Recent reports on the state of our natural world have drawn stark attention to the unfolding environmental crisis. So our search for young changemakers, to trail-blaze solutions for a more sustainable future, is more critical than ever.
Natalie Kyriacou, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the environmentally focused social enterprise My Green World, is a Young Champion of the Earth changemaker. She is on a mission: to remind us of our intrinsic connection with nature and of how caring for our biodiversity is fundamental for the future of life on Earth.
Through innovative, youth-focused education and Kids Corner, a mobile game app that gamifies the concept of wildlife conservation, Kyriacou is committed to equip today’s youth with the knowledge, experience and tools to meet the challenges that will define their generation.
We asked her what inspired her on her journey, and how we can better prepare future generations to tackle our environmental crisis.
What inspired you to found My Green World?
The rate of species extinction and the consequences of environmental degradation were too important for me to ignore. I found a problem that required a solution. It was really as simple as that. I feel that as a global citizen, it is my responsibility and my privilege to play a role in the future of planet earth and all its inhabitants. I started My Green World because I felt that young people would benefit from a platform that allows them to connect with nature conservation in a positive way. To me, education is the most empowering and effective tool to address the world’s greatest challenges.
How do you spark environmental curiosity among youth?
By allowing and encouraging the discovery of a child’s individual talents, passions and learning styles, we can promote lifelong learning opportunities and create the most effective tool in addressing the world’s greatest environmental challenges. Through My Green World, we aim to empower young people to learn, take action and pioneer environmental conservation solutions in their communities. We aim to inspire curiosity by ensuring every person has access to engaging, inclusive and accurate environmental education.
What role can technological advances and digital platforms play in the protection of our environment?
Technology, if designed and used ethically, has the potential to vastly enhance our understanding of each other and our environment. Investment in digital education is helping to powerfully reshape how students learn and even what they learn. We have embraced this opportunity at My Green World and aim to embed creative digital technologies that can encourage an individual’s unique learning style while also helping children connect to important issues, regardless of their physical location.
Your app allows users to create their own wildlife sanctuary and rescue animals. How does this help support your wildlife conservation efforts?
I wanted to change the way we think about wildlife protection—as an extremely important issue rather than an abstract notion. Global wildlife and environmental conservation can seem so far removed from our own comfortable lives. It's difficult for some people to really engage and participate. World of the Wild is a way to bring these issues into the lives and homes of thousands of people, providing children and families with an enjoyable and creative way to learn about critical issues.
What have been the main challenges that you have found while developing this project?
From business side of view, there have been many challenges, particularly around funding and scaling the company. From environmental perspective, what I find really challenging is that people often view environmental protection as abstract and non-urgent, and environmental issues are frequently relegated as secondary-agenda items socially, politically and economically. Added to this, many people feel overwhelmed by the scale, scope and complexity of problems, finding such issues difficult to navigate, creating disengagement. Though these are tough challenges, I remain grateful for the opportunity to engage people in environmental issues in my own small way.
Are young people more engaged today and what is your vision for the future?
In Australia, the voices of young people have become one of the most powerful forces for change. Over the last year, incredible scenes have unfolded across Australia’s capital cities as thousands of students marched in protest of the Australian Government’s lack of climate change action. Young people are demanding better environmental policy and taking ownership of their future, rightfully insisting that they are granted access to a clean planet. I hope My Green World is a positive contribution to society and the environment, and that this may have a ripple effect across my community until environmental action is not the exception, but the rule.
Natalie Kyriacou is a Young Champions of the Earth prize finalist and changemaker. The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro. This year’s regional finalists have been shortlisted and the winners will be announced in September. Stay tuned for the launch of the new cycle in January 2020.