Climate activist Isabelle Axelsson, bottom third left, takes part in a demonstration on the closing day of the World Economic Forum Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 24, 2020.
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ideas
May 21, 2020 6:44 AM EDT
Axelsson is a first-year student at Stockholm University and an organizer in the Fridays for Future climate movement

Many people expect climate activists like myself to have hope. Seeing thousands, even millions, of young people on the streets all over the world, and knowing that you are not alone in wanting to secure a safe future without suffering, must give us hope, right? For some, it does. However, many of us are struggling, or even at peace, with not having hope for the future. Instead, our activism is rooted in a sense of justice, perhaps anger, and definitely the need to do everything in our power to ensure that future generations don’t need to take on the same fight we are.

Being stubborn and not wanting to give up the cause, no matter how hopeless it seems, might sound depressing. But to me, it shows the strength of teenagers and young adults. Even though the task ahead of us may seem impossible, we are still prioritizing it and tackling it head-on because anything less than a future that ensures climate justice for everyone is unacceptable.

Still, even when it is not usually hope that drives you, it can sometimes be difficult to feel motivated, especially when you can’t feed off the energy of those who share your mission. Today, we are mostly stuck in our homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, communicating with friends and co-activists online, and unable to gather in crowds. For teenagers with no education about health care, staying at home and social distancing is the most important thing we can do to avoid spreading the virus. But sitting at home and studying while seeing all the death, the suffering caused by the economic situation and even people ignoring the crisis and not doing their part is incredibly frustrating. It’s doubly so for those of us who are used to identifying a problem and then using our physical presence to draw attention to it.

At the same time, however, this crisis has been a reminder of all the ways we can connect with like-minded individuals around the world even when we can’t get together in person. The situation might seem hopeless and society might never be the same, but that should not stop us from working toward a better future for everyone.

Whether it’s climate or another issue, you don’t have to feel hope to be motivated to keep fighting for what you believe in. Find something that pushes you to do what is right even when the future looks bleak. Maybe even especially when the future looks bleak.

This appears in the June 01, 2020 issue of TIME.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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