Friday, December 3, 2010

Youth and Future Generations Day

Thursday at COP 16 was Youth and Future Generations Day and there were several sessions that highlighted the importance of not only educating youth around the world, but also involving them in attempts to find innovative solutions for the challenges associated with climate change.

One of several "actions" of the youth at COP16

I heard a number of youth presentations and was struck by how knowledgeable they were about the issues and the complex processes associated with the UNFCCC and international negotiations. They are well versed in the language of the Convention articles and fluent in the COP jargon.  These individuals are certainly meeting the education challenge of Article 6 of the Convention (although today, December 3rd, significant language that spoke to the role of youth in the process was struck from the draft language of the article).

The passion the youth display is not due solely to the fact that they are worried about their own future, but reflects their genuine concern for helping others around the planet. Some of the students had managed to secure means (logistical and financial) to bring youth representatives from poor countries of the global south to Cancun – individuals who never could have been able to attend otherwise. They talked of amazing things that they were doing—as individuals or through organizations—to educate others, to create a worldwide youth network, and to make a difference in their communities or countries in terms of environmental protection. Some were reaching out across international borders to provide educational resources to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to learn about environmental issues.

Walter, a 12 year old from Belize, is a UNICEF representative who spoke of the importance of helping the people of his country better understand climate change and the risks that lie ahead. When the adult panelists noted of the power of the new media to help the youth in their efforts, a young woman from Boliva spoke of how they don’t have ready access to the internet and in the towns, it costs $1 per hour to use it which is a significant percentage of a family’s daily wages.

Consider this:
  • Over 70% of children and youth of the world live in developing countries and most of these live in rural areas.
  • Worldwide, 2.2 billion people are less than 18 years old – representing about ½ of the population of developing countries. 
Sadly, though, while there are youth from the U.S. in attendance (mostly college students), they are not the ones articulating their vision or showing leadership within YOUNGO (the youth constituency group).

At Moravian, we are doing a small part to engage students in the process through their attendance at the COP meetings, through our educational outreach (the blog, campus courses and presentations, etc.).  We hope that the students who have had the honor of attending COP meetings will be ambassadors for and leaders of change.  But this is far from enough to fight the forces working against change, especially in the U.S.

The intergenerational panel including the Vice Chair of the IPCC, the Executive Secretary,
and 2 YOUNGO reps (from Australia and Figi)

Some of the youth delegates celebrating after the high level session (the intergenerational panel)
Christiana Figueres being presented with a youth shirt

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