CONSERVATION

Have youth on board in addressing climate change

Through school programmes, children could take action through tree planting as a way of practical learning.

In Summary

• Harnessing the creativity and the energy of young people is not an option in an attempt to mitigate climate change.

• Time and again, young people have demonstrated that they are willing to stand up, speak out and be counted as important actors in this cause, not to be mere bystanders.

MUA staff member Patricia Achungo, Students Hezra Maina and Sam Nyamwange plant a tree
MUA staff member Patricia Achungo, Students Hezra Maina and Sam Nyamwange plant a tree
Image: MOSES MWANGI

On June 5, we marked World Environmental Day and people came out in thousands to do something in this regard: From the UN Environment high-level meeting in China to tree planting in public spaces across the world.

While others came out to beat pollution through cleaning exercises along the lakes and oceans, which resulted in the collection of tonnes of plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable materials, a reminder that we are facing a man-made tragedy.

It almost goes without saying that a man at the summit of the mountain is likely to see a small cloud forming in a distance. In the military, men will still have to climb the towers to see the enemy from a distance, despite being armed. Preparedness in any circumstance comes with an advantage and this is the case with climate change, notwithstanding the fact that we rose to climb our watchtowers when the enemy had already ravaged us.

Young people are calling for transformation in the wake of global climate strikes. It is evident that youths can no longer wait as the older generation continues holding high-level meetings with little actions. They feel very little is being done to guarantee them a sustainable future.

My generation does not really argue whether or not we are experiencing climate change effects. That’s obvious: Climate change is already here. Here in Kenya, we now experiencing floods and perennial drought in different parts of the country in equal measure and as a result, many lives are lost, while children are forced out of school. Crop failure is becoming a trend, leading to famine and starvation.

Harnessing the creativity and the energy of young people is not an option in an attempt to mitigate climate change. Every stakeholder, including the national and county governments, public and private entities whose objective is to fight against climate change should bring to the frontline the youth, given they will be the most affected if ambitious actions are not taken to mitigate this problem.

Time and again, young people have demonstrated that they are willing to stand up, speak out and be counted as important actors in this cause, not to be mere bystanders.

The new competency based curriculum presents an opportunity to integrate environmental education and to use this avenue to create awareness, impart knowledge and change the mindset and attitude of children at a tender age for them to value the environment.

The Kenyan government has identified reforestation as its agenda in an attempt to increase its forest cover to the UN recommended 10 per cent and the young people are the biggest stakeholders in this regard.

Through school programmes, children could take action through tree planting as a way of practical learning. Having worked with school children through One Child One Tree Initiative, I have always experienced the synergy, passion and eagerness to learn at that tender age. It is true these children may not be able to participate in difficult decision-making meetings regarding climate change but they can take simple actions such as planting a tree and conservation.

Jeffrey is an award-winning volunteer with special focus on the environment and education among children and youth.