Unlikely eco protester Anaheta Sharifi
Eco protestor Anaheta Sharifi speaks out about not fitting the typical activist demographic. Picture credit: Anaheta Sharifi

Greta Thunberg might be the archetypal eco-warrior in many people’s eyes but, in fact, the climate activist community is broader than we might think.

Alex Becker from Rugby began protesting for action against climate change six years ago when his children were small.  

“Several years ago I realised, if in the future, things are awful and my two children ask me what I did about it, and I couldn’t look them in the eyes and say, I tried, then I don’t think I would be able to live with that,” says Alex, 41. 

Alongside his full-time role as a waste services development officer for Rugby Borough Council, Alex volunteers for Transition Town Rugby, a campaigning group. 

“My vision is if we can bring enough people together with the little things that they’re doing, we’ll start to build up this impression that there is more going on than people realise,” he says.

Alex Becker at Climate change event
Alex Becker is organising a Community Climate Cafe event to bring members of his community together and raise awareness of climate change. Picture credit: Alex Becker

Climate activism appeals more to younger generations, the statistics suggest. The  Government’s Public Attitudes Tracker Survey found that only 24% of people aged over 65 were concerned about climate change. 

“For my parents’ generation, they were never educated about it because it wasn’t an issue in those days,” Alex agrees.

Just the other day, my dad was talking about when everyone used to mend their cars and pour the engine oil into the ground because that’s what you were advised to do, these days that would be seen as a crazy and awful thing to do.”  

People become more conventional in outlook as they get older, he thinks.

“And if you consume more ‘Conservative’ media, then that story is less likely to be promoted or sometimes questioned. If you’re reading those kinds of newspapers, you will probably find more climate denial.”

According to YouGov, only 58% of men are worried about climate change compared to 75% of women.  

Alex says: “Our Transition Town Rugby Facebook demographics reflect about 75% female to 25% male. As men, we are less good at sharing our emotions and talking and that is a big part of it. The men I know who do this are quite open emotionally and tell you about their climate grief.”

Alex’s friends were surprised when he shared his interest in climate activism. And while some reacted negatively and told him that he is wasting his time, most reactions were supportive.  

He says, “I worry that my children’s and their generation’s lives will be severely impacted, I don’t feel like I have a choice, I just have to do it.’ 

Britons aged 18-24 are more likely to worry about climate change than those over 65, yet a decreasing number of this demographic believe that the change is happening.   

Ben Mishan, 24, a student from Nottingham Trent University regularly participates in climate protests. 

Ben says: “My dad brought me up around climate change, I’ve always cared about it, it’s terrifying that a decreasing number of young people believe in climate change. 

“I think it’s come about because of Donald Trump, fake news and counter-arguments to climate change which are not based on fact but are spread very far.”

Ben believes that men are less concerned about climate change due to toxic masculinity. 

“It’s one of those things like men caring less about eating meat or talking about their feelings. They care less because they don’t think they need to,” he says. 

Ben Mishan advocating for change
Ben Mishan participating in a protest advocating climate action. Picture credit: Ben Mishan

The Just Stop Oil group who are known for blocking traffic as a method of protesting have received widespread backlash for the disruption their protests cause. 

Ben says, “I hate the stigma that protesters get, they’re fighting for you, your family and everyone and for them to receive hate is the most angering thing.”   

He added: “I hate when current protesters are in trouble or get picked up by the news, they’re always in receipt of hate about the way they look, usually to a stereotype.”

Anaheta Sharifi field organiser for Aid Alliance works to campaign and improve government policies on climate action. 

Anaheta says, “I’m 25, female and a British Iranian, I don’t fit the typical demographics of what you would expect a climate change protester to be. People are always shocked that I like to get involved in these things, not a lot of people from my community would want to participate in activism.”

UN figures show that 80% of people affected by climate change are women who are more vulnerable when natural disasters such as floods occur. 

Anaheta says, “What we’ve found in our work is that men who are middle-classed or middle-aged are less likely to participate in climate activism, campaigning and protests, this could potentially be because they are the least affected by it.”

She adds: “I may be classed as an unlikely protester but it’s just important to do this work, at the end of the day we are all human and efforts from any social group, gender or age group, it adds up to a bigger end result.”