But this has come at a cost. The stress on our planet has been immense. Human beings have dramatically altered the climate, changed the chemistry of the oceans, and triggered mass extinctions. The impact has been so great as to define an entirely new geological era – the Anthropocene, turbo charged by a “great acceleration” of population, economic growth and natural resource consumption since the 1950s.
So what will the world be like for our children? By 2050, the population is projected to top 9 billion. People will probably live better and longer lives. Global GDP will likely triple; natural resource consumption will double. And the effects of climate change–some now inevitable–will be felt more strongly than they are today. Sea levels will be higher, weather more erratic, biodiversity less, and water and natural resources likely scarcer. People who live in poverty will be especially vulnerable to natural disasters, land degradation, water shortages, and shocks in food production.
A couple of days ago, my five year old declared that she wanted to be a Super Hero. From wanting to be a little pony a few months ago, she was moving up the role model chain. She, however, was more interested in finding out which monster she would have to fight. Without giving it much thought, I told her that the biggest monster she would have to fight was Climate Change.
she asked, suddenly very interested.
The author, Sophie Bathurst of Australia, won first place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. She answered the question "How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.
|Photo © Sophie Bathurst|
My vision for Australia is that of a nation where healthy people live in a healthy environment. I believe that Australia's future social and economic prosperity as well as the livelihoods of our Pacific Island neighbours depend on our response to the climate challenge. An effective response demands the engagement of all sectors of society and involves both responsible adaptation to existing environmental problems as well as the mitigation of further climate change.
If we ignore the warnings, we will not only damage our precious ecosystems and lose our water resources but will also have to contend with disruption of services; decline in key industries such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries; and increased health problems for society’s most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and remote indigenous communities.
If we think long-term and embrace the challenge, however, climate change can present an opportunity for youth. It can contribute to the establishment of an energy sector based on renewable and clean fuels, the development of world-class research centres and the implementation of globally recognised education programs in sustainability.
Education lies at the core of an initiative that I proposed recently. I envision a series of new projects for primary schools that will be led by a 'Green Taskforce' composed mainly of unemployed youth. The projects are designed to build confidence and to equip young people with some of the skills required for permanent employment in environmental trades. At the same time, these projects will create a culture of ecological awareness and healthy living within primary schools and teach students to reduce their carbon footprint.