The International Children’s and Youth Conference on the Environment. Daejeon, South Korea provides an opportunity for adults, youth and children to work together on climate change.
The conference is over and it was such a busy week. We started each day really early and ended each day very late. It was great to meet, talk and share information with people from around the world. It was inspiring to learn what other young people are doing especially those in developing countries.
I ran my first workshop and I am really happy on how it went. I gave a speech as well and I received lots of positive comments.
After I had made my speech I was asked by the chief of the outreach centre of UNEP (Theo Obden) to read out the draft copy of the document kids and youth from around the world want to send to Copenhagen in December. This document was then voted upon at the Global Town Hall meeting. This meeting included children and Youth. The youth conference overlapped the children’s conference for the first time to have this document voted on and to have a debate. The town hall meeting consisted of over 1000 children and youth from across the world and the atmosphere was incredible. We were broken up into tables of four children and four youth. My table had three children from Africa and Korea and 4 youth aged between 21 and 24 who came from South Africa, Egypt, Japan and Sweden. Each table was asked to discuss each statement and then vote electronically. I really enjoyed this as I got to hear first hand if people a little older than me were thinking about the same environmental issues as me. I had the best time discussing each point with them and at the end realised that we were all after the same outcome in Copenhagen in December and that is action and commitment on climate change. After five and a half hours the document for world leaders was finalised. It contained powerful statements and now we will wait to see what happens in Copenhagen.
We also had a debate which was held on another day and included children and youth and again the atmosphere was amazing. The panel consisted of one child representative, Annie Collins from Canada and one youth representative named Sarah. Annie did a fantastic job representing children and made some powerful statements.
Also on the panel was the Korean Environment Minister, David de Rothschild the environmental adventurer and Ben Powless an environmental activist from Canada. The moderator was Achim Steiner who is the Executive Director of UNEP. The discussion of the debate was focussed on two questions. One was “do youth have a voice?” Sadly most of us in the room were feeling the same thing and that is that young people do not feel any world leaders are listening to us. The other question was if no agreement is made in Copenhagen what does that mean. Achim Steiner selected me from the audience to make my comment. I said I hoped an agreement was made but if no agreement is made I made a commitment to continue my work in educating kids about the environment.
Before Achim Steiner left I was able to give him the letter I wrote to world leaders earlier this year and asked him to take it to Copenhagen. He took it with him and said he would read it. If anything happens with it I will let you know.
This is the second conference by UNEP I attended and this time I was looking for answers and information. I want to know more about what is happening for the environment and how I can educate children better. I found my answers with two amazing people. One is Dr Liza Ireland an educational consultant and high school teacher and the other was David de Rothschild the environmental adventurer. I spent time with both of them and I learnt so much from them. This is intergenerational communication at its best. Both answered my questions and shared their knowledge openly with me. I shared my ideas with them and they offered advice and encouragement. I will stay in contact with both of them as they offered to help in my learning. I interviewed David and hope to be involved in his next exciting adventure.
Dr Ireland gave me a one on one presentation of her presentation she gives to adults about different ways of looking at how we can use nature to help solve our environmental problems. She opened my mind to something fantastic. I now know where I want to take my learning to and I cannot wait.
Climate change is an issue that not only affects the current generations but it will affect my generation. Intergenerational communication is vital as we need to learn from adults with knowledge to be able to deal with the environmental problems that we will inherit. What we (youth) can offer is creativity and imagination. Adults have a mindset that can be hard to change but children can use their imagination to develop ideas to help the environment. If we combine the knowledge with imagination the possibilities are endless.
I met up with my Canadian friend I met in Norway last year and we have decided to do a project together which is very exciting. The project is designed to show that working together is the answer to solving issues of climate change. I will let you know more as the project develops.
The conference went so fast and I am sad it is over. I made so many new friends from around the world who are doing amazing things.
UNEP ran a painting competition and the winner was announced at the conference. It was won by a nine year old Russian girl. Her painting was simple. It is a girl holding a picture in each hand. One picture was of a sad and dirty earth and the other was a clean happy earth. These pictures make a powerful statement. We have a choice and I know what I choose and I hope that children, youth and adults choose the same one. I hope world leaders at the Copenhagen conference choose a clean and happy earth!
Remember ‘Habits made today will help life tomorrow’.