The reality that you cannot ignore

Youth participation is fundamental to addressing the challenges faced by the world. In this blog, one of our Youth@SAIIA members shares her thoughts on the important role youth can play in achieving the SDGs and why it is vital for everyone to take action.

I live in Cape Town, South Africa. Every day I get to look out of my living room window to the view of Table Mountain and the ocean in the distance. That view may drastically change in 20 or 30 years to come. Why? Well, because of climate change. Most people think climate change is something they can do nothing about or that it doesn’t affect them, but the truth is that it affects us all. If you care about future generations, if you want to visit a coastal city in the future, if you are an animal lover or enjoy great food – climate change concerns you.

My continent, and my city in particular, has been ravaged by worsening droughts every year. The effects of climate change will cause droughts to worsen and sea levels to rise, among other things. I may not even have much of a city left in a couple of decades.

I was never one to watch the news or be interested in international affairs. However, the day I accepted the opportunity to participate in the Environmental Sustainability Project this viewpoint changed. We were invited to the Young Researchers Symposium to present our research project on sustainable agriculture, with a focus on food security. I was very anxious as I never liked pubic speaking, having an anxiety disorder for nine years and growing up shy all culminated into a lot of nerves. However, my passion for the environment eclipsed my anxiety and I managed to do the presentation without anxiety medication.

After that incredible learning opportunity, I realised that the truth is we cannot afford to ignore what is happening to our planet. The World Wildlife Fund deemed 85% of our fish as endangered. Low lying areas are at risk of being engulfed by the sea as sea levels rise. Our wastage and pollution is destroying the thin ozone layer protecting us from harmful radiation from the sun. Have we already killed the plant that could cure cancer? You see, we all have a role to play in this phenomenon. We can stop using plastic straws and bags, enjoy meat-free Mondays, take short showers, and don’t use cars unnecessarily.

I wouldn’t have been passionate about these issues plaguing our world a few years ago. I would have turned away from the TV screen, from the disappointed voices and faces coloured with disbelief. Don’t be that person. Once you have knowledge, you cannot ignore reality and its consequences anymore. Each of us have a voice and a unique placement. Use that, so that we, as a human race can be aware, proactive and protect the future.

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