17 May 2018 Story Environment under review

Global Environment Outlook: 5 reflections from youth

Increasingly, the next generation of climate scientists, scholars and activists are becoming part of the discussion at the Global Environment Outlook conference. Here, regional environmental challenges and key findings and policy messages for each of the six United Nations Environment regions are discussed. Findings can guide policymakers working in the regions, providing solid evidence as well as policy options to tackle environmental issues.

At Global Environment Outlook-6, held in Singapore under the theme “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” students spoke up. If they must live with the environmental legacy left to them by previous generations, then they want to be part of the conversation on solutions and policymaking. 

We sat down with UN University alumna and biodiversity advocate, 32-year-old Christmas de Guzman, programme officer at the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research, and 31- year-old Jain Akshay, youth representative from the Environmental and Water Technology Center of Innovation. They spoke about how to bring youth into environmental policy discussions in future. Here are their top five suggestions: 

We ARE the movement. Young activists don’t need to follow a movement anymore. As younger participants, we are already engaging as environmental scientists. We are looking for ways to implement environmental policy in our own local communities. We don’t want to study for 20 years before applying what we know in the real world: we want to practice our solutions – and talk about them at conferences like these – now. 

Lead by example. We can educate each other about what is happening at policy level, bringing other young people into the conversation. We can take photos of our participation on panels or in dialogues; share them with our peers. At the Global Environment Outlook-6 for Youth and beyond, we must leverage our knowledge to reach students and young scientists in the making. Developing countries tend to follow developed countries. Developed nations should also lead by example and go the extra mile in taking responsible initiatives, providing examples that will engage communities in environmental education.

Tap our you(th) networks: We must be part of the campaign to lobby for change. As youth, we often believe that our actions don’t matter; that we are just a single person and can’t make a difference. But we have big networks and we can start our own initiatives, encouraging our peers not to eat meat on Mondays, or car pool on Tuesdays for example. We can avoid using straws in our drinks; use drinking flasks instead of single-use plastic bottles and share this with our friends. These things may be small, but when we act together, we can become powerful agents of change towards a healthier planet.

Bring ideas home: Singapore’s National Water Agency aims to make drinking water more accessible to the public, becoming 100 per cent water-independent through their Water Efficiency Management Plan. Also, the country has taken a significant step in certifying cars at the time of purchase to restrict the number of cars on the road and encouraging people to use public transport. Lessons are being learned which can be implemented in other countries and by the global community. These ideas are needed in the cities like Manila and Bangalore where traffic jams are routine. We can be part of the change by spreading ideas among our peers, or implementing them at home in our own countries and communities.

Bridge the gap: One thing we discussed during the conference is the huge gap between research and knowledge generation and its application in the real world. We can bridge this gap, by helping companies to come up with new ideas or technology which can be piloted in the real world.  We can seek help from organizations or platforms like Enterprise Singapore, which aims to provide expertise in business growth, investment, design, and marketing to drive business ideas forward in the real world. We can facilitate dialogues on how to strengthen science-policy-business interactions among our peers and how knowledge generated from research is used for awareness raising, youth empowerment and in policymaking.

Learn more about the Global Environment Outlook.