Why should we #GiveAVote?

#GiveAVote is a youth activation campaign powered by the European Youth Card Association (EYCA) and the European Union, led by 25 young activists from 13 EU member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia.

The main aim of this campaign is to encourage all young people to vote in the 2019 European Elections and all elections in general. In the 2014 European Elections, a disappointing statistic was released – a mere 28% of young people voted – the lowest turnout among all age groups.

The aim of the campaign is not to influence one’s opinion about who you should vote for, but it is rather trying to emphasise how you have your own opinions and you should fight to express them on voting day.

“The European Parliament has a lot of power to decide on many of the things that matter to you.”

Travel, Education, Jobs, Environment, Shopping, Equality, Online safety, and Volunteering abroad – all important decisions made by the EU that affect each and every one of us.

Most young voters seem to think that one vote won’t make a difference. It is this lethargy which is such a massive problem – if young people don’t vote, how can they expect the outcome they want?

The Yuppie spoke to a young Maltese activist, Steven Bajada, who is actively supporting the Give a Vote campaign:

1. How did you find out about the Give a Vote campaign?

I have been active in projects that Agenzija Zghazagh run for close to 2 years, and it was through the agency that I found out about the campaign. The European Youth Card Association (EYCA) was looking for a group of young people from 13 different EU countries,  ready to lead and run a campaign about the issues they care about, and I felt this was a great chance to be given a platform to push environmental protection up the political and national agenda.

It was fun to go through the hurdles of making a youtube video, (oh dear, I look so bemused like I just found out that oh cameras can record ooh – proceeds to look at screen not camera for most of video) writing a motivation letter, sending a CV and passing an interview. But now we’re here.

2. What inspired you to participate?

In brief this comment by Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), inspired me to participate.

Holding climate change to the level outlined in the Paris Climate Accord (1.5 degree celsius – we are already at 1 degree celsius)  is still possible; “We have shown that it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. What we need is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”

This is what I want to change. And I saw this campaign as a great platform that would enable me to shake things up, and push the protection of the environment, combating climate change and protection of biodiversity to the top of the political and national agenda.

3. In your video you spoke about biodiversity loss. Why do you feel this is important? What are your experiences related to this topic?

We do not conquer the natural world, we are part of it. To destroy the natural world, is to destroy ourselves.

I always took an interest in current and environmental affairs, and I did grow up reading National Geographic Magazines, science and history books. Of late, I recently read a number of books by the historian Noah Yuval Hariri , foremost of which are “Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind,” and “21 problems for the 21st Century.”  I also read “The God Species: How Humans Can Really Save the Planet,” and “Six degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet” by the environmental activist Mark Lynas (yes I read a lot ok). All books comment either in passing or detail ecological decline or the mass extinction we have set off, and the impacts this will have on our lives and the lives of future generations. The more I read the more I recognised that I do have a choice – either read, and do nothing or try learn more and push, agitate for change.

On a more experience linked level. Last summer I did voluntary work that consisted of snorkelling and recording data for a local conservation organisation. I read up on local marine biodiversity, and snorkelling I can say there is still a rich diversity. It was pretty surreal to be surrounded by shoals of fish above, with posidonia meadows below and a mediterranean moray eel just a few metres ahead. This surreal moment, was however interrupted by swimming into a plastic bag, or packaging of some half degraded not degrading wrapper. (screams internally)

Beyond the experience level, there is a strong utilitarian and even economic argument to protecting biodiversity. Ecosystem services provide us with clean water, clean air, while pollinators labour away providing food security and a nutritious diet to a lot of us. Furthermore, from a more medical perspective, remaining areas of forests could yield new drugs, antibiotics and other therapeutic agents. For example, Calanolide A a drug (as of 2015 in clinical trials) that has shown significant anti-HIV effects, was first extracted from an expedition in the tropical rainforests of Borneo. When researchers returned to gather more samples, the area had been deforested, and it was feared that a potential treatment option had been lost. Thankfully, the British Empire had collected samples 100 years earlier and some members of  this tree species were found growing in the Singapore Botanical Garden.

4. How did your passion for politics and therefore activism ignite?

My passion for politics started with my experience representing Malta in the Model European Parliament, first as a delegate in Helsinki November 2017, and then as a committee president in Toledo 2018. I also took part twice in Maltmun, debating climate change and pandemic preparedness respectively.

Researching and then debating multiple issues, be it income inequality or the concept of a common EU army, was something I enjoyed. I do genuinely feel that politics, through the process of compromise to build consensus in certain areas, but also holding your ground and forcefully pushing your points across in other cases, “can be the art of making what seems impossible, possible,”  to quote Hillary Rodham Clinton.

5. So, in your opinion, why should we, each and every one of us, vote?

Every election presents us with a choice – which story would we like to play out for the next 5 years? Vote, and you pick the story. Do not vote, and others pick for you.

From my end, in this campaign I am politically neutral. But in line with my cause, I would like to see politicians elected who are aware of an extinction crisis, and willing to act.

A future where the story of climate change is one where we pulled ourselves from the brink. Where climate change served as the stimulus that showed us that we need to change reckless consumption, fixation on growth figures, population growth, and instead started living within ecological boundaries. One where we had used climate change as a stimulus that made us build a green economy, made us transition to a healthier way of life and build clean transport network systems. This story can still play out. But only if we act now, and vote.

Gabrielle Grixti

18 year old permanently exhausted medical student.
I feel that I can properly express myself through my writing, and that it's a great way to make myself heard, so that I too can someday make a difference in this complicated world.

Gabrielle Grixti

18 year old permanently exhausted medical student. I feel that I can properly express myself through my writing, and that it's a great way to make myself heard, so that I too can someday make a difference in this complicated world.