A green ambassador for Bermuda
Boarding flights to a place unknown, to join people who I have never met, on a subject I had not mastered yet. Anxiety mixed with self-doubt as I read and searched pages and pages on sustainable development because I did not feel ready.
However, being unequipped was just what I needed to completely dive in — feet first.
Last month, I was an ambassador for Bermuda at a Young ESD [Education in Sustainable Development] Leaders Capacity Building Training Course in Lisbon, Portugal.
It was also a Young Reporters for the Environment Mission put on by FEE [Foundation for Environmental Education] in conjunction with Unesco and ABLE.
There were more than 40 representatives from 24 countries — including Slovakia, Turkey, Singapore and Mongolia. The three-day conference was an opportunity to network, work on communication/journalism skills and come together to become agents of change for sustainable development.
We were put into groups with our main objective being to carry out investigative research on fieldwork projects. Before heading out into the field, we were able to attend several workshops that would aid us when creating our fieldwork presentations.
“Systems Thinking” was a workshop on developing a sense of interconnectedness and systemic problem-solving which allowed you to look at the bigger picture.
We had to take part in role playing, which focused on conflict transformation. After this experiment, we were able to understand and dissect barriers to leading ethical strategies to overcome obstacles. My favourite workshop was the “Role of media to support Education in Sustainable Development”. I was able to improve my journalistic skills and understand the power of social media. Also how it can be used to educate/inform people about sustainable development on a global scale. By this time, I was feeling confident and knowledgeable about the subject matter.
My group was selected to visit Parque das Nações. It was once a heavily polluted area used for fuel and oil production until the Lisbon City Council held an expo to “revitalise” the area. EnVac, a Swedish company won the bid and created one of the most comprehensive domestic waste management systems in the world. The idea behind this system was to invent something that “would not collect dust, but collect waste”. In Parque das Nações, a huge vacuum system connects 21km of underground pipes to all the buildings within 3.8 miles. Residents place their waste in a box and it falls by gravity and is pushed through a pressurised system travelling at 70km/h. Residents also have to dispose of waste within buildings at certain times to avoid contamination of waste. This innovative system allows the area to be relatively litter-free, and act as a catalyst for change in creating more systems like this.
However, it left my group debating whether or not this allowed residents to waste less or waste more? Since they do not have a visual representation of how much they are consuming- does this cause them to overconsume? We met two women who work there, and they are currently doing a study on whether this is true or not. Sustainably speaking, this system could be used in developing cities around the world.
After our fieldwork excursions, my group joined with another and we visited the Oceanarium. This is one of Europe’s best aquariums with sea creatures from all over the world. It was a breathtaking facility. Soon after, we headed back to our hotel to work on our reports and videos that were to be presented the next day.
The conference room was electrified with people collaborating on their presentations. Seeing people who were not native English speakers write articles in English was inspirational and heart-warming. In only two days, the connections made were evident, promising and awe-inspiring.
My team worked separately on an article and video, and naming our article proved to be the biggest problem at hand. I was a bit panicked, stressed — but grateful to be in such a position that would allow me to dig deep and follow through. My fellow team-mate stayed up to the wee hours of 4.30am working on our team video. She was the real MVP.
The morning of the press conference left me feeling sick to my stomach and my body stiff with anxiety. Walking up to the front caused a slight wave of nausea, but I overcame it. We all overcame. My team did an excellent job of presenting the subject matter, answering questions and taking criticism. Walking back to my seat, left me feeling confident and satisfied that I would leave Portugal doing something I have never done before in my life.
My experience in Lisbon was completely out of this world. Not to sound clichéd — but it was “life-changing”. I left Bermuda feeling a bit discouraged and wondering whether choosing to study environmental science would be completely in vain. Being surrounded by some of the greatest like-minded people in the world, it allowed me to be inspired and encouraged me to continue in my efforts to educate people on the environmental issues we are currently facing. I am extremely honoured to have had the opportunity to meet such amazing people and look forward to collaborating with them in the near future. Lastly, I would like to thank Raleigh Bermuda, a local youth development programme for allowing me travel abroad to Borneo and Malaysia to work on sustainable development projects. This opportunity shifted my thinking and career path by showing how humans all around the world are interrelated. Who would have thought that one day trekking through the jungle would allow me to enrol in an environmental science course at Bermuda College? While also allowing me to attend a conference in Portugal on Education in Sustainable Development. Small world.
I would also like to thank Amy Harvey, the earth and environmental science lecturer at Bermuda College. It was a “Green Challenge” project she assigned me that ignited my passion in deciding to pursue environmental science as a career. Her lectures opened me up to a wealth of knowledge that I will continue to use for the rest of my life.
My final thanks goes to Greenrock, which is a local representative of FEE — for allowing me to take part in such an remarkable opportunity.
They provide the YRE programme to schools across the island and I hope to use this training to be an advocate for education in sustainable development in Bermuda.
My time in Portugal made me aware of how Bermudians have a role to play in the larger world, even if we are only 21 square miles in size. Diving in “feet first” will allow me to stay grounded, stay passionate and inspired in my journey towards creating a more sustainable world.
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