Archive for the ‘Youth & Envrionment’ Category

Voice of Lankan youth at Copenhagen

December 19, 2009

Present at the Copenhagen climate summit in unprecedented numbers, youth are increasingly working together across national boundaries to be an effective force for change within the global climate negotiations. Youth from Sri Lanka too joined hands on this global effort to fight climate change. Shehan Amaratunga, Vositha Wijenayake and Ashrifa Ali are in the Denmark’s capital Copenhagen raising the voice on behalf of Sri Lankan youth.

“We all work toward a common goal of pushing the world leaders and the negotiators to make the right choices” said Shehan sending an exclusive email message to the Mirror Magazine from Copenhagen. Both Shehan and Vositha took part in the 5th Annual Youth Conference held at Copenhagen during the weekend, which saw the participation of youth from over 100 countries. They learned, shared and planned how they will directly influence the outcomes of the critical UN Climate Summit. “Copenhagen is a great city and with lots of youth from different countries, it is fun too. But we are all staying focused on why we are here,” young SriLankan delegates voiced together.

Both Shehan and Voshitha contributed locally on acting upon effective Climate Action, and were selected as the official Sri Lankan Youth Delegates to the UN climate change conference. Vositha is the Executive Coordinator for the Sri Lanka Youth Climate Action Network (SLYCAN) which is an umbrella organization functioning to bring together youth that work towards combating climate change. Shehan holds the position of the Project Coordinator for the Sri Lanka Youth Climate Action Network and is the Environmental Program Coordinator of the pioneering youth organization, Beyond Borders Sri Lanka.
British Council International Climate Champion, Ashrifa Ali has also flown to Copenhagen to make her voice heard on behalf of youth, especially in the region. She joins with two hundred climate champions from more than forty countries worldwide.

Before leaving the country, Ashrifa revealed her ambitious expectations about a fruitful climate deal in Copenhagen. “The Sri Lankan youth are ready to take to the frontlines in the combat against climate change to save our beautiful little island. Our country contributes only a very small percentage to carbon emissions, yet we are and would be affected drastically by climate change, Ashrifa said.

The British Council’s Climate Champion Program is a growing global network of more than 1500 individuals aged between 14 and 35 who share an interest in finding sustainable solutions to tackle climate change in their communities. With a focus on local initiatives, the Climate Champions Program is already making a positive impact in community and beyond. Ashrifa has assembled a green army in her locality to act on various aspects to take climate actions.

The Climate Champions represent part of the wider United Nations’ Youth Constituency of over 2000 young people attending Copenhagen. Ashrifa will be involved in a wide range of activities including interventions at meetings with official delegations and will have the opportunity to showcase their projects and solutions to climate change.

“After all, we – today’s younger generation will experience the worst of climate change in our lifetime if actions are delayed. So Youth must unite to hit the breaks on Climate Change!” This was Ashrifa’s request to all the SriLankan youth.

South Asian Youth on Climate Change

December 5, 2009

Ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Summit that will start tomorrow, Youth from neighbouring countries of South Asia got together at Piliyandala last month to share their knowledge on how to deal with Global Warming. It was the annual workshop of SAYEN – the South Asia Youth Environment Network set up by United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP) to ensure effective Youth participation in Sustainable Development. “Managing Climate: My Responsibility and I CAN” was the theme of 2009’s workshop.

But SAYEN meeting was different from global leaders’ conferences which are full of heated arguments to come into a common agreement. The friendly nature of this group of young people was evident in the late evening I that I met them. Instead of some debates on climate change, it was a beautiful song that reached my ears. I couldn’t understand the words as it was Bengali, but later came to know it was a song by a waiting lover – something very remotely relate to Climate Change. It was the character of these youths – after a tiresome day discussing how to battle climate change, they were enjoying the relaxing evening. Later everybody joined the Monkey dance started by a Pakistani delegate showing how much they jelled together during the shorter period of time.

“We know that today’s young people like us will be the worst hit generation to taste the bitterness of Climate Change. So we are keen to act together” said Ruchi Jain – One of the Indian Delegate. They all had their own success stories to share with others. Most of the projects they led in their countries aimed at educating the youth on environmental issues. Yashika and Nirosha of Vishaka College who represented Sri Lanka had undertaken a recycling project through their school Nature Club. Shehan – another SAYEN delegate from Sri Lanka got involved in a garbage project trying to address the issue from grassroot level. Shehan will also be one of SriLanka’s Youth Delegates to the Copenhagen Summit. They all have similar experiences to share with others during SAYEN 2009.

However, the discussions were not restricted only to the topic of Global Warming. Fathimath Munal from Maldives was greatly saddened by the half-dead Hikkaduwa Coral reef seen during their field visit. “In Maldives, we are still having lots of live Reefs” she shared her experience with others. “Maldives will go under water when global warming increases the sea levels, but through youth networks in Maldives, we are trying to do our part to fight it” Fathimath said with great hope.

Delegates from Nepal, Pakistan had also seen an ocean for the first, so the coasted environmental issues were quite novel to them. However, they had their experience of Glacier melting stories to tell the others. The Himalayan Glacier melting due to Global Warming is expected to be a major issue for those who depend on rivers starting from Himalaya.

