Beyond The Classroom
In the ongoing battle against climate change, young voices play a pivotal role in catalyzing global awareness and action. Among these dynamic youth activists is Khun Sriprab, a dedicated CGA student, who embarked on a transformative journey with Oxford Net Zero's Youth Climate Training course.
Through this in-depth interview, Sriprab sheds light on the profound insights gained from the program, the importance of integrating traditional practices into modern solutions, and the role of young individuals in steering the world towards a sustainable future.
I entered this course towards the end of the previous academic year after Mr. Ronan Kearney, my biology teacher, sent over the application information and suggested that anyone who was interested could apply to join the course. I was not mainly interested in anything related to advocacy and raising awareness at that time, though I decided to apply in order to learn more about the science, politics and economics behind climate change. Fortunately, I was selected to be a part of this amazing experience!
Since joining, I felt like the course has changed my view on climate change greatly. I went in with what everyone knew, the classic “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” and “Greenhouse effect” knowledge. However, the course has provided me with so much insight into the layers of tackling climate change, whether that be in regards to the great deal of political red-tape in order to produce actual lasting changes, or regarding to the legal side of climate change, and how the phrasing of the UNFCCC resolutions mean different things. Thank you very much to Mr. Kearney for giving me the opportunity to apply to this wonderful 13-week training course!
Firstly, I think an eye-opening takeaway for me was the scale of the issue in regards to climate change. It was very interesting (and scary) to see the amount of topics feeding into climate change whether that be fuel extraction, agriculture and other varieties of causes. Additionally, it was even scarier to see the amount of political and economic barriers surrounding the issue, from the fact that certain parts of UNFCCC resolutions were non-binding due to diplomatic pressure, to the fact that certain major oil companies, due to historical reasons, have virtually unlimited access to resource extraction, which can negatively impact the populace, though still continues due to the global demand and profits. This puts into perspective the question of whether the 1.5 degrees Celsius Warming threshold is even possible.
While this sounds quite pessimistic, equally, it was also very eye-opening to see the scale of efforts in attempting to fix the issue of climate change. I was very interested in efforts originating from Central and South America, who are suffering firsthand from the issue. Their roles in returning land to native owners, and reducing corporate influence was very interesting and admirable.
Finally, the point I found most interesting was the fact that it was often countries that are least industrialised that suffer the most from the effects of climate change, while those who are more wealthy often suffer the least.
All of this gave me a new perspective on why countries don’t just “Solve climate change”.
I believe that we are at a point where it is no longer the time to simply raise awareness but a time to take action and actually generate results. For me, I think the most critical role for young people is to start looking at entering into careers with political and economic policy-making abilities and getting involved with scientific research. I believe that fields like urban planning, environmental economics, environmental politics and policy-making along with environmental sciences are going to be more relevant over the years, and that by filling up these positions with younger people who are more in touch with the day-to-day effects of climate change, we can begin tackling the issue of climate change once and for all.
So what to do in the meantime before entering a career path? I feel like continuing the idea of spreading awareness and education is a good way of getting started, whether that be writing articles and making podcasts to actually getting involved physically with the local community in waste-reduction efforts or other events.
Another key way in which I think young individuals should behave is observation. I think it is important to observe what is actually happening around you, and finding out the problems before going big and trying to find solutions, as it is important to think about how solutions will impact the average person, just as much as the planet as a whole.
This moment during the course that made an impact on me is the discussion on indigenous lands and the idea of greenwashing where lands which had once belonged to the indigenous groups which are often resource rich have been exploited by corporations. These corporations may, in turn, create a narrative around their ownership of the land as being more beneficial towards the indigenous groups and that they have a relationship with local groups. Often, this is not the case, and it may actually be more beneficial for indigenous groups to use their knowledge to preserve the environment, rather than have companies take control of the land, and pass their own “environmental protection mechanisms”.
I think this new knowledge has influenced my interest into the culture of different groups, and how mimicking their practices can be used to solve modern day issues. This ties in with the study of Anthropology and Environmental Economics - which I encourage people to look into more. Along with biomimicry (using nature-based designs and processes to solve modern problems), using solutions inspired by historical designs and processes could definitely be a viable method of fixing climate change and allow humans to adapt to the new extreme climates. As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke - don’t fix it!”. This is so interesting that I’m currently exploring the use of biomimicry in facilitating human settlement in extreme climates in my EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) with CGA right now as a result.
For individuals: Educating themselves and getting more involved with the community. General practices like reducing plastic and food waste or planting trees in the local area are examples of this. Additionally, doing more research before making purchases is a good idea, as the narrative from advertising is usually not always the complete story.
For businesses: A similar idea to individuals. Continuing to reduce their waste and carbon footprint along with being more involved with the community and using practices that may not necessarily make the most profit, but reduce the external costs as much as possible. Larger corporations should also be pressured into producing a clear and balanced narrative in their promotions to consumers.
Governments should act in a way that is most beneficial to the people in regards to health and environmental safety, and not to the source of funding. Obviously, this opens the debate of whether rich countries should be responsible for offsetting their emissions from their industrialisation, and if economic growth of smaller countries should be sacrificed for reducing emissions and the effects of climate change. With that being said, policies which conserve habitats and species, along with the land, should definitely be adopted. The idea of a circular economy should definitely be studied, and a way for sustainable development and economic growth is the next step from this.
The knowledge from this course has inspired me to pursue my further studies in a field related to Environmental Economics or Land Economy/Management, hopefully being able to enter the workforce in an area related to these fields and make a difference and positive impact for this planet.