Human Impacts Institute on the Road to Rio: Engaging America’s Youth for Rio+20

Join the Human Impacts Institute for our weekly blog series on our journey to Rio+20 in June of 2012. We will explore the role of U.S. communities in the Rio+20 process, and investigate tools for engagement and issues surrounding sustainable development domestically and abroad. Check out our MobilizeUS! coalition for more ways to engage in Rio+20 and to see what our partners are up to for healthy communities and a healthy environment in the US.


Engaging America’s Youth for Rio+20

Pressing issues surrounding sustainability were once an afterthought when discussing global politics and resource allocation. In June, it will be the very issue of sustainability that will once again take center stage at Rio+20. The date is set. Now is the time to raise awareness on the local and national level in order to engage communities. By combining digital, academic, and physical connections between the youth and pressing environmental issues, successes can and will happen, building upon what was started 20 years ago at the original conference on sustainable development.

As the facilitator of the MobilizeUS! coalition and the North American focal point for the youth Road to Rio+20 movement, the Human Impacts Institute has been working a lot to ensure the presence of youth in decision-making, action and monitoring for sustainable development. Today’s youth have more opportunities than ever before to become involved with the global discussions and policy-making processes that are shaping our future. As tomorrow’s innovators and global caretakers, the youth must mobilize and become engaged in order to have a say about the future of Earth. Within Agenda 21, the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY) provides the platform for global youth–or anyone under the age of 30–to engage in the policy process. The MGCY has been working towards educating and mobilizing youth in preparation for Rio+20 and for future hurdles that will have to be overcome while this, and future, generations of young people work towards creating an environmentally and people friendly, sustainable economy.


Technology and social media sites have become the new frontier for accessing already active youth participants and engaging the new generations of youth. The internet has replaced libraries as the place for those thirsty for knowledge to turn to when exploring global issues and they have become necessary tools for accessing and engaging youth. Campaigns can now be launched and manage to stay relevant in 140 words or less thanks to Twitter.

Organizations have taken note of the possibility to outreach to thousands with a single post and have begun using#FutureWeWant, #RioPlus20, and several other #’s in order to create trending posts. Outside of Twitter, sites like Facebook and Tumblr are also part of this new wave of valuable tools when outreaching to young people, but digital connections are only one part of the recipe in order to create a connection between these issues and younger generations.

Paralleling the digital connections between issues and the youth needs to be a physical connection between the person and either the processes that are shaping the future, or with the actual environment. Inspired by the UNESCO sponsored simulation in Paris, a movement of MyCity simulations are cropping up around the world in order to familiarize youth with the U.N. processes that will develop this new sustainable economy. Events are taking place in Mexico City, Paris, Rome, and in the Human Impacts Institute’s own backyard of New York, on April 27th at the Ford Foundation.

Check out other events going on with the Human Impacts Institute and our MobilizeUS! partners here!

Similar to the MyCity simulations, universities are now hosting their own environmental summits in order to raise awareness about the upcoming conference in Rio and about the potential for sustainability on the local level. This weekend, Yale will be hosting the U.S./Canada Citizen’s Summit for Sustainable Development, of which the Human Impacts Institute and other MobilizeUS! partners are Steering Committee Members. Columbia University, NYU and Harvard are also holding their own awareness raising event. Events such as these provide the opportunity for university students from all over the country to participate and further educate themselves and the general public about the importance of equity, environment, and prosperity in our communities. It’s also a chance for participants to explore adjusting the global economy to one that is sustainable and inclusive of all life forms.

On April 22nd, youth from around the world will be celebrating Earth Day with A Billion Acts of Green from the Earth Day Network and with Rio+You events.

Join in and let us know what you’re doing for Rio+20!

A crucial connection needed to engage today’s youth and create an interest for the environment is the physical connection to the environment around them. Creating this connection can be simple, but today’s youth are largely indoor creatures. However, something as simple as tree stewardship can be extremely effective in reconnecting people with the world that Rio is fighting to save. Not only are environmentally focused activities easy to organize amongst youth organizations and schools, but they can also create a day of fun and community engagement.

So, now you’re interested and want to get more involved with the Rio+20?There are plenty of ways to start small and local. From trading in that air conditioner for a few open windows this summer to buying more locally produced foods, it’s easy to begin promoting and living a sustainable lifestyle.

Check out the Human Impacts Institute’s education programs to get involved!

Feeling more ambitious? Here’s how to become even more involved:

  1. Explore the MGCY and even join if you’re under 30 or support programs for those under 30!

  2. Petitions and letters to personal state officials are a great way to let your voice be heard.

  • What we want from Rio+20

  • Support long-lasting, Positive action at Rio+20

By Brendan Schoenman, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern

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