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Youth Environmental Stewardship

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Youth Environmental Stewardship

In previous articles we’ve covered a few of the most significant issues facing the environment today and how our Government is addressing these. A large part of our, and indeed many other countries, strategy to do this involves being part of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and a crucial factor for the successful implementation of MEAs is our youth.

According to Katrina Khan-Roberts, an Environmental Youth Advocate who has worked with several Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) for the past ten years including the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network,

“Youth must be involved because they are the future of these agreements. If we are to change the behaviour in a people, we have to start with young people first. We have to look at the guidance that is given; if it is that your parents or guardians are the major foundation of behaviour, you have to teach the parents and guardians in order to teach the children, to create behaviours that are more sustainable. If that is not conducive, you have to look at the education system. At all levels we have to integrate environmental awareness, stewardship and then within that, the MEAs are going to be fulfilled.”

With this said, it is positive to note that environmental awareness is on the rise with youth, but is sometimes side-tracked by life experiences. Ms. Khan-Roberts believes that young people have unbridled potential but at times, it is difficult to realise that potential. She went on to state that, “When someone is preoccupied with survival, with all the other life difficulties, it is difficult to prioritise the environment as something you need to put your energy into.”

Ms. Khan-Roberts also believes that it is necessary for awareness to be tied to demonstration of the links between behaviours and environmental impacts, as it is not always apparent how environmental issues affects individuals. “Sometimes on a higher level, you have MEAs available for the public to see, but if the individual is not 100% invested in the environment itself, they are not going to go forward to create a linkage with that MEA. The solution then, is to ensure it is integrated into the education system as well as giving incentives for people to follow the rules and legislation.”

The scientific and ‘high-level’ nature of the MEAs however, often make them unreachable and hard to grasp for the average person. Thus, these must be made more accessible to the layperson, so that we can easily experience and understand the information. In this vein, Ms. Khan-Roberts uses paintings of and poetry about endangered animals that express her feelings about the ecosystem to her audience. She also uses videos in an effort to reach individuals on an emotional level, which she believes will lead to their behaviour change, which can then in turn positively affect our environment efforts.

For updated information on these and other environmental issues and activities in T&T, you can join the MEA Focal Point network by completing the Google Form found on the Environmental Policy and Planning Division TT Instagram and Facebook pages.

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