Confessions of a climate activist: Why we need millions of imperfect activists

Clover Hogan promoting her Confessions of a Climate Activist podcast

We sat down with the inspiring 24-year-old climate activist and founder of Force of Nature, Clover Hogan, to find out how climate activists battle the pressures of doing everything right, and find comfort – even power – in being an imperfect activist. 

This is in time for the launch of season 3 of the Force of Nature podcast: ‘Confessions of a Climate Activist’.

At Greenhouse, we are proud to fund and support Force of Nature’s work, inspiring the next generation to step up rather than shut down in the face of the climate crisis. The podcast offers funny, comforting and inspiring perspectives on a topic which can often feel the opposite.

Q: Why are you launching Season 3 of the Force of Nature podcast?

We’re so excited to be launching Season 3 of the Force of Nature podcast, “Confessions of a Climate Activist.” 

Everyone has a distinct idea of what it means to be an activist: maybe it’s a person glued to the road, or someone with a reusable coffee cup. We created this podcast to challenge these tropes, and pull back the curtain on activism: from dealing with burnout, to fearing cancel culture; the ethical compromises of making money, and navigating difficult family dynamics. 

My hope is that when folks listen to this season, and the vulnerability of the guests featured in it, they’ll see what activism can look like when it’s more honest and human.  

Q: What is your experience as a climate activist and how did that lead to being the founder of Force of Nature?

I was 11 when I first learnt about the climate and ecological crisis. Not long after, I declared to my parents over dinner that I wanted to become an activist. Since then, my activism has taken many different shapes: from creating documentaries about endangered species at 13, to negotiating with policy-makers at global climate meetings at 16, or challenging leaders in boardrooms in my early 20s. Ironically, I’ve only recently started taking to the streets – which I guess is what most people typically imagine when they hear the word ‘activist’.  

Activism has been the cornerstone of my identity for over a decade, which has been both awesome and really, really challenging. On the one hand, it has given me a purpose, a platform, a community… and I’m so aware of the privilege of even being able to call myself an activist when so many of my friends live in countries where it’s illegal. On the other hand, activism has been a source of frustration and heartache; whether it’s being on the receiving end of call-out culture, or alienating friends and family. So, it has been complicated.

I loved making this season because it showed me not only how individual and unique activism is to each person, but also how universal some of the struggles are. That helped me feel less alone, and empowered to explore what a more sustainable version of activism can look like.

Q: Why did you want to make a podcast about youth activists?

Youth activists hold a really influential place in pop culture. People have a defined idea of people like Greta Thunberg, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Vanessa Nakate – who they are, and what they represent. They’re also super quick to box them in. One moment, youth activists are being idolised as inspiring beacons of hope (we saw that during the 2019 youth strikes for climate) but the next, they’re vilified for being inconsistent, or even branded ‘eco-terrorists’ in the press.

We don’t often discuss the personal sacrifices, challenges and compromises that come with being a youth activist; the fact that you’re simultaneously trying to solve these hugely overwhelming problems, and being scrutinised, while stumbling your way into adulthood. This isn’t unique to Gen Z. Young people have been at the heart of activism throughout the decades: from the suffragettes to the civil rights movement, to the stonewall uprising. I’m curious about why young people are the most outspoken; how we can support them as activists long-term; and how we can stoke that creative, rebellious energy within older generations.

Lucky for me, I got to pose all of these questions – and more – to my friends Ziad Ahmed and Severn Cullis-Suzuki, a veteran youth activist, in episode 3, ‘How to have a quarter life crisis’.

Q: What would you say to people who are worried about being the perfect activist?

This was really the headline theme of the season, which is why our first episode with Tori Tsui is How to be a bad activist. It stemmed from a lot of conversations I’d had with the Force of Nature team, and with our community, about the culture of perfectionism in activism. So many of us have questioned, “Am I the right person to be doing this? Can I even call myself an activist if I’m contributing to the very problems I’m trying to solve?” 

I think it’s healthy to question yourself, or reflect on how your lifestyle could be more consistent with your values. But it is also useful to realise just how much this narrative has been used by big corporations to distract people and misplace responsibility. The fossil fuel industry created the carbon footprint calculator for this purpose: getting people fixated on their individual behaviour changes, to deflect attention from themselves.

So, if you’re worried about being the ‘perfect’ activist, I’d say listen to this episode. In it, Tori and I get real about our own imposter syndrome – but we also try to move the conversation from individual actions to collective activism… this idea that you’re never going to make a dent in these problems alone, especially if you’re worried about being inconsistent, so let’s instead focus on how we can work together to hold people in power accountable. And also create spaces within activism where it’s OK to make mistakes, and grow from them.

Q: What challenges do you and climate activists face today?

So many! For one, there’s the psychological toll of often being the disruptor swimming against the tide of the status quo; and potentially being alienated from friends, family or even wider society as a result. We talk more about navigating some of those difficult dynamics with Jamie Windust in episode 6, ‘How to ruin Christmas’. Another is simply trying to do this work in a way that is financially sustainable – and the potential compromises that come with this. I talked to Isaias Hernandez about this in episode 4, ‘How to sell out’.

