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The Green Life: Facing the Future: 1,200 Young People for Sustainable Development

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October 13, 2011

Facing the Future: 1,200 Young People for Sustainable Development

Trisha Co Reyes UNEP painting
Facing global climate change and mired in a depressed economy, young people from around the world responded with their solution: green jobs. Delegates ranging in age from 10 to 24 addressed global challenges from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 at UNEP's Tunza International Children and Youth Conference on the Environment. Arriving in Indonesia from 126 countries, the Tunza ambassadors learned how they could create change and promote environmental solutions.

All of the attendees had experience with helping to better the planet. One of them, Cassandra Lin, got her green ticket to Tunza because she started a biodiesel recycling program. At a university expo near her town in Rhode Island, Lin discovered that used cooking oil could be recycled into biodiesel. The 13-year-old then launched a program that now offsets 250 tons of CO2 emissions every year and creates new green jobs.

Another Tunza activist, just 10 years old, is Ta’Kaiya Blaney, from North Vancouver, Canada. Blaney sings to protect her land’s delicate ecosystems. Through her songs (such as “Shallow Waters”), she’s helped oppose destructive projects like the tar-sands pipeline.

Tunza” means “to treat with care or affection” in Kiswahili. And the next generation wants to do that for our planet. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP's executive director, said, “The youth gathered in Bandung is the best antidote to a world which continues to rationalize mass unemployment, poverty, and environmental destruction in the name of economic progress — and part of the best hope.”

As 13-year-old Trisha Co Reyes' winning painting (pictured above) reveals, a gray and desolate future awaits if we don’t open up to a new approach.

Tunza's message takes shape in the Bandung Declaration on sustainable development, which will be presented to world governments at the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in June 2012 in Brazil. Tunza members pledged to support sustainability on all levels by

  • lobbying their governments to make Rio+20 Earth Summit a top priority,
  • adopting lifestyles to reduce their ecological footprints,
  • educating their communities about sustainable production and consumption,
  • supporting the work of young scientists and entrepreneurs toward green-economy solutions, and
  • contributing to global, national, and regional discussions about sustainable development.

The Bandung Declaration focuses on green jobs to solve economic and ecological woes. But Adeline Tiffanie Suwana, a 14-year-old from Indonesia, said it best: "As children, we can plant trees, clean rivers and beaches, but we cannot stop industries from polluting our rivers, we cannot force them to adopt green economy. We want policies and laws that will make industries sustainable."

--Carolyn Cotney / photo courtesy of UNEP & Trisha Co Reyes

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