Earth Today | J'can youth eager for a place in climate change response
WITH THEIR fears running from water security to disease prevalence, natural disasters and wars, Jamaican youth want more of a say in the national discourse on climate change and a hand in the response efforts.
Youth advocate Ayesha Constable said there is little wonder why.
"One of the things that we recognise is that the conversations about climate change are largely dominated by older people, with, yes, the scientific background and what not. But we have to create the space for young people to be a part of the conversation because the problems created by climate change are ours to inherit," she told The Gleaner.
Constable has herself been able to access opportunities to learn and understand the phenomenon through participation in, for example, the international climate negotiations held annually.
Currently the national coordinating officer for the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, working out of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, she is keen on helping to afford youths the same type of opportunities.
It is against this background that Constable on September 8 convened a meeting of young people with a demonstrated interest in climate change, whether through advocacy, research or otherwise.
The meeting, held at the Courtleigh Hotel, attracted the participation of 16 to 20 youth from various organisations, including the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, UWI STAT (Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow) and the Caribbean Climate Change Youth Council.
They were there as part of 350.org's Rise for Climate campaign, intended to energise local, national and international efforts for a sustainable climate movement. The campaign attracted a reported 900-plus actions in 95 countries across seven continents, including, in Jamaica, the action staged by Constable, but also activity by the UWI Physics Department, which hosted a forum titled '100% Clean: The Why and How of Jamaica's Transition from Imported Fossil Fuels to Natural Resources'.
The meeting of the youth in Jamaica, meanwhile, was geared at facilitating a discussion on the politics, economics and science of climate change while helping to develop solutions to meet the challenge. In the end, it afforded participants the chance to itemise their fears, which also included "climate refugees", "cultural shifts", "death" and "the non-adaptation of seniors".
As for climate-change response actions the young people wish to see, they include "more public education campaigns targeting 'normal' people", "policy and legislation", "introduction of a carbon tax", "greater inclusion of the private sector", and "adoption of more renewable energy sources".
They are looking now to elaborate on each of those things while calling for their own greater involvement in advocacy, training, participation in national climate-change entities, more youth-led events, and greater support for research projects on climate change that are undertaken by youth.
"This is a part of our taking control and helping to shape solutions that are put forward. It (climate change) is a part of our lived reality and is evolving in our time," said Constable.
"In Latin American (for example), youths are organising actions, lobbying government, and so on. We are not there yet," she added, but insisting that that is where Jamaican youth would like to get to.