SAYEN is UNEP’s strategy for engaging young people in environmental activities. Centre for Environmental Education(CEE) hosted the event together with Environment Ministry. Gopal Jain of CEE and Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP who conducted the workshop said they were really encouraged with the enthusiasm of the participants this year.

The participants of the SAYEN 2009 were Belal Hossain, Sarah Hassan (Bangladesh), Ruchi Jain, Aparna Susarla, Sharad Sagar (India), Fathimath Munal (Maldives), Jamuna Sharma, Brabim Kumar (Nepal), Muhammad Shahid, Nida Awan (Pakistan). The Sri Lankan team comprised of Dulshan Dulara, Isuru Udara, Shehan Amaratunga, Sashika Lakshani, Yashika, Palinda, Jeewan, Naomi, Nirosha, Vimukti and Sajith.

“We want our voices be heard in the fight against climate change!” was the youth delegates’ unanimous declaration.

Srilankan Youth’s Attitude on Climate Change

August 9, 2009

British Council with Neilson Research company has done a survey to asses the “Attitudes and Behaviours on Climate Change” among Sri Lankan youth. The survey was conducted amongst urban youth in the age group 18-35 years and here are some of the important findings of it.

  • Only 45% aware about phenomenon of Climate Change (CC)
  • Among those who are aware of CC, only 20% are in sate of ‘urgency’ claiming something needs to be done immediately.
  • 2 in 5 feel strongly concerned about climate change
  • 3 in 4 in Sri Lanka are in the “Achievability” state of mind
  • 1 in 3 in Sri Lanka feel that climate change will strongly effect them
  • Higher proportion i.e. 3 in 5 claimed doing something towards the cause
  • News (whether through TV or print) are the top most source of knowing about environmental issues like climate change
  • Celebrities and Environmentalists will motivate people the most towards the cause
  • Respondents more willing to take steps at an individual level

The Neilson survey revealed that, though the youth today is aware and concerned about climatic changes, the pressure is not felt very strongly yet, as most perceive the impact of climate change to manifest in the long term, 10 -15 years horizon, rather than ‘now.’ The need of the hour is to bring more and more people into the ‘urgency’ state of mind in order to make everybody to act ‘now’!

Youth combating climate change

August 9, 2009

Climate-Change-championsYoung people must be the centre of activities to combat climate change because their generation will have to face a worse fate in future. That is why British Council initiated their International Climate Champions Programme engaging young people around the world as communicators who can influence their peers and the general public on the urgency of climate change. And the 2009 International Climate Champions (ICC) for Sri Lanka, vows to fight against the climate change in their own capacity.

British Council helps this enthusiastic group of young people to develop and implement projects within their local communities. The Sri Lankan champions for 2009 – selected from a group of talented youth have already got the chance to participate in a few international workshops. “The chances we got to network with other like-minded youth were simply awesome,” commented Ashrifa Ali – a Sri Lankan climate champion who will be assembling a Green Army under the theme “Let’s unite to combat climate change.” Ashrifa is a Biotechnology Student at the Spectrum Institute of Science and Technology. Her Green Army is now concentrating on taking the message of Climate change to the students, the corporate and the public at large.

Karen Sadanandan – the youngest climate champion who had recently completed her A/Levels initiated an Eco-friendly Society in her school Stafford International. A plastic bottle recycling project in the school was already organized by Karen and colleagues successfully. She is now working toward establishing a green area in the school and a poster campaign together with her fellow Climate Champ Ashrifa. “The Climate Champion programme gave us a framework to work toward a common goal,” said Karen who is enthusiastic to do whatever they can to delay climate change.

Rochelle Van Dort is a management student at the National Institute of Business Management. She was the overall winner of the International climate Champions Competition 2009. Her project in this regard is the “Grow a Green Barrier Campaign” involving school children and youth to plant a mangrove belt in Negombo area. Her project raises awareness among the students and local community on the importance of mangrove and their role in battling climate change through seminars and field visits to mangrove swamps.

Taamara de Silva’s project idea is to have a tree re-planting programme focusing on establishing a strong foundation to promote the concept of climate change among the youth of Sri Lanka. He aims at establishing a monitoring system to ensure the sustainability, which is a drawback in most of current tree-planting programs. Taamara hopes to integrate the project into the school curriculum in view of creating a nationwide impact of potential significance.

Navoda Mihiraj is a first year student of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna. His ICC project – a small scale reforestation programme in schools in Galle won the runner-up prize for the ‘best champion project plan’ competition on the International Climate Champions.

“British Council is impressed with Sri Lankan Climate Champions” said Gill Westaway – the Country Director of British Council Sri Lanka. She said the enthusiasm shown by Sri Lankan youth is encouraging as it is important to act against climate change now without a delay. British Council’s International Climate Champions programme is now expanded to sixty countries across the globe. During 2009, British Council recruited over 1,300 as International Climate Champions. British Council will provide support and training to help these young Sri Lankans to sharpen their skills and to take their climate change projects into education institutions, their communities and regions.

If you are a youth passionate on environment and issues who would like to be an International Climate Champion for 2010, please contact the programme coordinator Thushara Gunasekera for more information on 4521583 or