Tackling conservation, sustainability and climate justice
The group of youth attending Bermuda’s first Youth Climate Summit in November 2021 addressed the issue of climate change with an impressive sense of motivation. The ideas collected at the YCS in the tracks of Conservation, Sustainability and Climate Justice is a comprehensive wish list for sustainability in Bermuda.
The main categories of focus were in renewable energy, reducing and recycling, climate education and communication, local food production, and ecosystem protection. The nominated YCS advisory board members, all 15 to 17 years of age, kick-started the process of translating this vision into a set of projects. Over the past three months, the board exercised a great sense of leadership in the management of this task and developed three project pitches in the above-mentioned tracks.
Climate Justice board members Fabiola Adams, Kahlil Smythe, Jessie DeBraga and Moriah Bridgewater proposed “Good Growing”, a community garden initiative that aims to improve awareness on the importance of food security in Bermuda. “Single-use plastic substitution” was the proposed initiative from the Sustainability board, led by Ava Gibson, Courtney Rego and Laura Hupman, with the vision to reduce single-use plastics in hot lunches in schools. Finally, the Conservation board members, Phoenix Palacio, D’Angele Symonds, Azari Easton and Elsie Hastings, proposed “Marine Protection and Outreach”, a project that tackles mangroves and sea grass conservation, as well as the culling of invasive lionfish in our waters.
The YCS board members pitched their projects on February 26 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute in the first reconvening of participants since the summit and attained the full endorsement of their peers. In this same meeting, specific project roles were assigned to the youth participants within each track.
In early March, the project planning process kicked off with a series of meetings with local non-governmental organisation partners to allow the project teams to gather information, identify overlaps with existing initiatives and explore collaboration opportunities going forward.
The Climate Justice team met with the Ministry of Public Works, Greenrock and Sinclair’s Seed Sowing. This was followed by a visit to Food Forest Bermuda in Southampton and an excursion to Burt Island with the Waterstart programme to examine their food gardening methodology. The Sustainability project team met with representatives from Beyond Plastic and Cafeteria Culture, an international initiative captured in the documentary Microplastic Madness. The Conservation team met with the Bermuda National Trust and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This project track also attended the excursion to Burt Island and was introduced to the work being done on the island to support mangrove and sea grass restoration. Further discussions have begun with Department of Environment and Natural Resources on lionfish culling. All NGO meetings were highly collaborative with experts in their respective fields providing the youth groups with valuable input for their project plans.
Each group will finalise their plans by the end of April, with a view to activating their initiatives shortly thereafter. Thanks to the support of Youth Climate Summit partners, including founding partners Axa XL and HSBC, foundational project funding is in place.
This yearlong Youth Climate Programme uniquely offers participants the chance to work with similarly-aged students from various schools on their climate-action projects. In addition, the diverse training sessions offered through the programme provide these youths with transferable skills that are relevant not only for the implementation of their action projects but in other areas of their future education and careers.
The status of their collective projects will be presented during Bermuda’s second Youth Climate Summit, which will be held from November 21 to 26. As the foundation for a year of youth-led sustainability, conservation and climate justice initiatives, the summit will again prepare and empower students to address climate issues on a local level.
• Rosemarie McMahon, PhD is the consulting director to the Youth Climate Programme, a Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute initiative. Established by a Private Act of the Bermuda Parliament in 1992 and officially opened in July 1997, BUEI is a registered non-profit and does not receive any government funding. The organisation relies on the continued financial support of the community to deliver impactful, high-quality educational programmes and initiatives including the Eco-Schools Bermuda programme and the Youth Climate Summit. For more information on the Youth Climate Summit, visit www.YCSBda.com
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