Harnessing the ASEAN youth’s powers for the environment

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There is only one Earth for the young ones. Indeed, we must assemble our power and collectively act to keep our only one Earth safe for many more years to come. SWE TUN/ACB

In the multiverse theory, there exist alternate realities where we have Earths that are untouched, lush, and teeming with biodiversity.

But our reality is we only have one Earth, and on this World Environment Day, we once again contemplate its health and existence to ensure that we protect our own, as a species. The loss of biological diversity on this planet translates into deterioration that affects us all who inhabit it. In Southeast Asia, some 221 species are considered critically endangered. Projections show that the region is poised to lose 13-42 per cent of species and 70-90 per cent of habitats by 2100 if drivers such as habitat fragmentation, pollution and climate change are unabated.

For the people of ASEAN, the rich biodiversity not only underpins the region’s economic development and prosperity – it also is an integral part of our identity. Our culture, our knowledge and our practices are intricately connected with the diversity of life that surrounds us. Nature also holds the solution to the challenges that our region, and indeed the rest of the world, are currently facing. Healthy and intact ecosystems help in mitigating climate impacts, and even regulating disease outbreaks. Irreversible damage to this natural wealth will thus have a huge negative impact on our lives and livelihoods in the region.

And no other sector will be most affected by the cumulative effect of the negative actions of the past towards nature than the youth who will inherit its outcomes. This realisation has driven our youth in the ASEAN to care for and protect the resources that not only nourish us but also shape the future before us.

Thus the youth, in particular, are crucial in transforming our collective relationship with nature.

With their boundless energy and creativity, the youth are important actors in communicating the values of biodiversity through various platforms. In this day and age where information is easily accessed, storytelling plays an important role in paving the pathway to recovery and resilience. Hence, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) considers the youth as our dynamic partners in conserving the rich biodiversity of the ASEAN.

In time for World Environment Day, the ACB officially announced the impressive roster of Young ASEAN Storytellers (YAS), innovative youths who hope to inspire others to learn about and care for our shared biological and cultural diversity through poems, visual arts, songs, and other creative mediums. The twenty Young ASEAN Storytellers, hailing from the different ASEAN Member States will craft powerful stories of conservation of the region’s rich natural and cultural heritage teeming in select ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP).

The Young ASEAN Storytellers are called upon to wield their superpowers to raise awareness of the value and importance of biodiversity. Their hopes and aspirations told through stories are powerful tools that can communicate to the ASEAN and to the world, the wonders of the AHPs, and the significance of ASEAN biodiversity as our home and heritage.

Indeed, we must assemble our power and collectively act to keep our only one Earth safe for many more years to come. Happy World Environment Day!

Theresa Mundita S Lim is executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

To learn more about the Young ASEAN Storytellers (YAS), visit aybp.aseanbiodiversity.org/yas/

YAS is supported by the EU through the Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP) Project, as well as the ASEAN-Germany Cooperation in Biodiversity through the Second Phase of the Institutional Strengthening of the Biodiversity Sector in the ASEAN (ISB II) Project and the Small Grants Programme (SGP).