SDG Talks: Mobilizing young people to become ‘Guardians of the Earth’ on World Environment Day

As Indonesia, like the rest of the world, grapples with today’s pressing environmental challenges, this year’s World Environment Day (WED) has provided a sense of urgency to increase collective action among influential youth and move the needle in the right direction.

Mobilizing young people to address the climate crisis has therefore become one of the main items on the UNDP agenda to mark WED. We recently hosted our monthly SDG talks, titled “Guardians of (the) Earth: Honoring Youth Action Marking World Environment Day” in partnership with the University of “Pembangunan” veterans of Yogyakarta. The event focused on the role of environmentally friendly businesses and the impact of environmental degradation on vulnerable local communities,

Moderated by UNDP SDG Activist Enggi Dewanti, the event featured Dwi Ariyoga Gautomo, National Project Coordinator for the Arafura and Timor Sea (ATSEA2) Project, the UNDP project on its second phase of implementation. work dealing with environmental concerns in the Arafura region and the Timor Sea, Almira Zulfikar, co-founder of Plepahan Indonesian startup offering upcycled and biodegradable products, Yuniar Pratiwi, Marketing and Creative Economy Manager, Rinjani – Lombok UGGp Biosphere Reserveand Derta Prabuning, director of Reefcheck Indonesia, a UNESCO-recognized geopark.

Mr. Derta set the tone of the discussion by explaining the importance of the maritime sector on the ecosystem chain.

“Coral reefs are part of an important healthy ecosystem at sea. Once destroyed, it will have a big influence on rising sea temperatures and livestock,” he said.

The issue of cross-border issues was raised during Mr. Yoga’s discussion of the ATSEA2 project which emphasized interdependence.

“Environmental efforts will have no impact if they are not aligned with the livelihoods of those directly affected,” he said, stressing that intergovernmental cooperation to tackle the climate crisis will be valuable when cooperation also concerning the livelihoods of people living near the axis of the coastal zone.

The ATSEA2 project works with countries in the ATS region, including Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The combination of economic and environmental approaches is promising. However, the feasibility of zero waste needs to be addressed more seriously, both on land and underwater. Marine pollution, for example, has contributed to habitat loss and ecosystem deterioration. Oil spills and marine litter, for example, are strongly influenced by human activities on land.

Ms. Zulfikar from Plepah shared his formula for solving the waste problem by collaborating with MSMEs (micro-small and medium-sized enterprises) in the food industries to use eco-friendly food packaging produced by his emerging small business. Plepahan was a finalist in the Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge (EPPIC) competition, organized in Southeast Asia by UNDP to support social innovators on early-stage funding and relevant training incubation to develop their ideas on tackling plastic pollution.

Mr. Derta of ReefCheck Indonesia said involving local communities in matters that form the core part of ecological protection could also be a viable solution.

“It is our priority for initiatives that offer economic values ​​involving local communities and preserving the ecosystem. We are happy that so far some local products made by the people of Rote Ndao in East Nusa Tenggara are getting more demand. Derta added referring to the area where ReefCheck operates.

These products include seaweed-based soap and coffee made from mangrove fruits, he added.

Yoga echoed his remarks, noting “It is important today that all solutions are easily replicated and considered the end-to-end impact on the environment.”

Waste management is also another major concern calling for mobilized action.

“Waste is an endless problem, especially that of visitors and hikers. After several consultations with the village communities around the Geopark, we are formulating several changes to the rules and regulations to reduce waste in the Geopark area,” said Ms. Pratiwi, from Rinjani Geopark.

Panelists agreed on the importance of a bottom-up strategy to ensure the success of any environmental business initiative. It will immediately contribute to the low carbon objective by ensuring that materials can be sourced locally. Future attempts should focus on replication scale rather than size scale. Such a strategy will ensure that the products or services can be distributed within an acceptable distance.

Written by Enggi Dewanti

Edited by Tomi Soetjipto and Ranjit Jose

About the author