Louis Chambers has flown across the world to try and make New Zealand a better home for future generations. In 2010 he represented New Zealand at the Copenhagen climate negotiations, and he is a member of Generation Zero, a movement that seeks to unite young people around a vision of a zero carbon New Zealand. Originally from Hawke’s Bay, Louis now studies law at Otago University. He is an Australian Law Students’ Association mooting champion and a reserve for the New Zealand Universities debating team.
What do you think it means to be a New Zealander in the 21st century?
As a New Zealander in the 21st century, I have a strong sense of pride in the culture New Zealand has built, and a passion for seeing it continue to thrive into the future. Most of us have grown up surrounded by those unique Kiwi characteristics – the never-ending summer holidays, the way people smile and wave when you drive past them on a lonely country road, the gutsy stance New Zealand has taken on big issues like giving women the vote or being nuclear free. Being a New Zealander is about having that identity, about standing up proudly for the culture we know and love.
What do you think are the major issues facing youth today and in the next 20 years?
One major issue facing youth is climate change. If we do not do something, then we will have to deal with rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and lost food production. At the same time, our generation is disillusioned with the political world. Today more than ever before, as young people are finding it harder and harder to get jobs, it is easy for youth to shut down. I think the overarching issue we face is how to come together as youth and start looking out for each other and for our future. As we grow up over the next 20 years, our challenge will be balancing the fundamentals – our jobs and our families – with the big picture – the need to prevent climate change and engage on the crucial issues of our time.
Why do you think youth should vote?
Apart from a few MPs in their late 20s and early 30s, most politicians are old. This means 40-somethings and 50-somethings are making some of the most crucial decisions about our future: how much tax we pay, what sort of education system we have. Of course, most MPs are experienced and intelligent people, but it’s not natural for them to consider things from our point of view. Voting is our chance to force them to look out for young people. Even politicians who genuinely care about youth issues cannot do that if they know that they will lose votes. Our votes give them the power to act on climate change, to worry about getting young people into jobs.
Why do you think it is important for youth to engage with the referendum?
Twenty years ago, you had two options: vote National or vote Labour. In fact, you did not even vote for National or Labour, you voted for the National or Labour candidate in your local area. Now, we have a multitude of different parties we can vote for, and we do that on a national, not a local, level. Is this a good or a bad thing? That’s for you to decide. My point is merely that even though the referendum seems to be on quite a dry, boring issue, it’s an issue that will shape every election in the future. Basically, voting matters. This referendum matters because it’s about the options we have when we vote.