In a world where everyone is connected, what does it take to create an enabling environment that inspires young individuals to get involved in climate action? What can stir the youth of today to move and support the work #ForNature and #ForTheFutureWeWant in the midst of a global crisis?

Last 5 June 2021, the UNDP conducted a forum entitled “Youth for Climate Action” in celebration of the World Environment Day to rally the #GenerationRestoration—the generation whose futures are at stake if we do not address the climate emergency with urgency and haste. This activity came about in response to the youth consultation workshops conducted in the first quarter of the year, where the youth respondents showed significant interest in—and worry about-- environmental and climate-related issues that we are facing globally.

 

To inspire the over 700 registered participants about what they can do to contribute towards climate action, we invited six young individuals who are thriving in their chosen environment-related fields to grace the activity as key speakers. The discussion happened in a breeze as they shared their respective experiences on how and why they are pursuing their passion for the environment with much gusto.

 

Gab Mejia shared that his childhood immersion through nature trips with his father paved way for his growing local appreciation of the Philippines.

 

According to him, witnessing the changes from when he was 13 years old – where he had opportunities to see in real life the beauty of Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountains, different reefs, and wetlands – until now that he’s turned 24, drew him to dedicate his career in contributing to conservation and environmental solutions. He actively takes part in amplifying the urgency of the impacts brought about by climate change by telling stories about conservation and the people behind it through his photography of the country’s biodiversity.

 

Gab Mejia is a Filipino conservation photographer and environmental storyteller. He is a National Geographic Explorer covering stories on nature, wildlife, the climate crisis, and indigenous people. He is a contributor to National Geographic Your Shot and has published stories in National Geographic, CNN, Nikon, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

 

In their search for sense of belongingness and purpose in the planet when they were a teenager, Dave Albao realized their answers to introspective questions always led them back to the nature.

 

Nature is the sole reason that pushed them to work for sustainability and protection of both material and non-material values of the environment, such as its natural resources, cultural and spiritual benefits.

 

The initiatives of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc., an NGO based on Danjugan Island, involves design thinking approach and experiential learning to start conversations in finding solutions for conservation. Also, together with friends, Dave founded “Wala Usik” which translates to “nothing wasted” or zero-waste. Wala Usik is the first zero-waste store in Negros Island.

Dave Albao is the Executive Director of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, the nonprofit taking care of Danjugan Island, a wildlife sanctuary with environmental education and ecotourism programs, located in Negros Occidental, the Philippines.

 

When he was young, Erick Avelino never imagined himself working for the environment sector, but his engagement with the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provided him firsthand experience to see and appreciate life below water. This opportunity served as his wake-up call to be a conservation advocate.

He encourages the youth to take part in community-based biodiversity-friendly enterprises (BDFE) as he believes on the youth’s capacity to bring new ideas on the table that are beneficial towards BDFE sustainability.

 

Erick Avelino is working for the Coastal and Marine Division (CMD) and serves as the focal for the implementation of the Biodiversity Friendly Enterprises (BDFE) under the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP).

 

Being part of a generation that perceives purchasing of a private car as a life milestone, Miko Nacino’s exposure during his stay in Japan, where even people from higher social class use public transportation, changed his mindset.  On top of this, being part of the group that advocates for better mobility means emboldened him to be a public policy generalist who works for development projects, such as the DOTr-UNDP Low Carbon Urban Transport Project, that aims to changing the country’s transportation system for the better.

 

Miko Nacino, EnP is the Policy Support Component Lead of the Promotion of Low Carbon Urban Transport Systems in the Philippines (LCT) Project, a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme, the Department of Transportation, and the Global Environment Facility. Miko is also the founder of the Behavioral Insights Network - Philippines (BIN-PH), a growing network of professionals from various disciplines with an interest in leveraging learnings in applied behavioral sciences in various sectors, such as government, business, and development.

 

Conservation is naturally embedded in our way of life as Indigenous Peoples because culture and nature are inseparable,” shared Christine Joy Guina-Agudo, a member of the Talaandig Tribe in Bukidnon.

 

As a Chieftain’s daughter, she ensures their tribe’s traditional knowledge and practices are sustained by younger generations. Their Tribe developed a systemic approach by involving the Kulahi Tribal Youth Organization in their rituals and upon learning about the youth’s interest in arts. This approach gave birth to several initiatives including the Kulahi Pangantucan Performing Arts which is comprised of Talaandig youth members. It showcases their songs and dance, traditional knowledge system and practices, and serves as the tribe’s information and education campaign.

 

Christine Joy Guina-Agudo is a proud Talaandig. She finished the 2-year ladderized program of the University of Southeastern Philippines Pamulaan Center for IP Education with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Peace Education. Subsequently, she pursued a Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education at Central Mindanao University. Aside from being a daughter of the Tribal Chieftain of the Talaandig community of Pangantucan, Bukidnon, she is also an active youth leader who co-founded the Portulin Tribal Talaandig Association (PTTA) in Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

 

Awareness, collective action, and hope – these are Prince Ventura’s initial thoughts when asked about what he thinks of youth and climate action. His response roots back to his experience as a youngster who was part of a youth for environment school organization with activities like tree planting, coastal clean-ups, and engagement with the youth and local government. The “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary regarding global warming also opened his eyes about sustainability and conscious use of resources. Prince translated his combined conservation advocacy and passion into action by founding Wear Forward, a social enterprise that leads circular fashion and collaborative consumption.

 

Prince Jimdel Ventura is a Climate Reality Leader and a 2021 Climate Ambassador of the Global Youth Climate Network who focuses on addressing the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of fashion. He is also a Youth 4 Sustainable Cities Ambassador who engages the youth with the Sustainable Development Goals to create innovative solutions toward sustainable urban development. Moreover, Prince is the Founder and CEO of fashion tech startup Wear Forward and the Spokesperson of Fashion Revolution Philippines.

 

Cliché as it may sound, the beginning is always the hardest. The speakers’ responses on what inspired them to get involved in environment conservation exhibited varying scenarios of creating an enabling environment to engage the youth.

 

It could start from an individual, a community with shared values and culture, at work, a foreign land, a film, or even the nature itself. It showcases how a single exposure could spark a life-changing endeavor for the youth and the planet.

 

These endless possibilities willingly explored by the youth for them to take part in the work towards climate action provides a hopeful sight. In the natural order of things, sustaining this enabling environment follows. The speakers were once inspired to start their journeys toward conservation, and they are now passing it on to aspiring young individuals through making their initiatives available in different platforms and by engagements like the Youth Forum.

As we end the celebration of the Philippine Environment Month, may these young champions for the environment inspire us to enable the enablers by taking part in sustaining an environment for the youth to grow their well-grounded passion towards advocating for climate action.

 

 

 

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