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STEM Story: Selin Gören of Fridays for Future Turkey

How did you get involved in climate/environment activism?

“I was doing permaculture at my high school during 10th grade with my geography teacher. We visited the Belentepe Farm in Bursa run by Taner Aksel. My experience with permaculture reminded me of how distant from nature we live and study, and that the problems of the world can't be studied solely from a textbook. We need to observe and remind ourselves that we, as Homo Sapines, are just a species among many others, not the master of all the others. Once I realized that the artificial system built by human beings emphasizing constant growth and profit is the main cause of the Anthropocene Extinction and climate crisis, I started feeling that it's a moral obligation for me to become an advocate for the environment. When I started listening to Greta’s speeches and met the Fridays for Future movement, I realized that spreading this movement among Turkish high schools would be a great way for me to turn my ideas and concern over the environment into concrete action.”

What is global warming and what causes it?

“Global warming is one of the most important side effects of the climate crisis. (But it’s important to remember that the climate crisis is a much more complex problem and can’t be solely explained by the globally rising temperatures.) The main cause of global warming is of course carbon emissions. That’s why eliminating the burning of fossil fuels and replacing them with renewables is a crucial part of our fight to create a sustainable future. Also, a common misconception is that the climate crisis leads to rising temperatures anywhere, anytime. This is a highly dangerous misconception because then the fact that some regions experience extreme colds in abnormal months may lead people to argue that “global warming is a hoax”. Although there’s of course a general trend of rising in the global temperature averages, in the broadest sense, the climate crisis shifts seasonal normals and leads to extreme heat/cold. Therefore, global warming defines a trend, rather than a certainty.”

What are some possible threats of climate change and how is our climate expected to change in the future?

“The climate crisis, just like any other crisis, affects the most vulnerable communities first. Communities who rely on agriculture as their main source of income will be hit hardest by this crisis, since the shifting seasonal normals make it really hard to plant or grow crops. With the climate crisis, natural disasters like floods, forest fires will also increase in frequency. The melting of ice caps will lead to rising sea levels, and many islands, even countries will start to submerge. We’ll experience a huge loss in biodiversity, and all these aren’t just impending catastrophes; they have already started. The mosaic tailed rat was the first mammal that went extinct due to man-made climate crisis. The forest fire in Australia led to the extinction of many endemic bird species. The list goes on. It’s important to realize that we only have 8 years left to reverse the effects of the climate crisis according to the UN IPCC report. After that point we’ll have no control over the process. Therefore, we need to act, and we need to act now. Every country should abide by the rules and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement in order to fix the mess we created as humankind.”

As a young activist, what are some challenges you faced throughout your experience?

“When I first started climate activism, it was the junior year of high school which was the most challenging one for me because there were many exams that I had to take in order to study at a US university. I was engaged in lots of clubs at school, so I had many responsibilities there as well. Simultaneously, there was this movement that I was leading, and I wanted to work hard to make sure Fridays for Future was active in more high schools around Turkey. Therefore, at first, it was hard to balance school and activism. But as FFF Turkey reached more people, I met amazing young activists who helped me a lot in my journey. When they got involved, they also devoted their time to make sure FFF continued reaching other cities of Turkey. Their help really lifted the weight of my shoulders, so I could also concentrate on my college application which led me to Yale University. I think this clearly highlights the main reason why FFF is such a successful movement. Because it’s a grassroots movement and is based on collaboration and solidarity.”

What are some measures we should take in order to protect the environment?

“I truly believe that even though individual actions like going vegan, or reducing plastic consumption count, the only way we’ll be able to bring about a substantial change is if we engage in collective action. Because the climate crisis is such a massive problem, the solution requires a massive change in the system. The only way we, as citizens, can push for this change is by protesting and raising our voices for our right to a clean/habitable future. Therefore, the best thing that each of us can do to protect the environment is to support the climate action/activism groups such as FFF, Extinction Rebellion, 350 org. Everyone who cares for the environment should join the climate strikes and devote part of their resources/abilities to help uplift the environmental movement.”

What advice would you give to young students who want to become environmental activists?

“First of all, it’s very important that you educate yourselves on the climate crisis. We, as climate activists, are always drawing attention to the scientific findings and uniting behind science; therefore, it’s important to have a firm understanding of the problem before you start. The UN IPCC report is a great place to start learning the details of the climate crisis. When it comes to the advocacy part, I’d recommend that you watch the speeches of some leading activists such as Greta Thunberg, Xiye Bastida, Vanessa Nakate, Melati Wijsen. Observing how they express themselves and their concerns would be a great roadmap for everyone who also wants to become an advocate for the environment. I personally learned a lot from my other activist friends, and I think this sharing of knowledge and inspiration is one of the best parts of being part of an international movement.”

If you’d like to check one of my own live interviews, here’s a link:

Instagram: @selin.goren

Twitter: @selingorenden

Interviewed by: Yasemin Şukal

Graphic by: Vani Thupili

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