Gina Gylver became a warrior against global warming at the age of 12. Born in Oslo, Norway, and now 18, Gylver told Dream Planet that It was not the sight of collapsing ice shelves that changed her, but the grinding poverty of Madagascar.
Taken to live for a year in the slums of that island country by her artist father during his ‘mid-life crisis’, Gylver realised that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but one about justice and social equality.
“That changed my perspective about poverty and injustice,” Gylver says. “Climate change is fundamentally unjust because we are the one polluting and they are the ones dying. They can feel the consequences already.”
The sudden awakening scared Gylver. On her return to Oslo, she felt frustrated and astonished by the lack of attention being paid to climate change in the 2013 Norwegian elections. To channel her feelings, Gylver’s mother suggested she join Nature and Youth, a national environmental organisation with 7600 members (all under 25) and 80 groups.
It was a turning point. Gylver learned to lead, starting with small local groups of a half-dozen fellow members and ascending to become a state representative, organising meetings, demonstrations and social events.
Not a natural public speaker, Gylver learned to overcome her nerves. “I started talking to small groups. I was shivering every time. I hated it. My stomach started hurting two days before every meeting, even though there were only seven people.”
That has changed. Gylver was MC at the opening night of the Urban-Future 2019 conference in May this year, in front of a crowd of 2500 participants, global climate change experts and the King of Norway, Harald V. Gylver says: “It’s not so different talking to seven people and talking to 2000 people. The concept is the same.”
Tattooed on Gylver’s ankle is the number 112—a reference to Article 112 in the Norwegian Constitution that is the basis of Nature and Youth, together with Greenpeace, suing the Norwegian government in the Supreme Court. The case against the government, brought in the Oslo District Court, was a fizzer, solving nothing. The court upheld article 112 as a right to a healthy environment, but then found that the Norwegian government was not breaching the right by granting new oil licenses to drill in the Arctic.
Gylver took two weeks off school (she is her final year studying in Spain) to attend the disappointing court hearing, dismayed by the dismissive tone that the lawyers defending the government used.
But Gylver is undaunted. “When we started, I thought, no way are we winning this case. But every day in court gave me more confidence. And after the first round in court there, there were no consequences for the government. But we think that this paragraph has meaning.”
As Gylver walked onto the stage on the opening night of the #UFGC19, her poise was impressive. She introduced each guest, which included the King of Norway, into the hall with elegance. But between each introduction, GG’s showed a fierceness and anger that was intentional, and heartfelt.
She was well aware that her youth, education and fresh-faced looks could be used to sanitise the issue of climate change and she wasn’t playing ball: “I know that many people want young girls or young women talking about climate change as a pretty part of their program, you know? It’s just decoration. I don’t want it to get rid of a reduced to that.”
Instead, she told she told more than 2,500 conference participants and dignitaries at UFCG19: “My generation has this problem to fight because my parent’s generation didn’t give a shit!”
I asked her about the emotion behind such a fierce statement. “We can’t forget that climate change is about emotions. It can so easily be reduced to political terms and talking and numbers. We forget that this is about my future. This is about people dying. That aspect is so easily drowned.”
Find a platform
Like any school leaver, Gylver isn’t sure what she wants to do once she graduates next year. “If I can be on stage and talk about what’s important to me, as well as introducing other people, then that’s perfect,” she says. “That’s really my problem now because you need a platform to speak from. This conference [UFGC19] has opened my eyes: there are so many passionate people with a project that you could get involved in.
“It doesn’t have to be any huge and established organization. And there are so many startups. I hope that I can find a place like that.”
What this space!