I have to create a green economy?

Creating a green economy will promote sustainable development, balancing the need for growth with environmental conservation, according to speakers at the Forests Asia Summit 2014. But can the younger generation meet the challenge, asks Amy C. Cruz


When I was little I heard a lot about the three ‘R’s (not Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic but Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). I thought that was the only solution to saving the environment.

But then I grew up and the world grew more and more complex. Now, saving the environment is not just about solid waste management, the three ‘R’s or a cute slogan to encourage throwing your trash into the right bin.

Woman and child, Dien Bien, Viet Nam

To young people falls the responsibility for a future Earth. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Yudi Nofiandi

It’s about having something worth passing on to billions of people in the future.

The eminent speakers at the opening session of the Forests Asia Summit, held this 5 May, in Jakarta, Indonesia, had a lot to say about sustainable development and the responsibility of the younger generation—people like me—to design and implement it.

Sustainable development means saving the environment while maintaining economic growth

But ensuring that we establish a green economy and promote sustainable development is quite a big task for someone who just turned 21. How do we do that? The older generation don’t seem to have been able to do it. So how are we, the youth, going to do it? The speakers, thankfully, had some suggestions.

First, we need to understand that saving the environment does not mean that economic growth and development have to decrease. Cue in the concepts of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘green economy’.

The promoters of sustainable development argue that development is possible without undermining the capacity of natural resources to provide for the future needs of the planet. Meanwhile, the United Nations Environment Program defines a green economy as one which is ‘low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive’.

Both sustainable development and green growth challenge us to balance the conservation of natural resources and forests with the protection of people’s rights over forests and provision of their needs, such as food security and jobs.

Using technology to support green growth

According to one of the opening speakers, U Win Tun, Myanmar’s Union Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, inventive and innovative technologies and practices should not only help boost productivity but must also be environmentally sound to support green growth and sustainable development.

For example, we have new farming techniques to replace slash-and-burn practices, other methods to identify which trees are right for which place and Global Information Systems (GIS) to map which places are vulnerable to climate change.

Listening to the Minister, it occurred to me that in the midst of all these inventions and innovations we must not forget that indigenous knowledge is also a source of environmentally sound practices. We should not discount the fact that indigenous peoples have been living in and around forests, maintaining stable landscapes, for a long time and are familiar with what works and what doesn’t. Thus, we can learn a lot about conservation and production from listening to indigenous people.

Inviting people to talk and act for a green economy

Third, dialogues among the different stakeholders in a landscape are important, as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pointed out: foresters must talk with agriculturists; the public sector should engage in dialogues with the private sector; and those in cities should talk with those in rural communities.

Dialogues cannot be held without education and awareness, he said. Instead of just letting the research stop at articles in scientific journals, why not move forward and produce something more for public consumption, like blogs and videos?

Educating people and increasing awareness about the green economy, however, is just the first step, he claimed. It’s not just about throwing the information to them but also going further so as to fully involve them so they collectively act towards a green economy and sustainable development.

Challenging youth to get involved

Young people are especially encouraged to get involved in saving the environment, said President Yudhoyono. He commended young people participating in Forests Asia.

‘Your participation shows that we do share similar dedication to preserving our natural environment. This is a testament of your readiness to shoulder the noble goal of safeguarding our tropical forests’, he said.

We cannot deny that we, the young people of the world, have an important role in establishing a green economy and sustainable development. We are the ones who are going to inherit the Earth. We are the ones who are going to be future leaders. We will be the ones to pass our values and ideologies on to future generations.

To all young people: let us not belittle our abilities but instead use them to save the environment. Let us move beyond the now and prepare for our future.



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The Summit is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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