Role of Youth in Climate Action
Earth Day Network's extensive outreach confirms that youth are concerned about a future threatened by the consequences of accelerating global warming, visible in the changes in climate experienced across the globe. They are also ready and willing to come forward to take on roles to alleviate this and are taking the lead to ensure that our planet remains liveable for all humans.
A 2013 UN report states that approximately 750 million youth (aged 15 to 24 years) reside in Asian and Pacific Rim countries. India alone has 30 percent of these 750 million, making it the country with the highest number globally. Today, it is significant to have youth develop and drive initiatives to prevent the crossing of the tipping point of 1.4 degrees Celsius rise in Earth's temperature. Their efforts can significantly contribute to stopping the rapid depletion of our natural wealth, reducing the burden of pollution upon us, and changing mindsets to become intrinsic to human nature to adopt actions that lead to sustainable development.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that many of the environment-related issues the world faces today result from anthropogenic activities: whether this is glaciers melting, altered rainfall patterns, raging forest fires, the disappearance of thousands of species, and rising sea levels, to name just a few. The findings of the IPCC report of 2021 confirm these alarming trends. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also declared the report as marking 'code red for humanity'. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and put billions of people at immediate risk. Global warming affects every region on Earth, with many of such changes being irreversible.
But there is hope. Earth Day Network's extensive outreach confirms that youth are concerned about a future threatened by the consequences of accelerating global warming, visible in the changes in climate experienced across the globe. They are also ready and willing to come forward to take on roles to alleviate this and are taking the lead to ensure that our planet remains liveable for all humans. To place youth efforts at the centre stage and illuminate these for others to emulate, we launched on Earth Day's 50th anniversary (April 2020) the initiative My Future My Voice (MFMV). This initiative provides a platform that has young environmental leaders across the globe join hands for common goals such as working towards a greener, cleaner, less polluted Earth, where there is the judicious use of natural resources and switches made to renewable energies. MFMV helps the youth share tried and tested techniques to help Restore Our Earth (EARTDAY.ORG's global theme). It helps build bridges and networks across political borders and spaces.
Each leader accepted into MFMV has a proven track record of substantive work to help Restore Our Earth. Each is designated an Earth Day Network Youth Ambassador. We have authors, star actors and musicians, NGO heads, grassroots workers, government officials, and others. We presently have 180 youth from 87 countries (representing all continents) as part of this initiative. They range from countries with large landmasses such as the US, Canada, and India, to most vulnerable to climate change small island nations such as Antigua & Barbuda, Samoa, French Polynesia.
Our youth ambassadors continuously push their boundaries to take climate actions in the most creative and empowering ways. To share a few examples: 16-year-old Aditya Dubey from India successfully got one of the biggest e-commerce platforms to eliminate plastic packaging in India. He was also recently awarded the Diana Award for founding the 'Plant a Million Trees' initiative that led to the plantation of over 1,00,000 trees in the National Capital Region in India. Jenk Oz, one of the youngest entrepreneurs, is our youth ambassador from the UK who founded 'Thred Media', publishing, consulting, media, and production company that focuses on social change news and insights aimed at teenagers and young adults. His work has reached and inspired Generation Z across the globe. At a young age, Jenk has already given several TEDxTalks, including 'Can a 'Like' change the world? The power of clicktivism,' that particularly addresses youth.
Noémie Thibout, all of 14 years, is our youth ambassador from French Polynesia. Belonging from a small country in the Pacific Ocean, she is famous for her song 'Dear Mister Presidents,' which has the island's president take cognizance of the need to address climate change-related issues.11-year-old Francisco Javier Vera from Colombia founded 'Guardians for Life' a movement for the environment that demands the country declare a climate emergency. He leads many campaigns against spraying cocoa crops with Glyphosate and those that petition the government to ban single-use plastics.19-year-old Elliot Connor from Australia founded the international environmental NGO 'Human Nature Projects' which supports volunteers across 107 countries. Author of'Human Nature: How to be a Better Animal', his lifelong goal is to reframe human relationships with the natural world.28-year-old Ahmid Chernor Jelloh is the founder of 'Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization Sierra Leone.' This youth-led organization collaborates with environmental groups, mobilizes resources, and strengthens the capacity of young people to promote environmental stewardship at the grassroots level. He led initiatives in Freetown to plant and nurture 1,000,000 trees to combat the impact of climate change and restore biodiversity and tree cover loss.
24-year-old Xin Hui is a Foreign Service Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore. She recently organized the 'ASEAN Plus Three Climate Conference' for youth delegates to help connect the dots between regional environmental problems and discuss potential collaborative solutions. 12-year-old Nihal Tammana from New Jersey, USA founded 'Recycle My Battery'. His slogan is 'Saving Earth One Battery at a time' for the organization he has set up to promote and facilitate proper battery disposal. He has mobilized over 50 young children as volunteers who contribute their time and have collectively collected and recycled more than 40,000 batteries while educating over 200,000 individuals on the need to recycle batteries properly.
To further inspire youth and solidify this network, we regularly organize the IDEAS - Inspiring Dialogues for Environmental Action Series. At these, eminent personalities speak about their work. This, we hope, will be the catalyst that inspires youth to follow in the footsteps of the expert. An MFMV Ambassador moderates each dialogue. Recently conducted sessions include those on 'Sustainable Fashion and Zero Waste Living'. Melissa Tan, actor, producer, and zero-waste advocate from Malaysia had a scintillating dialogue with Renard Siew, MFMV Youth Ambassador, Climate Reality Advisor at the Centre for Governance and Political Studies in Malaysia, and an Expert Network Member at World Economic Forum. The session saw Melissa share the immense environmental degradation that the fast fashion industry contributes to and provide easy, replicable ideas on how to direct fashion towards being sustainable. 'Nature and Storytelling' session had Ashwika Kapur, Nature Filmmaker, Wildlife TV Presenter, Green Oscar Winner, India in dialogue with Nanticha Ocharoenchai (Lynn), Environmental Writer and Founder of Climate Strike, Thailand. The hour-long presentation held viewers spellbound as Ashwika spoke and illustrated the art of storytelling to take environmental messages forward. Dr Nathan Robinson, Marine Biologist and Science Communicator, UK dialogued with Abhiir Bhalla of MFMV on Marine life and the devastating impacts of plastic pollution. We have many more such interesting sessions planned for the whole of this year. You can follow these and the work of our youth ambassadors on our Facebook page here.
The proposed candidate needs to be below the age of 30 and must have an already proven track record of exceptional work for the environment.
The article is authored by Nishu Kaul, Director for Earth Day, South & South-East Asia, EARTHDAY.ORG