Blog Archives

Sri Lanka’s Youth Plan for Sustainable Development

The Rio+20 Summit is in full swing and the Sri Lankan arm has taken its first initiative, in which a statement has been presented to the Minister of Environment. Post-war Sri Lanka certainly is in need of a system of sustainable development and at this stage the country has a fresh start in which adopting such a system is relatively trouble free; or so it should be.

The statement that encapsulates several vital areas in sustainable development was drafted by over 30 youth-led and youth-focus local organizations that are involved in environmental conservation, management, climate change, sustainable development and advocacy for environmental issues. Bringing these organizations together and orchestrating Sri Lanka’s participation in the Rio Summit, is the Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) that was established earlier this year (March 2012). The statement is a position paper on which future projects will be based. The paper was presented to the Ministry of Environment, as the ministry had arranged for the involvement of youth groups in the process. Nashen Gunesekera, the drafting committee chair, says it shows the enthusiasm of the government as other governments had not involved environmental conscious volunteer groups, apart from the ministry’s own.

Attaining sustainable development

A large team of local environmentally conscious youths has formulated a multipronged action plan, addressing several key areas that are intrinsic in the development of a nation. Top of the list and under the umbrella of youth policy positions, the statement mentions society’s role in sustainable development. The activists believe that equality is essential, they explained “our aspiration is equality for all, and not the luxury of the 20 per cent of the world’s people who enjoy the exploitation of 80 per cent of its resources.”

Well-being and happiness as well as right mindfulness were also highlighted as the cornerstone to sustainable development. Society being at the heart of development, even with an extraordinary physical plan, it cannot fruition sans the right mindset of the people.

The economy is another key area that needs to be addressed, and therefore, the team included environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and a Green Economy in the statement. YGSL explains, “A Green Economy should replace the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed. A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. The core idea of a Green Economy should be to enforce sustainability, specifically the wellbeing of all people and respecting and preserving the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems.

A green economy manages consumption and production in an environmentally conscious manner. The document indicated, Agenda 21 (Chapter 4.3), which is an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) states that; “The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.” According to the team enabling the SCP should be the focus of any emerging international outcome. SCP is a systemic process of lifestyle and livelihood behaviours that ensures the wellbeing of all people in an equitable manner while conserving the ecology for current and future generations.

Political solutions are on the cards as well as sustainable development governance, which they said, “We understand Sustainable Development Governance should necessarily create platforms at every level for the voice of youth to be heard and to be considered within the decision making processes, for it is on the shoulders of youth the responsibility rests.”

On that note they believe it is necessary to establish an office for the ombudsperson — high commission for future generations. “We the youth representatives of Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka understand that there is a lacuna in current decision making processes and institutions of the world, especially as all of them fail to consider the long term effects of decisions made today. The proposal stated at paragraph 57 of the Zero Outcome document calling for the establishment of an Ombudsperson/High Commissioner for Future Generations is thus an opportunity to meet this short coming and by establishing such an office, we believe that both the aspirations of youth and future generations will be protected.”

How Sustainable Development Can be Achieved

The team also presented a set of recommendation that can be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the governments in the international arena. They laid emphasis on the inclusion of the youth at all levels of decision making so the future can be shaped to suit the next generation better. The team expressed, “We wish to state by participation, youth are empowered and are given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential hence enabling them to harness their skills required to move the world toward the paradigm shift which is necessary to achieve economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

Employment for the youth is also mandatory for a better greener future, according to the local Rio+20 Summit members. “At present there is a lack of green job initiatives and access to green skills training programmes for young people. We believe bridging the skills gap among young people through improved education and training will be a key to achieving environmental objectives and a transition to a green economy.”

Education and training  —  skills development opportunities, the opportunity for youth to volunteer to achieve sustainable development.

The President will present the paper as part of the country report at the summit. Neshan Gunesekara said, “The international community will analyze, scrutinize and criticize the paper. The point of presenting the paper at an international forum is so that other countries can take stock of what Sri Lanka has achieved over the years and adopt some of these strategies that will help them.

He added that, he personally believes that the youth of Sri Lanka is very environmentally conscious, and they have shown an initiative but what they lack, is the support of the government and other authorities, in implementing plans and taking their concerns into consideration.

Well, that’s good news for BB too. Having particular goals will help us channel our efforts in these areas and those connected to contribute to sustainable development in Sri Lanka. It should also make devising project plans easier. So three cheers to our Rio paper!

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.


Architecture, Religion and Going Green

As I travel on the verge of being one of the constituents of one of the first generations of architects who will have to immediately tackle issues of climate change and global warming vis a vis Architecture, I began to wonder of little issues in lifestyle that may contribute to human living being more greener in philosophy than the lack of it.

