In Australia, a law student tries to help scientists and lawyers understand each other, paving the way for sound environmental policy.
In Uganda, a financial consultant seeks to create a socially conscious economy for Africa.
In Brazil, an activist uses dance to spur action on climate change.
Around the world, the efforts of young people to change their world often go unnoticed—but one of the most dynamic conferences of 2014 will turn the spotlight on them.
Held alongside December’s UN climate meetings in Lima, Peru, the Global Landscapes Forum will be an interactive gathering aimed at finding combined solutions to the world’s most pressing natural resource challenges—and these young people will start the conversation.
Twelve young entrepreneurs were chosen from a pool of 700 to lead innovative discussions on land use, climate change and sustainable development issues and then pitch ideas to an audience of more than 1,000 ministers, CEOs, activists, global policy leaders and top scientists.
For more details about this event, visit www.landscapes.org/youth.
Meet the 12 young people who will kick off the Global Landscapes Forum:
Beatriz Zavariz, Mexico: “I can change Mexico’s land-use practices”
Beatriz may be one of the few young people who has had experience in both the agriculture and forestry sectors – and she is using her insights to “speak the right words to the right people” to push for more coordinated land-use policies in Mexico. “The forestry sector in general is no different from the agriculture sector,” she says. “…[farmers and foresters] frequently think solely within their experience [and miss opportunities to take advantage of] cross-sectoral synergies.” Her aim is to convince sector specialists to break their siloed approach and collaborate for the sake of sustaining landscapes as natural systems. Read Beatriz’s story here and follow her on Twitter @Bzavariz.
Hamish McKenzie, Australia: “The world is changing, and our economies must change accordingly.”
“I feel we need an interdisciplinary discussion about the way we use the scarce land available to us. The old thinking about what constitutes a city, or a farm, or a community, needs to be shaken up,” says Hamish, a small business owner, social entrepreneur and anthropologist who has grown up in one of the worst droughts to plague his Australian homeland. “I know that we have the ability to grow enough food, produce enough energy, and provide enough homes for everyone on the planet. But it’s only possible if we embrace the promise and the problem of a changing environment.” Read Hamish’s story here and follow him on Twitter @hamishkenz.
Mona Betour El Zoghbi, Lebanon: What impact does climate change have on the health and well-being of young people?
Mona has spent many years studying the different forms, levels and pathways of youth engagement with climate change and sustainability issues. Resilient and empowering academic and civic platforms that build young people’s competencies and promote meaningful youth participation and leadership in decision-making and action are key, her research has found. “The lack of adequate guidance and support for young people to effectively implement local and global environmental initiatives provides me with continuous motivation to actively look for ways to enhance the scope, quality and impact of their contributions.” Read Mona’s story here.
Wen-Yu Weng, Taiwan: Youth need to question pre-existing dominant ideologies
“The ability of young people to fundamentally change the ball game has been said many times before, but in an age of increasing connectivity and democratization of information, this cannot be truer,” says Wen-Yu, who has an illustrious track record in public speaking, debating and youth leadership, from her work as a young Sustainability Champion to the Global Sustainable Leaders Forum in Beijing to her role as a youth representative at various international forums, such as the One Young World Forum and the World Congress Against the Death Penalty. “I choose to see the ambition of youth in challenging formidable established obstacles as something strongly positive.” Read Wen-Yu’s story here and follow her on Twitter @wenyuweng.
Raquel Rosenberg, Brazil: Using dance to make climate change policy sexy
Raquel knows how to make climate policy interesting for young people. Frustration with the lack of progress at Rio+20 prompted Raquel to start her own civil society organization Engajamundo to inform, empower and engage Brazilian youth in international climate, social development and gender forums. She has even helped bring Brazil’s flashmob trend to the UN climate negotiations. “Social entrepreneurship and climate change are not well seen (if seen at all) in Brazil. Putting both together and fully dedicating my life to research, mobilizing and capacitating young people has been a daily trial,” she says. Read Raquel’s story here.
