The Elders

Independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

Guest blog

Meet the Youngers: Sara

“When I was five years old, I discovered that something is seriously wrong with the way people treat our planet.”

Sara from Sweden is one of four young environmental activists taking part in the Elders+Youngers debate leading up to the Rio+20 summit. In this blog she writes of her inspiration and experience advocating for practical solutions to environmental issues – with governments and at a grassroots level.


In a press conference during the UN Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009, I explained to media why I was fasting for climate justice. As a moral response to an immoral situation, I spent 43 days and 44 nights on hunger strike, eating nothing and drinking only water.

As a sustainability leader, I spend time between campaigns in the outdoors. There I gather strength by reminding myself of my eco-centric values inherited from my parents and elder generations, and experience humanity's interconnectedness with nature on a deeper level. This picture was taken in March 2012 in Ngong Hills, Kenya.

As an intern with the United Nations Environment Programme in 2012, I'm conducting research to rediscover the past, analyse the present, and imagine the future of UNEP's relations with civil society. I'm designing innovative models for multi-stakeholder participation in global governance for sustainable development.

In 2009, instead of flying between the UN climate talks in Asia and Europe, a friend and I decided to travel overland between the negotiations and turn our low-carbon journey into a 100 Days Moving Climate Campaign. In this photo we had just reached Vietnam, where we met up with a local youth group and encouraged them to influence their national decision-makers to act boldly against climate change.

I’m Sara Svensson from Sweden, and I will be 65 years old in 2050. Until then and beyond, I’m devoting my life to sustainable development.

When I was five years old, I discovered that something is seriously wrong with the way people treat our planet. I became an environmental activist on a cold winter day, when I was stopped from eating polluted snow. In response to that experience, I decided to do all that I can to make it safe for future children to eat snow.

In the coming years I have realised that the problem will be much bigger than just dirty snow. Climate change threatens the very existence of snow in the place where I grew up. And worse – if we fail to act, the future might not even have any children. Luckily, this doomsday scenario can still be changed. Sustainable development is an opportunity to redefine our common values and bring about the kind of world that most people everywhere want.

Committed to realising this vision, my campaigning takes many different forms. On the governance level I’m lobbying decision-makers as a youth advisor for the United Nations Environment Programme. On the grassroots level I’m building the future we want by making my own lifestyle more sustainable, as well as empowering change makers through capacity building for civil society. As an academic activist I’m conducting research about the global environmental governance system and designing options for reform. When situations so require, I’m a supporter and practitioner of non-violent civil disobedience.

I’m proud to be part of the growing global movement for a sustainable and equitable world.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.