Glass half-full for youth conservation champions
Participants in the Youth Climate Summit initiative are halfway through this yearlong programme and have made impressive strides in their understanding of conservation, sustainability and climate justice. On May 21, they returned to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for a final presentation of their projects to YCS partners and supporting non-governmental organisations.
This event demonstrated the progress made by YCS participants after Bermuda’s first summit in November 2021. The ideas collected during the summit addressed issues of climate change with a specific focus on local mitigation and adaptation. Dozens of suggestions were reviewed by the youth-elected YCS Advisory Board, consisting of representatives from the tracks of climate justice, conservation and sustainability. With the submissions from their peers at the forefront of their decision-making process, the board members identified specific climate action projects.
The project planning process kicked off in March with a series of local NGO meetings to gather information, identify overlaps with existing initiatives, and explore collaboration opportunities. Monthly educational activities helped participants to develop appropriate networks and advance their understanding of project management, stakeholder engagement, communication, finance and budgeting, and to gain specific insight into marine protection, community gardening and plastic waste reduction here in Bermuda.
Participants also met with a variety of local experts, taking part in a series of fact-finding field trips, including an electric bus tour with the Department of Transport, organic gardening with Food Forest Bermuda, seagrass restoration and mangrove reforestation on Burt’s Island with the Waterstart programme, planting of native trees on Trunk Island with the Bermuda Zoological Society, mangrove reforestation at Waterville with the Bermuda National Trust, toiling the soil at a community garden with Bermuda is Love, and a trip to Belco to see the companies’ sustainable practices first-hand. These excursions have enabled participants to broaden their knowledge and better understand their involvement in tackling critical local environmental issues.
These experiences informed the presentations on May 21, as the Climate Justice project team members, Fabiola Adams, Jessie DeBraga, and Moriah Bridgewater, shared their community garden initiative “Good Growing”, which aims to improve awareness on the importance of food security in Bermuda. With a budget of $1,800, this youth group plan to grow local organic food using their garden plot at Southlands Community Garden and a Nourish-bot container installation. The goal is to sell their locally grown fruit and vegetables at established farmers’ markets on the island and to do their part to combat the increasing cost of food imports, unnecessary food waste, and the risks of pesticide residues on imported products.
Ava Gibson and Satya Darrell, Sustainability team members, introduced their project, “Single-Use Plastic Substitution”. This initiative aims to increase awareness about the risks of single-use plastics and to promote sustainable alternatives to plastic lunch-box containers. The group are introducing a pilot scheme in two local schools to reduce reliance on single-use plastic in hot lunches. With a conservative estimate of $5,220, they plan to purchase and distribute 300 stainless-steel containers to participating schools.
Finally, Conservation team members Phoenix Palacio, D’Angele Symonds, Azari Easton, Naina Seth and Zahra Trotte presented their “Marine Protection and Outreach” project. Their goals are to tackle mangrove reforestation and seagrass conservation, and to join lionfish culling efforts. The team, who plan to build and place 12 seagrass cages in Bermuda’s waters, have already planted up to 50 mangrove seedlings and acquired training in lionfish spearing.
Partners attending the presentation were unanimously impressed with each group’s strategic thought process and thorough project planning.
In attendance was Louise Twiss-West, HSBC Bermuda’s Head of Wholesale Banking, who said: “It was so inspiring to witness the progress in climate action to date by the Youth Climate Summit leaders on the themes of conservation, sustainability and climate justice. The projects selected by these young leaders not only offer our island practical solutions to address important climate-related issues such as plastic consumption, food security and the blue economy, but also allows them to apply this through a business-model context. As YCS co-founding partner, HSBC is also happy to provide each group with the ‘seed monies’ required to help bring these projects to fruition within our schools and community. We look forward to seeing the projects’ end results and also to the continuous engagement with key community stakeholders as we all work towards building a more sustainable Bermuda.”
Thanks to the generous financial support of both founding partners, Axa XL and HSBC, each group are in the implementation phase of their projects.
I am delighted with the level of student engagement, especially throughout the project planning process. During the summit, students were assured that their voice mattered, and it was truly rewarding for their efforts to be recognised by YCS partners. We look forward to advancing these youth projects further with the continued support of our valued partners.
• Rosemarie McMahon, PhD is the consulting director to the Youth Climate Programme, a Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute initiative. To learn more about the Youth Climate Summit and follow the journey of participants over the upcoming months please visit www.YCSBA.com or follow them on social media @ycsbda