The growing influence of TikTok is undeniable, especially for those aged 13 to 25. It isn’t surprising, then, that potentially the most pressing issue of this generation has a voice on the platform: the climate crisis.
For the uninitiated, TikTok is an app where users create clips anywhere from just a few seconds to one minute in length. Launched in 2016, it started as a place for teens to share lip syncing and dance trends but what is being shared has changed dramatically over the last year or so.
Now users creating educational content can attract just as much attention as comedy, fashion or music. As TikTok creator and BBC journalist, Sophia Smith Galer put it, “its success is a refreshing revolution for meritocratic self-expression”.
Despite being shorter than on other platforms, these videos have become a powerful tool for its young users to highlight some of the most pressing issues of their generation. With 61 per cent of Gen Z in the US using social media as their daily news source, TikTok has rapidly developed into a place for political protest and debate.
Last year a group of users even banded together to disrupt US politics. They reserved tickets to a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, taking credit for the lower than expected attendance at the event as a protest against then-President Trump’s choice of date and location.
TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020. With more than 1 billion monthly active users, the social media platform has evolved into something far more than just a viral video factory.
Introducing EcoTok: the TikTok environmental ‘Hype House’
The idea for EcoTok emerged in July last year. Created by US high school student, Alex Silva, science communicator Abbie Richards (who first went viral after calling for golf to be banned) was soon on board. Since then it has expanded into a content creation ‘hype house’ with an ever evolving roster of around 20 different diverse contributors.
“I think that’s what makes our collective so special,” says Alaina Wood, a member of the group’s executive board. It is made up of Richards, Silva and Wood with Sabrina Wisbiski, a zero waste advocate, as the fourth.
“I know that there are other groups that are just activists, or just scientists or just youth, you know, or maybe people later in their career. I think that’s what makes our message so unique is we get every perspective possible,” Wood adds.
With more than 80 thousand followers and 1.2 million likes on the platform, EcoTok’s contributors have included the likes of marine biologist Carissa Cabrera, environmental justice advocate Isaias Hernandez and SciAll founder Mile Gil. They say that among their ranks you’ll find everything from scientists to students to activists and civil servants.
If you are tempted to think it is just teens creating ‘silly’ videos, think again. The executive board themselves have some impressive credentials. Wood works in waste and water management with a degree in geography and sustainability science. Richards has a degree in environmental science and is currently studying for a MSc in climate at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.