Facing the Ruptures: A Youth Perspective on Hope and the Geoengineering Debate


Much like many others, I would prefer not to talk about climate interventions. I would prefer to talk about systemic change, sustainable living, emission reductions, and other things I know many of my peers would agree with. I would like to talk about all the hope I have for the future.


By Anni Pokela, Speaker and Strategist, Operaatio Arktis, Master’s Student, University of Helsinki


However, parts of our Earth are already breaking down in ways that only climate interventions – sometimes known as geoengineering – could halt. This situation, to me, means two things. It means that it is time to research these interventions. And it means that we need to change the way we look for hope.

In our youth-led project Operaatio Arktis we have been trying to learn and analyze the various reasons why so many people from climate activists to researchers to policy makers are so thoroughly opposed to even researching climate intervention techniques – even though science clearly states that the catastrophic risks can no longer be avoidable with just emission reductions. First of all, people often have very legitimate concerns about the possible techniques. I have them too. Interventions involve risks and unknowns. This argument, however, seems to weaken upon further examination. Aren’t the risks precisely why we should do more research, and do it ethically? After all, it is not until we have more scientific knowledge that we can compare the risks of interventions to the risks of not intervening in the collapse of Earth system elements.

In my experience, the underlying reason for being against any type of research on interventions has actually, in some cases, less to do with the science and the risks and more to do with something more emotional. That is what I would like to discuss.

I believe that one of the most common reasons why this issue is so difficult for many is the overwhelming uncomfortableness and sadness of our situation. Accepting the need to discuss climate interventions means accepting that we have failed to cut emissions fast enough; failed the people who are already suffering from global warming. Let’s not be afraid to use that term: it is a failure that we have come to this – to this point where pieces of Earth systems are already beginning to collapse in ways that even getting to net zero emissions will not be enough. We, especially my generation, have already lost some things.

I was asked to discuss in this piece, among other things, what gives me hope for the future. I do have hope – otherwise I would not be doing the work that I do – but I struggle with talking about hope when me and my peers’ situation and our grief about it are not being confronted. Many of us are in mourning, and we are told to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps, and to inspire hope before even having a chance for a funeral.

When older people express their worries to me about what my future looks like on our current trajectory, I usually want to tell them: “It’s worse than you think.” To the people who are worried about the anxiety and sadness I feel about this, I want to say: “It’s worse than you think.” It makes for an uncomfortable dinner conversation, but it is only when people around us realize and confront the absolutely horrifying nature of our situation that we can come together and move forward. That is what creates real hope in me.

This is in many ways how I view the process of understanding the need for additional measures alongside emission cuts. We need to learn how bad things are with the Earth system elements in order to help them and to intervene in their destruction. Because much like in many of these systems, something has already broken in us young people.

It is clear to me that both of these ruptures can be repaired. If we already knew that climate interventions do not work, we could move on to accepting the damage that is unavoidable and go back to only talking about mitigation and adaptation. But we are not there yet. I also believe there are possibilities to find solace and hope in my generational experience. However, you cannot heal a wound before you really look at it. So instead of continuing to follow our old strategies that have brought us here, my hope is that we turn towards these ruptures around us and in ourselves and that we come together to grieve. Then, we can reassess our possible pathways.