But really, each of these challenges manifests in burnout – which I see very consistently in different activist spaces, across ages and backgrounds. If you look at the problems activists are taking on – the climate crisis, social justice, education, gender equality – they’re all huge, right? And infinitely complex. There will always be more work to do, and for most of us, activism isn’t a 9-5. It’s not like you switch off or stop caring at the end of each day. So finding ways to do this work while also centering your own wellbeing and mental health can be really, really hard.

I talked to my friend Ari about this in episode 8, ‘How to burn out with a bang’. We’ve both experienced this hamster wheel of overwork, burning out, being forced to take time out, and coming back once we’ve refuelled (or, in some cases, not come back at all). But Ari said something really insightful, which goes to the heart of it: “Achievement is not linked to your intrinsic worth.”

That’s the hardest part, right? For many of us, our self-worth is tied up in how successful we are at solving these problems – yet we have to accept that there’s never going to be such thing as ‘enough’… the problems we’re working on span generations. They won’t necessarily be solved in our lifetimes, and we won’t always know the impacts of our own actions. So we have to ask ourselves, ‘How can I show up every day? And how can I do it in a way that also fosters joy and community?’

Q: Is activism a full time job?  Should we support and fund youth activists in their work?

I’d love to live in a world where more people can be activists full-time, but there are loads of barriers to this. On the macro level, we live in an economic system that fails to value this work (as well as other vital industries, like education and healthcare), and instead benefits those who are harming people and the planet. That’s not to say you can’t make a career out of activism – I’ve been really fortunate in this way. But it has come with financial insecurity. I spoke to my friend Isaias about how this relates to privilege in episode 4, ‘How to sell out’.

The UK climate movement has received (deserved) criticism for being very white and middle class, which I spoke to Jaiden and Ben about in episode 2, ‘How to be an outsider’. There are loads of contributing factors here, but one is that most of activism is unpaid, meaning you need alternative income streams or support to participate. That’s not an option for young people who have other financial obligations – for example, who have student loans, or may be the sole earners in their families. Isaias also spoke to his own experience here – and how he’d received criticism for taking on brand sponsors, even though this has been one of the few ways he can effectively sustain his work as an environmental educator. 

At Force of Nature, we remunerate the young people we put forward for opportunities, and in 2022 piloted our first micro-grants for climate cafés. This is really important to us. Yet we recognise that one-off remuneration isn’t enough – we need green careers that enable a greater diversity of young people to grow long-term, without the personal sacrifice.

Q: At the end of each episode, you invite guests to share their climate confessions. What inspired this decision?

We were inspired by one of our favourite podcasts, Climate Curious, who do a similar thing with their guests. The idea is really to dismantle this myth of perfection in activism, by inviting people to share their ‘Climate Confessions’. I think that’s especially important for the guests we had on this show – from trailblazing youth leaders like Luisa Neubauer, to the legendary Christiana Figueres (both of whom feature in our final episode, ‘How to make an oil executive cry’). It’s easy to look at people like this, at the impact they’ve made, and think ‘how could I ever do what they do?’ Social media doesn’t help when we’re seeing everything through a curated, rose-tinted lens. At the end of the day, we’re all human, we’re all inconsistent, and that doesn’t discredit you from being an activist. As I’ve said before, we don’t need 100 perfect activists, but millions of imperfect ones.

Q: What’s your favourite quote from the podcast?

It’s so hard to choose! So I’ll share two. The first is in episode 6, ‘How to ruin Christmas’, where Fehinti says, “Climate change isn’t the problem. Climate change is a symptom of the problem. Climate change wouldn’t exist if it didn’t make someone money.” It’s a reminder that the climate crisis is the product of unjust systems which benefit a small number of people, and that leadership will not come from those who benefit from the system remaining unchanged.

The other quote is from Sophia in episode 5, ‘How to get cancelled’, where she said, “People’s perception of me does not need to influence my perception of myself.” In the age of social media, it’s easy to compare yourself to others, or to become immobilised by what other people might think. This conversation with Sophia reminded me to stay focused on the work, set aside fear of judgement, and not be at the whim of other people’s expectations. 

Q: When can we expect the first episode?

You can expect a new episode every Monday at 09:00 a.m UK time. The first episode drops on the 4th of March, featuring Tori Tsui, and is titled ‘How to be a bad activist’

We’d love to hear what you think, so please head over to Force of Nature’s instagram,, and leave a comment.

And if you’re between the ages of 16 and 35, you can join Force of Nature’s growing online community and access our free programmes and trainings, which help you develop the skills to take action. You can also find resources on our website. And, if you haven’t already subscribed to the podcast… well, you know what to do.

Q: Thank you for sitting down with us today, Clover.

Thank you so much for having me! And thank you to Greenhouse Communications for funding this season of the podcast. We genuinely could not have done it without you, and we’re so grateful for your ongoing work to uplift young activists.

At Greenhouse, we’re proud to support Force of Nature and their work in empowering young activists. We’re especially excited to get stuck into this podcast. 

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