Farewell Letter – What a journey: thank you!
Author: Nathan Méténier
Writing about my time at Youth and Environment Europe is to reflect on the 3.5 years most empowering years of my life. When I first joined YEE, I was a grassroots activist, I had only been part of, or led, a few initiatives in France and in the UK. I had the extraordinary chance to get selected to join a training on how to best build grassroots environmental justice movements in Kilkenny, Ireland. During the training, even during the early breakfasts or the late dinners, someone would come and talk about climate or environmental justice.
It was so empowering to feel understood by other peer activists coming from all around Europe.
After 5 days, I came back to Scotland – where I lived at the time – feeling like a squeezed lemon, both completely exhausted and inspired like never before!
What a journey!
This training was a subtle taste of the amazing journey I was to embark on. From joining the Board of Youth and Environment Europe in 2019 and building our first advocacy campaigns from scratch with the kindest Chloé ten Brink, to leading large fundraising campaigns with my amazing colleagues Naïs and Tanya, and to bringing resources and capacity to climate justice youth movements on the ground: what a journey.
Joining YEE also provided me with an amazing platform to bring together some of the largest youth networks in Europe to build the largest coalition fighting for climate and environmental action from the European Union institutions in Brussels: Generation Climate Europe. I participated in my first European Union processes, launching the idea of creating the now so-called climate and sustainability roundtables, which brings young people from all over Europe and key European policy-makers together. All of this led to being nominated (among 4 other amazing young people), for Young European of the Year 2020.
I’ll never forget how this led to that day when, after watching a movie with my mum and while brushing my teeth, I opened my inbox and received an email from the U.N. Secretary-General, inviting me to become one of his youth climate advisors. I then joined YEE as the new Advocacy & Partnerships Manager where I strengthened my commitment to the organisation and tried my best to represent our members and organisations in my new U.N. mandate.
YEE is simply the most beautiful empowerment machine
By putting young people in control, YEE is one of the most beautiful examples that young people can govern, administer and manage an organisation.
While young people can get empowered by joining our campaigns, capacity-building events and advocating for environmental justice with us in international events, they can also lead the organisation themselves! This is the most empowering part. We worked together to grow the organisation, fundraised like never before, engaged with new partners and brought the organisation to where it is now: a professional, efficient and fun organisation to work in.
YEE became this essential network for local and national youth-led climate and environmental justice groups to get involved in broader campaigns and processes. Most importantly, the organisation is now also playing a key role to diversify the European youth climate movement, making sure that young people from marginalised communities and non-E.U. European countries can get involved. I am so proud of this!
It is a collective story!
We will never say it enough but the most wonderful thing at YEE is the people you meet.
It’s an organisation with almost 40 years of history. One of the funniest things I’ve experienced at YEE is when I go to international events or conferences I very often meet activists, negotiators, Ministers, leaders, and heads of institutions that were part of YEE at some point. But most importantly, YEE is diverse in itself and intersectional in its approach. We all come from different countries, and communities, we all have different backgrounds and yet we work together with joy, kindness and empathy. We come together because we fight to obtain the same thing: bringing about a fairer and greener transition to a better society, for all.
What is next?
After these crazy years, it is time for me to pass the baton to other amazing young leaders in YEE (Pegah, Agnes, Chloé, Bonolo, Anna and others).
Empowering one’s peers and giving space to others to grow is one of the most important parts of being in a youth movement.
It is also time for me to finish my studies (which I obviously always put on the side), write a book to hopefully empower many others and focus on one of the biggest barriers to youth climate justice action worldwide: the lack of access to funding.