Young people in this country had an opportunity recently to voice their concerns on issues relating to the environment when members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) St. Vincent and the Grenadines chapter hosted a Conference of Youths (COY).
The conference which took place on Friday, 16th November, 2018, brought together SVGCC and secondary school students and was held at the SVGCC Villa campus.
The main aims of the conference were to share information on energy use and climate change and to hear from youths, their concerns about environmental matters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Youths were also encouraged to become members of the group as the CYEN views youth as an important and critical development resource.
Coordinator of CYEN SVG chapter, Zonnia Shallow, said the local Conference of Youth, is in part, preparation for the global Conference of Youth (COY 14) to be held in Poland between the 29th of November and December 1st 2018. This will lead up to the annual UN Climate Change Conference.
“We hope at the end of this event that we would meet the objectives of the COY which is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experiences in the broader context of climate change”, Shallow stated. She emphasized to the youths that “Every effort counts. Don’t let anyone deter you. You have a voice – let it be heard”. Shallow told them that a simple activity as a tree planting exercise can go a long way.
Environmentalist, Dr. Reynold Murray who also addressed the conference, reminded the youths that they are the future of SVG and challenged them to become a force for positive change in the country. Dr. Murray drew their attention to the reality of climate change, specifically, coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels. In this case, he used the Layou seafront as an example where retaining walls had to be built to keep the sea at bay.
Asking whether they thought the wall at the sea front would solve the problem, Dr. Murray noted that it is a temporary solution because it is static and it’s rigid. He noted that the softer environmental stuff like the coral reefs, the mangroves will last because they are natural. The mangroves he said are able to adapt to the situation. “They’re modifying, fitting in but the wall can’t change. … So we need to preserve these.” Dr. Murray raised the point that it is not climate change that’s really doing the damage to the mangroves but that it is, “Human beings. Us.”
The Environmentalist said that in SVG houses are being built everywhere and it is now common practise among Vincentians to concrete their yards, however he noted that when almost all of the yard is in concrete the runoff water cannot be absorb and so ends up on the roads, Dr. Murray also touched on climate change impacts on the fisheries, tourism, and agriculture sectors.
Environmental Educator, Nyasha Hamilton of the Sustainable Development Unit within the Ministry of Economic Planning also made a presentation at the COY.