Gabriel Yarlequé, Peru: Mapping landscape stories
When Gabriel was in high school, he used to think that the economic growth of a nation depended upon the amount of natural resources exploited. Going abroad changed his perception of the world as he realized that “growth and sustainable development can be achieved if we acknowledge that everything in nature is connected and that our actions have consequences and impacts”. Ever since, he has been using mapping technology to tell people the current state of their local landscape, as well as providing recommendations for future initiatives. Read Gabriel’s story here.
Laura Schuijers, Australia: “It’s pretty hard to govern the unknown.”
While studying the intersection of environment and law, Laura, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, began to notice that the two disciplines were teaching her very different ways of thinking. “Scientists were comfortable with uncertainty in a way that lawyers weren’t,” she says. “Lawyers, accustomed to deferring to scientific ‘experts’ for the answers, frustrated in the fact that environmental problems seem increasingly associated with unknowns – after all, it’s pretty hard to govern the unknown.” Laura is currently studying the integration of science into policy in the context of hydraulic fracturing and its cumulative and systemic impacts on water systems, communities and landscapes. Read more about Laura here.
Benjamin Mugema, Uganda: Creating a socially conscious economy for Africa
“I know. My picture makes me look a Wall-Street-type executive, yearning for the big bucks and not caring much about how I get there. It’s not true. My goal is to create a socially conscious economy geared towards more equitable development in Africa,” Benjamin says. As a financial analyst at Deloitte, Benjamin has been designing long-term agricultural and land-use financing strategies for developing countries and trying to overcome the negative perception the word ‘rural’ invokes among young Ugandans. Read Benjamin’s story here and follow him on Twitter @BenjaminMugema.
Karen Veridiano, Philippines: Living a climate change story
Karen has seen first-hand how local communities and institutions in her native Philippines have battled to retain the rights to sustainably manage their resources amidst a myriad of threats. She’s also had the privilege of going to remote rural areas where the inherent connection of people and nature is celebrated, rather than impeded. In a country where youth comprise more than a quarter of the population, Karen says “it’s the most opportune time for the youth to take the center stage and elicit dialogues towards more concrete and attainable ways to address conflicting issues of resource management.” Read Karen’s story here.
Hannah LoRene Smith, USA: “In order to change the rules, you must play by the rules”
An adventurer from a young age, Hannah grew up watching the stars, catching tadpoles, swimming in freezing rivers, and searching for animals. Her current adventure is in the forests of Peru, researching market feasibility study for innovative conservation funding. “This is only one example of how I construct innovative solutions to problems,” she says. “I am interested in integrating environmental ethics into the private sector, so companies will transition into using profit to invest in the beginning of supply chains:” Read Hannah’s storyhere.
Ayesha Constable, Jamaica: A life connected to the environment
Growing up in a rural community in Jamaica, Ayesha and her family were not only sustained by the land, but entertained by it. “I grew up watching my great-grandmother predict the weather by the direction of the wind, or the curl of the leaves of the trumpet tree,” says Ayesha, a PhD student. Ayesha’s research findings have affirmed that even minor changes in local weather patterns can have significant impact on agricultural practices and that indigenous knowledge is a major tool in building community resilience. Read Ayesha’s story here and follow her on Twitter @EshaSensei.
Ivonne Lobos Alva, Guatemala: “You cannot fix social and environmental problems exclusively with technical solutions”
Bringing innovative and jointly developed ideas into global sustainability discussions is what Ivonne does for a living. Her work at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies focuses on highlighting the underpinning role of soil and land functions for sustainable development and creating joint proposals for the inclusion of this role in the Sustainable Development Goals. Repeatedly faced with the difficult task of identifying and engaging bright young representatives, Ivonne says that “young people have great things to add to global debates but [they need to] actively take the space to convey their perspective to other peers…in a language that resonates more with delegates and policy makers in the room.” Read Ivonne’s story here and follow her on Twitter @IvonneLobosAlva.
The youth activities at the Global Landscapes Forum are organized by:
- The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
- The International Forestry Students Association (IFSA)
- The Global AgroEcology Alliance (GAEA)
With the generous support of the Global Landscapes Forum’s coordinating partners and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).