By Satyagraha Reporter
In the past decade, there have been many efforts and initiatives by government, education institutions, business and local communities, to protect the environment. The time has come for our communities, and especially young people, to take a keener interest in helping save our planet.
Satyagraha's outreach programme last month played an important role in bringing together more than 120 learners and educators from schools in Chatsworth and surrounding areas for an environmental awareness workshop. The idea is to launch an environmental club at the Chatsworth Youth Centre.
A dynamic presentation by Troy Govender, a Special External Advisor to the Children, Youth and Sport Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a Senior Environmental Advisor for Eskom, highlighted the critical environmental challenges we face in the world and in our country. “Environmental issues,” he said, “is not only about plants and animals. There is a need for all of us to get involved in environmental issues due to the strong links between poverty, health and the environment. Furthermore, the earth is experiencing serious environmental problems such as climate change, brought on by Global Warming. The devastating effects of Global Warming will be felt the most by poor communities, coastal areas and small island states in the near future.”
Bheki Gwala from the KZN Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DA&EA) presented the government resources that are available to communities, schools and youth in their environmental activism initiatives.
The enthusiastic learners, better known as the “green warriors” were adamant that there are some serious environmental challenges facing their communities. In an interactive session environmental issues that required the attention of young people were highlighted. These included litter, waste of water, soil erosion, air, land and water pollution, illegal dumping of waste, waste of energy and electricity, poor sanitation, high levels of poverty, degradation of the school environment, noise pollution, traffic congestion and graffiti/vandalism.
Most youth were outspoken about the need for young people to come together to address these problems. Various suggestions were made, including the need for youth to read and research local problems, to get a better understanding of the environmental challenges confronting their communities, to create awareness and to form youth structures that will play a more active role in addressing these issues. To assist in this endeavour, the National Youth Commission, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism publishes a youth version of the South African Environment Outlook Report, called “IMVELO YETHU”. This publication highlights environmental issues confronting young people and how they can become more involved. It urges youth to experience the environment by undertaking river clean-ups, anti-litter campaigns, establishing environmental clubs at schools, planting trees, and making small individual contributions to help save the earth.
The workshop drew attention to our constitution and how as South Africans, we should be proud that this document of 1996 enshrines our environmental rights. However it stressed that with this right comes environmental responsibilities. Against this background, the Chatsworth Youth Centre (CYC), in collaboration with the DA&EA, Satyagraha, Eskom (Distribution), Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and UNEP, felt a need to initiate an environmental movement in the area that can be based at the Youth Centre. Also in attendance were various environmental practitioners, service providers and resource managers for schools and youth to network with for their environmental initiatives. These included the Environmental Education Officers of Umgeni Water, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, Umgeni Bird Park, eThekwini Water and Sanitation and eThekwini Environmental Heath.
The centre's programmes co-ordinator and Satyagraha's outreach person, Clive Pillay, was enthusiastic about the support and response from the young people, “It's great to see young people showing an interest in environmental issues. They can also play a pivotal role in influencing older people to do the right thing. They can stop destroying our environment. This workshop clearly demonstrated the commitment of youth to such critical issues that can also create many paths for career opportunities for them in the future.”
Eager youth and educators formed a steering committee to plan and strategize environmental activities for the near future. One of which will be to support and create awareness for the National Environment Week which will be held during the first week of June 2008, with World Environment Day celebrated internationally on the 5 June. We can now honestly say that young people in Chatsworth are making a contribution to the environmental struggle. Schools and youth involved or interested in environmental issues are invited to join this initiative by contacting Clive Pillay on 083 981 3506.