BY PETER ACHIENG

“The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today’s younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations. “ (United Nations, General Assembly, 2015b, para. 53)

Today, there are 1.9 billion young people aged 18 to 29 years, accounting for 16 per cent of the global population. The active engagement of youth in sustainable development efforts is central to achieving sustainable, inclusive and stable societies by the target date, and to averting the worst threats and challenges to sustainable development, including the impacts of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict, and migration.

Some of the brighter ideas of connecting youths to sustainability are in the following categories:

ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

  • Involve youth in designing and retrofitting buildings, emphasizing energy efficiency and alternative energy-related opportunities. For example, Energy Eenovators are training Youths on Energy auditing to reduce wastage. They are also providing internships to youths and training them on energy auditing and Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs)
  • Work with schools and nonprofits to provide students opportunities to learn about energy efficiency.
  • Invite students to accompany agency public works staff in evaluating energy-efficiency retrofit options for agency buildings or invite student interns to work on agency energy projects.
Figure 1: Youths Undertaking Energy Training Through YEEP

HEALTHY FOOD

  • Use vacant public land in an underserved neighborhood for a community garden where children and youth can grow fruits and vegetables, learn where produce comes from and have access to healthy food.
  • Collaborate with schools, a local food bank or an after-school nonprofit group to support neighborhood gardens where community youth can volunteer.
  • Invite youth groups to conduct “food audits” of local grocery stores as a way to educate them about healthy food options.

LIBRARY-CENTERED ACTIVITIES

  • Use the library as a central place for youth to learn about sustainability through books, lectures and other activities. For example, in 2015 the Moi University Library’s community book club, The Third Eye, featured Wangari Mathai’s Green Belt Movement. In related community events, participating youth from the university planted trees in their neighborhoods, with quotes from Wangari Mathai attached to the tree stakes.

PARKS AND RECREATION

  • Involve youth as volunteers to help keep parks clean. 
  • Offer after school “energy efficiency” camps at neighborhood centers or parks.

COMMUNITY PLANNING

  • Involve youth in conducting a “walk audit” of the community to identify opportunities for and barriers to walking and biking.
  • Include youth in planning-related advisory committees, such as General Plan updates and climate, sustainability and energy action plans.
  • Collaborate with schools, transit agencies and the county to develop “Safe Routes to School” programs, thus increasing safe biking and walking options for schoolchildren.

PLANT A TREE

  • Involve neighborhood youth in tree-planting programs, especially in underserved areas.
  • Collaborate with local tree-related organizations to involve local youth in education and tree-planting programs.
  • Involve neighborhood youth in tree-planting programs, especially in underserved areas.
  • Collaborate with local Arbor Day associations or tree-related organizations to involve local youth in education and tree-planting programs.

EDUCATION

  • Encouraging youths to do technical courses which in the longer run have a higher potential of self-employment.
  • Involving youths in hackathons and innovation challenges in order to improve their critical thinking.
  • Awarding innovative youths in order to encourage them more.
  • Helping youth with limited resources to get access to quality education. This includes orphans.
Figure 2: Youths participating in the World Energy Day Innovation Challenge organized by Eenovators Ltd

CLIMATE CHANGE

  • Work with schools and nonprofits to involve youth in conducting agency and community greenhouse-gas inventories and identifying options to save energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. For example Eenovators limited trained Mount Kenya Students on Energy innovations with regard to climate change.
  • Ask the agency’s youth commission to identify options for adapting to the impacts on the community from climate change. For example, the Counties of Nairobi and Machakos involved youth in developing their climate-action plans. And youth in the City of Kisumu participated in a community event to prioritize recommendations from a green task force and signed pledges to reduce their own greenhouse-gas emissions.

PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING

  • Invite youth to participate in the agency’s budget-planning process to identify spending priorities important to them. For instance, Over the past six months, the World Bank has been working with the Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet county governments to implement and design a community-centered approach to engaging Kenyan youth in community budgeting. 

WASTE AND RECYCLING

  • Partner with schools and waste haulers to educate youth about “reduce, reuse and recycle.” For example, LinePlast Group, a Nairobi Startup Program, partners with other local agencies, schools, nonprofits and the waste industry to educate students about waste and recycling. It also uses youth to collect waste and convert it to bottles.

CONCLUSION

 As young workers, as scientists and researchers, the youths have opportunity to contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals: including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.  The service that they can perform with their youthful energy will pave the way for the community to trust them as future leaders of the country, who have high scientific literacy, and wisdom to tackle the many issues and problems confronting our planet.  

Works Cited

The Institute For Local Government Team. (2013, September 1). Bright Ideas for Connecting Youth and Sustainability. Retrieved from Western City: https://www.westerncity.com/article/bright-ideas-connecting-youth-and-sustainability