• Sannah van Balen

On Friday, 20th of September, climate strikes took place all over the world – a truly global event initiated by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement. In New York City alone, 1.1 million students were excused from school in order to participate in the strike.


I arrived a day early to the UN Young Climate Summit, taking place on Saturday that same week, and had a chance to participate. I marched alongside climate activists young and old in the streets of NYC. Even though I had seen pictures of similar marches, such as the women’s march, I was unprepared for the emotional effect it would have on me.


In situations where I don't agree with something, my go-to strategy is to rationalize, thereby eliminating the emotion, and start a conversation. I worried that the one-directional communication that strikes and marches offer would feel too angry to me.


Little did I know, I was up for a shock. Feelings of fear, hurt, love and hope were ingredients to the emotional cocktail I experienced. At different points during the march each of these feelings crept up and came out through a chant, a hug or even just a nod of understanding. I never knew the emotional power this movement could hold.


The pictures below will hopefully give you an idea of the march. I highly recommend joining the next climate action march in your town; the human unity it creates can feel magical.


  • Sannah van Balen

This week, 20-27 September, is completely dedicated to Climate Action. Climate strikes will be taking place all over the world, mobilising millions of young people and adults that refuse to accept the status quo. Over the last year, school climate strikers have been leaving their classrooms every Friday – following Greta Thunberg’s example and joining her Fridays For Future movement. Make sure you have a look on https://globalclimatestrike.net/ to see what climate action strikes and events are taking place in your area and demand action!


The Empowered Atom will participate in the Climate Strike in New York City, joining Greta Thunberg in marching to demand real action by our world leaders. The day also marks and remembers the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which destroyed many lives in Puerto Rico. A hint of what climate change could mean to our societies in the short term. The march will include speeches and performances that highlight the importance of immediate Climate Action.



On Saturday, the first ever UN Youth Climate Action Summit will take place at the UN Headquarters in Manhattan - a revolutionary day in climate policy. I have been selected to participate and join others young activists, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are committed to combatting climate change. In the afternoon we will get a chance to engage with world leaders and ask them the questions young people have been dying to ask. Find out how you can get involved too on https://www.un.org/en/actnow/index.shtml


This week, leading up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on Monday, is so key to our battle against climate change. It connects young people, scared and fighting for the future, to our current leaders - giving us opportunity to shape the future of the world together.

  • Sannah van Balen

Knowledge comes from everyone and combining our knowledge makes us strong.


Scientific knowledge comes from scientists, political knowledge comes from politicians, historical knowledge comes from historians and so on. Traditionally, these pockets of knowledge are separate and knowledge is transferred predominantly within the pocket- think of conferences, societies, and even cultures. Each pocket has its own world or infrastructure in which it functions.


This set-up can be very useful as it is effective when everything runs smoothly. Most problems can be solved within the pocket however, when a problem arises that hits several pockets at the same time – such as climate change – the set-up fails. Both my pocket, the scientists, as well as the politicians and historians cannot solve climate change within our own pockets. We are required to connect and to some extend merge – a common challenge.


Connecting to others happens when the communication is effective, building trust. Many books have been written about communication that is effective, connecting and non-aggressive. The reason being that it is not easy and requires practice. Our first test starts at the moment we are born: connecting to our families. From that moment on, each of us builds up our unique perception of the world and we start finding our appropriate pocket .


Climate change challenges the perceptions we already have and requires us to re-evaluate them. Sources of energy we have always been using and thought were great (e.g. coal) may not be great anymore. In the same way sources we may have ruled out previously may be useful to us in the future.



In this context nuclear energy is a source of energy that fits the second category. It is commonly labelled as a “controversial topic” as opinions on nuclear energy range from it being a great technology that offers solutions to it representing the end of the world. In reality, most topics are controversial until people can connect over it; then the topic becomes just a general topic, accepted and usually quite boring.


On March 23rd, I gave a TEDx talk on Nuclear: Facts, Feelings and Fantasy. I explored common perceptions in the industry versus those in the rest of society, in an attempt to take nuclear energy out of the taboo zone and into the talking-circle. The responses I received motivated me to keep bridging the technical world to the rest of society. It represented the start of the Empowered Atom.




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