More and more houses or residential buildings are built to cater to an individual, and not a group of people i.e a family or otherwise. Apartments, flats or houses for individuals would mean individual cars, individual microwave ovens,individual refrigerators and the sort of appliances that are needed to accommodate modern human living. This not only incurs an additional material expense but also contributes more towards increasing the carbon footprint.

Hence, to reduce the amount of consumption the simple suggestion would be to share the appliances or materials, thus instead of just one person using a car, there would be several people using it. But given the practical issues that may crop up in several random people sharing appliances/resources the most suitable group living would be to live as families, thus negating or mitigating friction that may erupt as a result of miscommunication. 

Whilst my very right wing friends may promptly label me as being conventional or even pseudo leftist (which I am certainly not :)), what many may not realise is that most decision making circles in the west are beginning to think in retrospect and are trying to revert to former ways of human living in order to nullify the negative effects that modern human lifestyles are having on the environment. Except that they will not tend to term it as “former”.

Decision makers and social scientists have come to a cul de sac , which other fundamental way other than changing lifestyle can protect the global environment??. I am not talking in terms of morality or spirituality; I am purely talking in terms of triggering practical home based solutions in tackling global warming. Frank Lloyd Wright, supposedly the greatest Architect of the 20th century says this about morality “There is a great difference between morals and ethics, morals are only those of the moment, the fashion of the day. What is a moral today won’t be a moral day after tomorrow and the day after that.” 

If individuals, and the ethics they uphold become more and more akin to upholding religious values will it directly result in human lifestyle becoming more and more green conscious.??

For this to occur, religious institutions too have to be create a dualistic philosophy that not only address purely spiritual issues in a blind manner, but they should also tackle global/secular/environmental and other issues through religion and the values it manifests.

I came across this interesting paradox here:

“Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher-theologian, once described how he went into the great cathedral in Copenhagen and sat in a cushioned seat and watched as sunlight streamed through stained glass windows. He saw the pastor, dressed in a velvet robe, take his place behind the mahogany pulpit, open a gilded Bible, mark it with a silk marker and read, ‘Jesus said, “If any man be my disciple he must deny himself, sell whatsoever he has, give to the poor and take up his cross and follow me.”‘ Kierkegaard said, ‘As I looked around the room I was amazed that nobody was laughing.’

— Raashid Riza

Raashid is a Sri Lankan BB-ite and a student of Architecture based in the UK. He has a knack of trying to understanding the world by looking at how buildings are made. Here’s another attempt

Monsoon Wooding

Our friends at swechha has put out a new blog dedicated to a project called Monsoon Wooding”, aiming to recover New Delhi’s green cover. Here’s an excerpt from the first post :

In an attempt to restore Delhi’s green cover, Monsoon Wooding was launched in 2005 by Sweccha-We for Change foundation. It aims to bring together volunteers who wish to see Delhi’s tree cover expand and to give them a platform to realize their plans.
Because we also want trees in our world class city.

Our course of action is outlined by the 3 P’s:
PLANT – anywhere, everywhere!
PROTECT – trees that have been reduced to billboards.
PROMOTE – tree welfare, because knowledge is power!

Through our initiatives we plan to achieve the following –

1. Planting a target number of trees to make up for those lost in the name of development.
2. Saving existing trees from dying out and ensuring their protection.
3. Sensitizing the youth and the rest of the civil society of Delhi about the seriousness of Delhi’s depleting green cover.
4. Building a huge network of young volunteers who are ready to come forward and participate in similar environmental campaigns as and when the need arises.

5. Attracting the State’s attention towards the efforts of young people and convincing it to take necessary steps to create a greener Delhi. [link]

If you are in the Delhi Area and would like to get involved, give them a shout. Details are on the blog and their website.

CNN: Be the Change


CNN’s Be the Change is a year-long project following six young men and women as they try to have a positive effect on the world around them. Some are traveling across the world to help areas in need, and some are championing efforts in their own communities.

One of the young change-makers is Vimlendu Jha of Swechha — We for Change Foundation, based in New Delhi. The organization is geared towards raising awareness of the city’s environmental problems, and ultimately tackling them. As well as leading volunteers to plant trees, and to initiate action to clean Delhi’s Yamuna River, Swechha takes school children to see sites of ecological crises around the city.

Swechha’s approach to environment is interesting, in that they recognize that environmental issues don’t exist in a void, and focuses on tackling issues related to ‘human environment’ such as development, conflict and religion without merely concentrating issues which relate to ecology. The idea is to envision environment as ‘right here’, rather than ‘out there’ which is the most common perception.

Viml and Swechha are friends of Beyond Borders and some of the BBites have been involved in the Youth Yatra project, an initiative undertaken by Swechha in which 24 change makers from India, Finland, Sri Lanka and the UK were taken on a month-long reflecting journey following the river Yamuna from it’s source to almost its end.

The CNN Be The Change website contains Blogs and videos of the activities of Viml and other change-makers from Ghana, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania and Cambodia.

Related Links :