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Green appeal for Youth Day

On 16 June 2019, young WWF staffers are making an appeal to our newly elected leaders to elevate the green agenda for the benefit of people and nature.

Add your voice. Go to wwf.org.za/youthvoices and send a message to our leaders to invest in our youth by putting people and nature first. This is what young staffers at WWF have to say about some of South Africa's most pressing environmental issues.

Zaynab Sadan: Tackle waste

We have a waste problem. We’re producing too much of it. We’re mismanaging it. And it’s leaking into our environment.

We see it every day – walking on streets, swimming in our oceans and driving past landfills and dumpsites. It’s everywhere. So much so, that we’re becoming desensitised to it.

But we cannot ignore it any longer. We cannot continue to pile up our waste in landfills and cover it up with sand so that we don’t have to look at it, in the hope that it will disappear. Because most of it won’t.

We cannot continue to allow our waste to wash down drains, into stormwater systems, into rivers and eventually into our oceans in hope that it will wash away to someone else’s coast. Because it’s not fair that nature needs to suffer for it. We are the custodians of our nation’s land, its plant and animal life, and its coastlines.

The saddest part of all is everything that we call waste was once valuable to us and still holds some inherent value as unused materials and unharnessed energy. We give these resources a limited lifespan when in fact they have the potential to  be reused, recycled or transformed again and again.

We need to manage our resources wisely otherwise we have no business using them in the first place. We cannot continue wasting earth’s valuable resources because we don’t have the knowledge or infrastructure to recover value from them. That’s no longer an acceptable excuse.

We can learn from our researchers, scientists and engineers who hold some of the solutions. We can learn from the rest of the world and make the necessary adaptations to suit our needs. It is possible. ‘Nature knows no waste.’ We should learn from nature if we want to remain a part of nature.

We, the youth, urge you to recognise the urgency and importance of our waste problem. You don’t have to do it alone but you have the power to enforce and encourage change.

Kirtanya Lutchminarayan: Encourage sustainable choices 

My upbringing was firmly rooted in the values of kindness, care and compassion. However, these are not words we say and hear in the everyday world of science and policy. Interestingly enough, these values are what conservation of our natural resources is based on protecting our beautiful environment whilst considering the people that rely on them.

Sadly, the amount of the planet's natural resources extracted for human use has tripled in 40 years – and these resources will not last forever. Global consumption is sky-high, from fast food to fast fashion and even fast friendships. We are consumed by on-the-go lifestyles, but have we slowed down on caring?

In South Africa we see stark disparities between those who have and those who do not. We see excessive water use alongside looming droughts and insufficient water provision, we know of over use of electricity in some places and candlelight in others, we experience indulgence and food waste in certain areas and severe hunger in neighbouring communities. This is not okay.

I believe that nature can provide for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Our lifestyle choices do not need to be at the expense of our precious planet, and the millions of South Africans who depend on nature.

We all have a responsibility and the power to change our actions through our daily choices which impact our environment. Youth around the world are raising their voices as future leaders and Earth citizens – the ones who will bear the brunt of the actions (or inaction) taken today.

It is policy makers and government officials who need to hear our pleas, those who are influential in securing a sustainable and equal future, those (who are) positioned to instil hope for our planet and for future generations. We all have a choice to be part of the problem or to rise to a solution. It is time! And we call on you to make a change.

Farai Chireshe: Take climate action 

Have you been alarmed by the recent news about the devastating storms and flooding in Durban and Cyclone Idai in our neighbouring Mozambique? I certainly have! The storms and floods resulted in extensive destruction of property and loss of life. These are only a few of the impacts of climate change which are very close to home.

Scientists have proven over the years that the concentration and increase of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere results in an increase in the average global temperature. This in turn results in changes in the Earth’s climate system. 

But there is good news too. There are a plethora of alternative energy options which can be adopted. We have an abundant supply of solar and wind, which we can use to generate renewable electricity. Fuels and even chemicals can be derived from biomass feedstocks such as agriculture and forestry wastes, as well as invasive alien plants.

Products derived from bio-based feedstocks have the potential to be more environmentally friendly, provided they are sustainably sourced. The good news is that these feedstocks can be used alongside fossil fuels at existing refineries like Sasol, ensuring no job losses. Additionally, the use of these feedstocks can also promote small and medium enterprises in the feedstock supply chain.

Let’s work together to advance the use of alternative energy in South Africa – to move away from fossil fuels and ensure we have a cleaner environment so as to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ensure a green future for all.

Ariel Prinsloo: Grow green jobs 

Environmental issues such as the acceleration of climate change are caused by people. From the perspective of young people; these issues are the direct result of choices made by previous generations, where we have to clean up the mess.

In the midst of this, as young people we are trying to find our place in the world but are challenged by a lack of employment opportunities with increasing living costs while trying to take care of our families.

When trying to enter the job market we are seen as too young, overqualified or underqualified with a lack of skills and experience.

But there are a vast amount of jobs and job types that are needed in the green sector. Within this space there are people from different backgrounds that use their mixture of skills and experience to solve a range of environmental problems from climate change to overfishing of endangered species.

Although being young can be frustrating, scary and overwhelming, we have the power and choice to be optimistic to help and shape a better environment for our future. We all have the potential.

We need the opportunity and we can’t do it alone. Help us increase skills training and work opportunities in the green sector. It is not only for our benefit but for the legacy we want to leave behind.

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