A Sustainable Tomorrow Begins With the Actions of Youth Today

The environment is constantly undergoing change, and the human influence on natural surroundings that is causing climate change is well-established. As a young person, I am aware that trees are being cut to provide wood to build luxurious houses that would mostly remain empty, or that oil is being spilt by massive vessels polluting oceans and wiping out marine habitats. But these instances only affect me indirectly, albeit constantly griping at my consciousness that the environment is crying out for help for the damage that is being caused to it by humans and I need to tell people about the wrong things they are doing.

Some young people are directly impacted by environmental problems such as displacement or pollution hazards, while others like me are indirectly affected, becoming aware of these problems from the comfort of homes and feeling the need to reach out and act. While the nature of both these instances could evoke a mass youth movement on climate action, it goes without saying that the perpetrators for many of the problems that we are faced with now are our parents and grandparents’ generations for not doing enough in controlling adverse actions of man, such as fossil fuel exploration and deforestation, that have led to climate change problems.

Moreover, the ever-growing human population has also caused an unbearable strain on the earth’s natural resources leading to a one-way road to depletion and no corresponding refueling of resources (that would take decades to develop!). Are young people affected by this or are they merely perturbed after watching unpopular news channels on television that happen to show in truth what the rest of the world is actually going through? They are no doubt impacted by weather changes and natural disasters like everyone else but what essentially matters is how they approach the problem of climate change as future leaders, businessmen or drivers of climate action.

To be in a world that is unaffected by environmental challenges faced today would be living a shameful indolence unworthy of human existence! Given that the earth is limited in its provision of resources to sustain our existence, it becomes our duty to make prudent use of these resources rather than being the cause for its decline. It also becomes imperative on us to protect its subsistence, preserve its aesthetic natural beauty and prevent any undue harm to it (I’ve just come up with 3 P-s of action!) before we realize it is too late to stop resources from completely running out on us!

Alas, human-induced climate change leads us to this situation which forces us to think this way. This brings me to the question on young people becoming involved in constructive climate action.

Our older generation has seen the most of resource depletion in their lifetime, much more than young people, so it becomes their foremost duty to advise and steer the younger population to take effective actions and learn from their mistakes. It is shameful that given the former’s accumulated power, status and wealth they happen to be the CAUSE of ignoring environmental challenges and encouraging activities including exploration and deforestation that pollute marine and terrestrial life. This is the juncture where young people of this generation assume a vital role in ensuring that they act with utmost caution in exploring new forms of resources needed to fulfill demands of an ever-growing world population. In following the ‘3 P’ approach, which is essential to long-term sustainability, the concept of ‘intergenerational equity’ also bears profound significance in linking the current youth population to climate change action that can secure a more sustainable future.

Young people’s ability to take informed decisions as leaders of the future can be shaped well now if they are given a chance to become more active. Their call for action will demonstrably be fearless and strong, a much-needed approach for ‘effective climate action’ in appealing to wider audiences. Moreover, they are in a better position to educate not only peers but also families, schoolchildren, politicians and the wider community as a whole on burning climate problems, employing social media tools that they can put to use in the most effective ways! I personally feel that they can lead climate action and not just participate in it.

To summarize — as a generation that is facing the reality of a changing climate in their own lifetimes, young people are the most vulnerable yet potentially also the best placed (and most motivated) to generate an ambitious societal response that will avoid the most dangerous risks of climate change (COIN Report 2014/15). Young people’s movements that have in the past pioneered various causes are garnering climate action but need to be more effective in their reach and improved in their mobilization.

As Mahatma Gandhi said “If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” Similarly, I feel that if we are to secure a sustainable future for the coming generations, then it must begin with young people who are capable of taking the right action in that direction.

This blog post is part of the ‘It’s Our Earth (Day)‘ blog series, curated by the editors of HuffPost Generation Change in recognition of Earth Day 2015. We’ve invited young environmental bloggers to share how climate issues are affecting their lives and futures, and why it’s so important for youth to take climate action. To see all the other posts in the series, click here.

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