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Youth as a driving force for locally-led actions

  • Published at 08:28 am March 3rd, 2021
Greta thungerg
Photo - Reuters

Young people are seeking change and springing into action across the world

Youths around the world are taking inspiring actions to fight the adversity of changing climate. One of the most prominent young climate activists of recent times is Greta Thunberg. Similarly, there are several proactive and motivated youths like Greta, who are not only insisting the governments to take immediate actions to tackle climate change but are also implementing innovative projects on the ground themselves. For example, in Barbados, 1,100 students from the Lester Vaughan Secondary School implemented a project to raise awareness among young people about the use of biodiesel as an alternative environment-friendly fuel for diesel vehicles. The project resulted in the collection of 3,943 litres of oil that would otherwise be disposed of in an unsustainable manner. 3,154 litres of biodiesel was produced and used for fuel diesel vehicles, which resulted in the reduction of approximately 6,000 tons of carbon emissions. 

This is also evident in South Asia which was reflected by some youth leaders in late January, at one of the sessions of Gobeshona Global Conference (hosted by ICCCAD from 18th-24th January 2021) led by ‘Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA)’. They shared their activities and experiences building community resilience through locally-led adaptation. 

One of the youth leaders, Sameer Ahmed shared a social action project that he started for sustainable waste management through upcycling waste. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the trash generation was increasing. This caused a high ecological footprint and gave Sameer the momentum to initiate the project. His solution was to use waste as a resource for reducing and reusing waste. The approaches included storing fruits and vegetables separately, storing banana peels and sitting it in water and using it as fertilizers later. Sameer surveyed peers, groups of teachers and the general public through Instagram, which he found really innovative, as it also aided him to disseminate information on sustainability. Everyone needs to have the attitude to be agents of change. People are now practising Sameer’s suggestions to reduce their waste, which was driven through social media. Thus, social media can be an instrumental platform to reach out to local communities that resonate with indigenous knowledge. 

Lalita Prasida Sripad, another youth leader from India, shared her experiences in improving the living standard of her community, as they suffered from lack of access to clean water. Lalita discovered an innovative method to purify water which involved the usage of corn cobs. The method used a filtration mechanism with corn cob charcoal and powder. The filtration mechanism (set up stand) absorbed and removed 99% of Lead (Pb). In addition to being both sustainable and replicable, this affordable and easily available water purification strategy can be used on a domestic and industrial scale. This project could be applied at a large scale by taking the corn cobs and putting it to drainage. At the same time, it could be instrumental for agriculture usage and community to drink fresh water. 

Most importantly, one of the major takeaways from the session was the Youth Manifesto – where six demands were raised for a prosperous and inclusive future for all. The demands included – youth as decision-makers; collaborative multi-stakeholder approach; mainstreaming climate adaptation in education; intersectional and accessible research; activating the family as a climate change-maker; and including the excluded for resilient solutions. This Manifesto was applauded by the panellists and participants and was encouraged to take forward. 

Young people possess the right kind of attitude to bring systemic and sustainable change in their communities, and around the world. For the youths who want to be the agents of change, does not always require to do something extraordinary or exceptional; it can be done by re-thinking what they are already good at. Some youths are good at technology usage and computer programming, some good at art and literature, some are good at music and dance. 

These young people can channel their talents and apply them for undertaking climate actions within their locality or for movements, and raising awareness or to demand robust actions from politicians and decision-makers. Older generations need to ensure that the voices of youth are heard and their actions are encouraged. The youth are already at the frontline of the climate crisis and thus their actions, ideas, suggestions and demands should be given priority today for a better tomorrow. 

Samina Islam is working as a Junior Research Officer at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). She can be reached at [email protected]

Afsara Binte Mirza is working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development as a Junior Research Officer, her research interest lies in climate justice and gender equality. Can be reached at [email protected]

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