The opening day of the 19th United Nation’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) saw a strong presence on behalf of the Human Impacts Institute (Hii) and New York City youth. Hii, along with generous support of the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY), facilitated the participation of fourteen high school students from all over the city, in the international, environmental policy conference at the UN. As participants in the LIFTT program, these students had worked with Hii throughout the Spring to learn about CSD-19 thematic issues–Sustainable Consumption and Production, Waste Management, Mining, Chemicals, and Transport–and on Monday, May 2nd they stepped into the doors of the United Nations as participants, not tourists.
At first in awe of the large, impressive conference rooms and the frantic bustle of delegates, stakeholders, and others at the conference, the teenagers quickly found a place within the greatly diverse event. Having worked with Hii over the months to investigate the issues and having participated in preparations for CSD-19 at Sunday’s “Youth Blast”, they were excited to witness the opening statements of the chair and participating delegations, and were able to analyze what they heard. Through a conversation with an experienced youth delegate from the United States, participants were able to further see how they can get involved in the field of international policy and sustainability.
In a vibrant reflection in which the kids were asked to ponder what their mission would be if they were an actual delegate from the U.S., they brought intelligent global issues into the discussion. From eliminating nuclear waste, to investing in and adopting clean power technologies, these youth demonstrated their plans for a better future. Many of the young New Yorkers expressed their regrets at not being able to take off school for the full two weeks of the conference, so that they could fully engage in the conference and with the MGCY. For many, this was their first foray into issues of sustainability or policy development and Hii has a feeling that we’ll see quite a few of them again for future programs! One youth commented, “Thank you so much for giving us this unforgettable chance to see the United Nations! I will NEVER forget this trip!” While also emphasizing her desire to take more steps in becoming involved in these new processes.
It was inspiring to hear our city’s youth speak out about their demands for better energy systems, more sustainable consumption patterns, and improved environmental education, and experience their committments of action towards these goals. If these kids are any measure, the UN better watch out- they have an eager and intelligent generation ready to determine their own futures!
By Kate Offerdahl, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern