Students from 17 countries and 12 U.S. States are set to participate in a Global Youth Climate Summit being hosted in July by Stanford University’s Deliberative Democracy Lab, the Rustic Pathways Foundation and Rustic Pathways. More teens are expected to join the roster in the coming days to enhance the diversity of ideas being brought to the table during the summit.
The program is designed for students in 7th through 12th grade and will be held online from July 12 – 23.
There will be a mix of live sessions, small group sessions with flexible start times, and independent work. It will be led by Stanford’s Dr. Alice Siu.
Students currently registered for the program live in a wide range of countries across four continents, including Malaysia and Indonesia in Asia, Egypt and South Africa in Africa, Turkey and Italy in Europe, and Mexico and El Salvador in North America.
16-year-old Julieta Melgar, who is from San Salvador, says she can’t wait for the summit to give her ideas on how to help her community.
“Living in a third-world country, social issues are something I see every day. Violence, gender inequalities, poverty, and environmental issues were ingrained into my subconscious as something completely normal. My interest to participate in the program stems from this realization,” Melgar said. “Learning about climate and the way we can help the earth survive is incredibly interesting to me… because it can be the solution to many other social issues.”
Making a Local Impact
Many teens participating in the summit echo Melger’s thoughts and have taken steps to become leaders in their communities on environmental issues. High schoolers Prudence Brittany Amarissa and Zera Amari from Indonesia are among them. Both of them live on the world’s most populous island of Java and have participated in other conferences to work on their leadership skills.
“I have experienced multiple youth summits and find a lot of joy in discussing with my peers ways to make real change in the future,” Amari said.
These two students are among those who have put their thoughts into action after being educated about issues. Amari joined in webinars created by the youth-led group Bye Bye Plastic Bag to see how she could help her community on this issue. She also participated in an event called Cleanup Jakarta to pick up waste.
Amarissa is a content writer for the youth-led plastic bag initiative and is part of a Model United Nations club. With this activity, she has participated in conferences on a diverse range of topics and hosted one conference herself.
Other students participating in the Rustic summit also have led environmental projects. Chalisa Pusitdhikul from Bangkok, Thailand was the leader of a team called CACtus that spearheaded a project to collect food waste from the local community to create compost natural fertilizers for a local organic garden.
Duru Barbak from Istanbul,Turkey works with other teens on the project Fridays for Future Turkey, which hopes to persuade Turkey’s government to ratify The Paris Agreement. These teens are working together to organize climate strikes.
Kai Watanabe from Yokohoma, Japan says climate change is not taken as seriously as he thinks it should be in his country, and he is working on creating an NPO with his friends to combat unethical data practices online.
Anica David who lives in Minato-ku, Japan but is from the Philippines, has joined in a host of projects. She has taken a leading role in two environmental clubs in school and is part of a Children’s General Assembly that investigated the topic “The Right to Be Who You Are.” Their efforts are culminating in a manifesto that will be presented to the United Nations. David says youth summits provide invaluable experiences to students.
“I’ve gained crucial insight in recognizing that even though we all live in different places, there are recurring issues that the youth of today face and are willing to address,” David said.
Tackling Environmental Issues
Prior to this summit, Rustic Pathways has led a number of other youth virtual programs in the past year with an environmental focus. Polina Chubarova from Sunny Isles, Florida in the United States is among the students who took part in an earlier program and are now signed up for this summer’s summit. Her virtual Rustic Pathways program centered on Fiji and brainstorming ways to decrease ocean pollution.
Water pollution is just one of many subjects participants in the upcoming summit listed as a problem where they live. Barbak mentioned concerns about Turkey’s sea snot problem in the Marmara Sea. The sludge caused by water pollution and climate change is threatening the marine ecosystem.
Amarissa mentioned that many of Indonesia’s rivers are polluted with waste and that air pollution has contributed to health problems among many citizens. In addition, she is concerned about deforestation.
“With the pandemic and many ongoing economic issues, deforestation activities have been neglected, and large-scale deforestation has been most alarming,” Amarissa said.
Valentina Giolli who lives in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy says she is focused on the environmental damage created by the intensive rearing of livestock in her country. David says she finds Japan’s plastic waste troubling, indicating that the country uses 30 tons of fossil fuels every year to incinerate it. She also says cultural aspects revolving around cleanliness and contamination play a role in this problem.
“While one solution may work in another country, it must be adapted to fit the local context for the best integration and sustainable results,” David said.
Melgar says she is particularly focused on waste management and air pollution in El Salvador. Pusitdhikul has similar concerns. She says food waste and litter are large problems in Thailand, and that there are floods from people littering in road drainage. Amari echoed this thought for Indonesia.
“Jakarta is still polluted with a lot of waste and home to much of the country’s electric consumption. Also “Warungs” or small independent stores still do not implement the law of no plastic bags in Jakarta,” Amari said.
Looking to Tomorrow
Many of the students participating in the summit are looking to the future – not only for their communities and for the world at large, but also for their personal goals. The summit is giving young people the opportunity to consider if they want to pursue a career in environmental science or international relations. There also are lots of opportunities for personal growth, no matter what career direction they choose.
“I tend to give out my opinions a lot, so I would like to try to be better at the listening side of things and improve those skills of understanding people’s opinions,” Amarissa said.
In general, students participating in the summit are looking for action-oriented ideas and leadership skills. These are notions that resonate with students no matter where they live.
“My passion is saving our planet, and I am willing to do it for my whole life,” Barbak said. “So I want to develop myself with this program.”