Trespass / Geographical

It takes some careful pitching of ideas and an understanding editor to let you write about a 3000km trespass.

Since late 2017 I’ve been on the trail of this story – both on the ground in the Andes and in the halls of government as Chile prepares to pass a new “right to roam” styled access law. 

The Greater Patagonian Trail – as its creator Jan Dudeck calls it – is a 3000km network of animal tracks, arriero cowboy paths, indigenous peoples’ trails as well good ol’ deep-backcountry bushwacking linking Santago with the climbing mecca of Fitz Roy in deepest Patagonia.

This is the first publication from my year of adventures on the GPT, and includes conversations with Jan Dudeck about the trail’s creation and future development.

There’s a lot at stake with this project. And the trail’s character (somewhere between the Revenant and Reese Witherspoon’s Wild) is not for everyone. 

But if done right – the GPT could have far reaching consequences of environmental protection; promoting sustainable lifestyles and improving economic prosperity in the Andes.

Here’s a taster…

Continuing reading by subscribing at Geographical magazine.

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Juliana vs US / Geographical

PH. Robin Loznak/Our Children’s Trust

For the last year I have been following the story of 21 youths who are suing the US government.

Despite 50 years of awareness about the dangerous effects of green house gas emissions, the plaintiffs claim the government have affirmatively supported the fossil fuel industry and compromised their Constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.

On Oct 29th they were finally due to have their day in court. The court spectacle of diverse youths including musicians, indigenous communities and climate ambassadors who have marched across the nation and spoke in the UN was billed to be the “trial of the century.” A last minute intervention from the recently restructured Supreme Court delayed the trial – but the plaintiffs, their pro bono lawyers and citizens concerned about the impending climate crisis rallied outside court houses across the country.

In this article for Geographical magazine I interviewed other youth climate activists involved in direct action and litigation. I discovered that young people have an uncompromising vision for the drastic action needed to ensure intergenerational climate justice. And not just not their own long remaining lives, but for future generations too.

Read the article here


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Electric Cool / Geographical


For the October issue of Geographical magazine I investigated the proclaimed environmental and climate mitigating benefits of the electric racing series Formula E. 

The article includes interviews and comment from Paul Day from Aquafuel Research, Stephen Skippon from the Transport Research Laboratory and Julia Palle the sport’s Senior Sustainability Consultant .

The electric revolution that Formula E are showcasing will ameliorate inner city air pollution. In tackling climate change, however, I discovered the series have pinned their hopes for now on unabated, albeit-greener consumption. Instead, I argue that deep cuts in carbon emissions will require a deeper societal shift-of-gear towards more sustainable consumer as well as industry behaviour.


Geographical subscribers can continue reading. If you would like more information, please reach out.


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The Silent Giants of Pentland Firth / Geographical

Photo: SIMEC Atlantis

This August 2018 I investigated the burgeoning tidal energy sector for Geographical magazine, and interviewed the man in charge of the Scottish project that is now largest tidal stream array project anywhere in the world.

You can read it here (opens in a separate tab)

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Salmon Farming in Patagonia / Geographical

This May 2018 I got a tip-off that a Chilean salmon farming company was planning a controversial 72,000tonne processing plant at the heart of the Patagonian fiords in Puerto Natales. 

The deep dive research for Geographical magazine is a story of fishy politics, questionable farming practices and the changing geography of the salmon farming industry as they move into the near-pristine seas of the southernmost waters of the planet.

I would like to express my thanks for the interviews, comment and photography provided by the Citizen Education Council of Ultima EsperanzaGreenpeace Chile, National Geographic Pristine Seas scientist Alex Muñoz and Australis Seafoods.

Click here to read online in a new tab. 

The Greenpeace sign reads ‘This is what the salmon industry is hiding’ referring to the football-field sized space each concession occupies with depth of cages equivalent to a five-storey building. (Photo: Sergio Salazar/Greenpeace). Cover photo: Greenpeace Andino.