By Thim Rachna
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, once said, “We are the first generation to end poverty, and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Future generation will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities”.
Growing up in a developing country, I have seen the immense problems that my society and the people always encounter, especially environmental issues. With the people having very limited knowledge and understanding about environment, environmental problems continue to escalate. According to Plastic Free Cambodia, a campaign focusing on raising awareness about the negative impacts of plastic on the environment, in the major cities of Cambodia, a citizen would use from 42 to 52 plastic bags per week. With this alarming number, it is thrice the amount of plastic usage in other major cities in the world.
As climate change is increasingly becoming a critical challenge of our time, young people play a very crucial role in combating this critical issue. We inhabit the earth; therefore, we also inherit the responsibilities to look after the planet by fighting to protect our home. Through my personal experience, I have learnt that individual effort can have a very powerful impact. It is actually quite worrisome that, to my observation, only the majority of people under the age of 24 would express their concerns about environmental problems while the elder ones tend to overlook the problems surrounding their very own homes, with the possibility that their ignorance might lead to fatal consequences.
The young generation have proven to be adept at spreading the environmental spirit, as they are quick at adopting eco-friendly lifestyles. In fact, we could start plastic-use reduction and recycling, as we are too dependent on plastic material now, which means that waste is piling up and we need to find solutions. For a developing country in which plastic was introduced less than two decades ago, plastic still remains a convenient choice for most Cambodian people. However, this could definitely lead to long-term problems beyond what we could ever imagine. Nevertheless, the solutions in response to this seemingly give hope with environmental-friendly alternatives being introduced.
Youth education proves to be a very effective tool in addressing climate change issues and it helps cultivate the understanding of older as well as younger generations. Additionally, there is also the growing hope of sustainable development and establishing the green economy. On top of that, young people who are good at spreading new habits and technologies have great potential to fight against climate change. In fact, there are environmental events such as Action For Earth Global Youth Summit; it encourages young people to come up with creative, environment-oriented ideas that can be implemented in eco-friendly lifestyles.
To sum up, young people’s initiative to protect is planet is very necessary. Their efforts might seem small but it has had a very powerful impact that can lead us to a major change toward a future full of hope. So, the youth voice is very crucial to the overall effectiveness of environment protection.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.