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Jamaican Climate Change Youth Council seizes opportunity to continue advocacy amidst pandemic

A coastal beach area in Jamaica. Image by Brian Gibbs via Pixabay.

  • The Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council (JCCYC) is active and effective in its climate change advocacy mission for several reasons, says executive director Eleanor Terrelonge.
  • It’s targeting the more engaged youth demographic in the region through the digital media that they’re most familiar with.
  • It also has a full slate of events for the week leading up to Earth Day, through which it hopes to raise awareness, encourage discussion, and promote engagement.
  • Terrelonge says the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on a lot of issues linked to climate change, and serves as a preview of the long-term impact of climate change.

The terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Caribbean exist in a very delicate balance, which produces the exotic forms of life it has become famous for. On islands like Jamaica in particular, coastal life and inland resources represent a large part of the regional GDP. Alongside things like global warming, COVID-19 has presented the youth of Jamaica with a unique opportunity for their emerging brand of climate change advocacy.

The Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council (JCCYC), founded in 2017, has been engaging in climate change advocacy through things like new media. With these vehicles and their interactive, interconnective capabilities, the JCCYC is taking a new approach to advocacy. Despite the social distancing norms that have been put in place all over the world since the coronavirus outbreak, its 11-person executive body has found a way to continue its plans to improve environmental sustainability. Last year the council hosted a virtual conversation series called Covid Chat, intended to raise awareness and produce sustainable solutions for the environment.

One outcome of the pandemic has been a greater shift to the digital world as the new place for work and consumption. The JCCYC, spearheaded by executive director Eleanor Terrelonge, has decided to make the organization the place to advocate for conservation of the environment.

“[In 2017] I had a relationship with professor Dale Webber, he’s now the principal of UWI,” Terrelonge told Mongabay in a phone interview last week. Webber, who at the time was also chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Board, encouraged her to look into starting a youth arm. “I basically put it out on social media to see if people would be interested and the response was so overwhelming. I realized that young people are ready, and engaged so it became very important to organize ourselves into a group.”

A screenshot illustrating part of JCCYC’s approach to climate activism, which includes focused intention.

Targeting younger change-makers

The JCCYC’s target group is unusual: 15-35-year-olds. This is because even though climate change is evident, scientifically, the concept is a complex one. Even adults struggle or take time to comprehend or decide whether to believe. So this approach of targeting teens isn’t typical. The problem of climate change and its effects are present, however, and educating the youth about the conservation will largely determine how we deal with the reality as it continues to progress, according to Terrelonge. This approach addresses one of the cornerstone deductions of the conservation discussion, which is that the solution must be a lifestyle.

The council reports that many of the solutions from its Covid Chat event in particular have been incorporated into its new mandate for advocacy, which it has dubbed the Reimagine Plan. Through this plan, which takes into consideration not just things like coral bleaching, rising sea levels and other effects of climate change, but also COVID-19.

A group shot of JCCYC in 2017. Image courtesy JCCYC.

Forging ahead

The council has implemented several events: from a celebration of Global Recycling Day through a virtual thrift expo, to its upcoming Earth Day celebrations, JCCYC now has a solid footprint in Jamaica.

It’s a footprint that has managed to remain intact despite the pandemic.

Starting from April 18, they began a week of scheduled activities. A virtual climate ribbon ritual on April 21 created a space for both activists and environmentalists to voice hopes and wishes in their fight against climate change.

On Earth Day on April 22, they have a massive tree-planting goal of 700 trees across the island.

Finally, on April 24, they’ll be having two panel discussions under the theme “Thinking Sustainably” about environmental stewardship with guest speakers such as representatives from the maroon community along with other youth representatives.

In fact, Terrelonge noted the council had resolved to appreciate COVID-19 as an opportunity.

“I think what the pandemic did was shine a light on a lot of issues that climate change does also,” she said. “COVID-19 happened so suddenly, you could look at all of these effects at once, so it was kind of a preview of what climate change will do long term.”

When the pandemic forced many of us into lockdowns, the digital space became the new outside. Even Terrelonge voices a notable difference: “We’ve been able to connect more, it’s not that we weren’t able to connect before, but those online connections are a lot more intentional. It’s been really helpful and useful as a way of bringing like-minded people together.”

At times, as with any marketing endeavor, it really is a matter of starting the conversation, and JCCYC has proved it knows how to do that very well. With its ongoing recycling competition, named “Ready, Set, Recycle,” it has challenged both young and old to turn their attention to the reduction of pollution with the aid of some coveted prizes. The competition started March 18 and is slated to continue through mid-April.

There’s also the weekly IG live series titled “Lunch and Learn,” featuring notable environmentalists sharing their climate change know-how.

Earth Day is particularly special because it also happens to be the JCCYC’s birthday, in honor of which it will also be hosting an anniversary ceremony to celebrate its inspiring initiative. More details and a full schedule are available online at

Banner image: A coastal beach area in Jamaica. Image by Brian Gibbs via Pixabay.