IT is hard not to love nature, growing up surrounded by some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery.
So when you discover it is under threat, do you sit back and hope for the best, or do you do something about it?
If you are 15-year-old Holly Gillibrand, climate change school striker and environmental activist – described by some as ‘Scotland’s Greta Thunberg’ – you fall into the latter category.
“I have always been interested in the natural world, growing up in Scotland and spending some of my childhood in Tasmania,” she says. “As I got older, I learned about the things that threaten it. I wanted to do something about that.”
Holly is the 2019 Glasgow Times Young Scotswoman of the Year, following a public vote.
Our gala dinner, held in association with St Enoch Centre and supported by Grand Central Hotel, Scottish Passenger Agents Association, Mackay & Inglis and Jones Whyte LLP, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. We will announce our 2019 Scotswoman of the Year on Thursday.
All of the 2019 contenders, including Holly’s fellow finalists – champion fundraiser Molly Cuddihy, tech pioneers Ellora James and Mari-Ann Ganson, equal rights activist Razannah Hussain and mental health champion Corrie Shepherd – will be invited to the 2020 event to celebrate in style.
Born in Glasgow and now living in Fort William, Holly is helping to drive forward the growing global school strikes movement started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who stopped attending school to demand the government reduce carbon emissions.
“I saw what Greta was doing and thought – I could do this to help make a difference,” says Holly, who is a fourth year pupil at Lochaber High School.
“I was really honoured to be nominated alongside the other finalists, who are all inspiring. To win is a huge surprise. I hope it will encourage more people to look at what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
Holly is already having an impact – she was invited to speak at a number of high profile events, including the Green Party’s political conference and the Edinburgh Book Festival and she was recruited as an environmental correspondent for her local newspaper.
She has just been announced as a youth advisor and ‘future voice’ for charity Heal Rewilding, which aims to return more land to nature in the fight against climate change.
“When I was younger I thought I couldn’t be an activist, because making a difference was something only adults could do,” she explains. “But now I realise young people can make their voices heard – even louder than adults, as we don’t have vested interests, or bias. Whether it’s by joining the school strikes or supporting other movements, young people can make change happen.”
She adds: “If something is wrong, we are not afraid to say it. That makes us powerful.”
Glasgow Times Editor Callum Baird said: “All of our Young SWOTY finalists are amazing and Holly is a very worthy winner.
“We have all been inspired by her willingness to stand up for what she believes in, her passion for the natural world, and her determination to speak up in the fight against climate change.
“She is a fantastic role model for young people everywhere.”
Anne Ledgerwood, general manager of St. Enoch Centre and SWOTY judge, said: “St. Enoch Centre is proud to have been involved in SWOTY for many years.
“It has been very moving to see how much has been achieved by the nominees in the YoungSWOTY category and Holly is a very deserving winner.”
She added: “Her passion and commitment have shone through as she has campaigned tirelessly on climate change and she is making a valuable contribution on this important issue.
“Holly is leading by example and her work is inspiring others to follow her lead and play their part in protecting our planet for future generations.”
She adds: “St. Enoch Centre is honoured to be able to support SWOTY and celebrate the wonderful work Holly and other young women in Scotland are doing.”