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Anja Stang

January 30, 2023

Penelope Lea: Sustainability is one of the most beautiful words I know

The brave teenager – often referred to as “Norway’s Greta Thunberg” – has led The Children’s Climate Panel (Barnas Klimapanel) and held impactful talks during the United Nations’ climate negotiations in Bonn and Arendalsuka, Norway’s largest political gathering.

Tell us a bit about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Penelope Lea, I am 16 years old and live in Oslo. I work politically as a climate activist and UNICEF ambassador.

What does a day in your life look like?

As the schools are now on code red due to a rise in Covid infections, I’m being taught both at school and at home. I bike to school and the route has several hills, which is probably the closest I get to flying!  

After school I often work with UNICEF and climate related issues. We keep fighting – young and old all over the world – for a sustainable and fair future. Even if we can’t do everything the way we used to, we are still here! By fighting for the climate and biological diversity we are already starting the work to prevent future pandemics.

What does the term “sustainability” mean to you?

Sustainability is one of the most beautiful words I know. Sustainability means that we must live in ways that cover our needs on societal, environmental and economical levels. Ways that future generations can replicate as they will also cover their needs.  

Why is it crucial that we take action for the environment now?

Our whole future and our lives (as well as future generations’ lives) are at stake. The climate crisis is a threat to everything – to food safety, health, human rights and children’s rights. The climate crisis, solidarity crisis and biological diversity crisis are all intertwined. We can’t solve one without solving the others. Like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), like humans.

We depend on each other, on people from different parts of the world. Our lives are so closely connected. We won’t live good lives unless we manage to create good lives for others too.

What about living sustainably do you find easiest?

The easiest part is that if you want it to work, it will. There is so much information out there about how we can live a more environmentally friendly life. For me, that is a reminder of what brings me joy and what is important during my day.  

What do you find most challenging about living more sustainably?

Some everyday choices are harder to make than others. The reason for this is that the climate-friendly choices are not always easily accessible. Money is a central factor in this. For example, the life cycle of products is shorter than before as the large companies want us to buy new products sooner and make more money – and that’s really bad for the environment. We must keep pressuring politicians and decision makers to create a brave and long-term environmental policy that makes it easier for us as consumers.

Which advice would you give to someone looking to live more consciously?

Educate yourself on the current situation. So much is happening in the understanding of and the work with the SDGs nationally and globally. When you understand the scope of the crisis we’re in, it will be easier to see how everything we do is connected and how everything can be done in a better way for the environment. I recommend joining organizations that work for this, there are so many out there. Use your voice! We need you.

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