Youth and the Environment
Young people today make up a large and important part of the world’s population. The habits they develop in youth will play a decisive role in shaping future environmental policies. Environmental degradation has direct implications for the well-being of young people across the world both now and in the future. For example, more than 750 million people worldwide currently lack access to clean and safe drinking water. In 2012, WHO estimated that nearly 7 million deaths worldwide were the result of exposure to air pollution. Young children are especially vulnerable to environmental risks and hazards which disproportionately affect youth.
Additionally, young people will have to live with the consequences of policy decisions addressing environmental concerns longer than their elders. Thus, youth will be more greatly affected by current and future environmental policies than older generations. As such, young people should be encouraged to participate in the creation of appropriate and effective solutions to the current ecological challenges and increase efforts towards sustainable development. Youth engagement can hold political leaders accountable forcing them to adopt a long-term rather than short-term perspective.
Current international, regional and national environmental initiatives tend to be the result of youth-led NGO’s and advocacy groups. The efforts made by young people to further improve environmental policies worldwide are a critical component for raising both awareness and political will in societies to reach an agreement on the protection and preservation of the environment. To address current and future environmental concerns, the UN’s World Programme for Youth Action proposed a number of policy focus areas including an emphasis on environmental education and the encouragement of youth participation in the protection and preservation of the environment.
Appropriate and long-term solutions to environmental concerns are critical for improving lives and ensuring sustainable development. While every group should play a constructive role, young people constitute a special group regarding environmental concerns as they are the most vulnerable to its hazards and those more greatly affected by related policies.
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Explore the original documents by clicking on the links below:
-UN. World Youth Report 2003-Chapter 5 Youth and the Environment. Available at: <http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ch05.pdf> Accessed: 12th of August 2015.
-Water.org factsheet; available at: <http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water> Accessed: 22nd of September 2015.
-UN. World Programme of Action for Youth, Available at: <http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/wpay_text_final.pdf> Accessed: 22nd of September 2015.