The generation of change – Sophia

The Generation of Change

Words and video by SOPHIA SKARPARIS

At 14, Sophia Skarparis mobilised over 12,000 people to sign a petition to ban plastic bags. Her video narrative highlights the immense potential for youth activism and individual agency in driving transformative change. The following text is the transcript from her video, which can be viewed online.

Every second breath we take, this oxygen comes from the ocean, no matter where we live on planet blue. We are intrinsically connected to the environment. Some call me a tree hugger – a term I proudly embrace – but this language creates a disconnect.

We exist in an interconnected web of energy, and it’s no coincidence that our home provides us with water, air, and food. It’s practically a miracle. We’re the only planet in this solar system with life.

We have a symbiotic relationship with nature. We depend on it, and it relies on us.

Growing up amongst the natural beauty of Australia, my childhood was entwined with beachside adventures, father-daughter camping trips, and milestone moments on the football fields.

But I must confess that, at times, I took this beauty for granted and exploited the earth’s resources. I’m reminded of moments when alarm bells rang; driving home from school camp with warring fires too close for comfort; clutching onto loved ones; swimming in the Great Barrier Reef alongside pale and sickly coral; witnessing plastic pollution littered on our fields; enduring unbearable heatwaves; my neighbours’ houses flooding during the torrential rain.

This part of my childhood provoked emotions of fear, and a sense of loss regarding what the future holds, and what it would be for the next generation to inherit.

These problems are symptoms of our actions and choices. At age 14, driven by a profound sense of responsibility, and a deep connection to our natural world, I mobilised over 12,000 people to design a petition to ban single-use plastic bags.

Now older, I realise the real crisis isn’t just global warming, environmental degradation ot the loss of biodiversity. It’s us.

The use of plastic bags is a symbol of our disconnect and our throwaway culture. We are the only creatures on this planet that create a material that cannot break down. I stood up, not as an expert or an activist, but as a young person who was terrified of the impacts of the choices made today.

It wasn’t easy. I faced skeptics who doubted the impact a teenager could have. There were moments of frustration and deep doubt, but I persisted. I knew that this wasn’t just about a plastic bag; it was about the future of our planet, and the generations to come. Word by word, signature by signature, the petition grew.

Presenting the petition showed me that some leaders have forgotten their duty to our planet, and future generations. This fuelled the fight and I learned that there were other ways that change could happen. After over five years of campaigning, finally, in 2020, New South Wales banned the plastic bag, due to a combination of actions. When we unite, we can usher in a new era of love, connection, hope, and freedom.

Some leaders have forgotten their duty to our planet and future generations.

Can you hear that? It’s the earth’s heartbeat racing towards an uncertain fate. I can’t help but grapple with the uncertain notion that we may be the last generation to experience the world as we know it. Climate change haunts our future, casting a shadow of uncertainty and eco-anxiety.

We’ve inherited a monumental challenge, and the clock is rapidly ticking. Despite the gloomy outlook, there is hope.

Generation Z has proven to be a powerful force, advocating for climate action, demanding change, and pushing for sustainability.

We have the potential to shift our planet’s trajectory.

Time is of the essence and together we hold the power to rewrite the future for the better.

Let my story remind us that change is possible, that our actions matter, and that the fight for a better planet and future is one worth fighting. As a team of youth, we represent 100% of the future. And it’s our duty as game-changing stewards to rekindle our profound bond with nature.