Young boys stand next to a sign with a message against littering.
Youth engagement and action is key to ending pollution and confronting climate change. Photo: UNDP Grenada


Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April since 1970.  This international day reminds us about the interdependence between natural ecosystems and human life. It is a celebration of Earth’s biodiversity and a reminder that humanity’s future depends on how we care for our common planet. Earth Day brings us all together to think about our role in preserving nature and fighting climate change.

With more and more events that show the dramatic consequences of climate change for life on Earth, there is a risk that people feel powerless to stop and reverse the deterioration of the environment. A wave of ‘climate fatalists’, those who believe we can do nothing to stop climate change, can have a major impact in discouraging action. However, a recent global survey conducted by research firm Ipsos shows that no more than 14 percent of people tend to be climate fatalists. On the other hand, the survey shows that a shocking number of them are young people. In fact, 22 percent of those aged 16 to 34 believe that it is now too late to slow climate change, including 39 percent of under-35s in India, 30 percent in Brazil, 27 percent in Spain and Sweden and 29 percent in the United States.

Working together for a healthy catchment / UNEP/UNDP/GEF Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Integrated Water Resources Management Project
The theme for Earth Day 2018 is 'Ending Plastic Pollution'. Photo: IWRM AIO SIDS

With the universal adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the boldest-ever collective plan to change the world’s development path towards sustainability, it is imperative that young people become active players in shaping the future. Today’s young people will be the world’s decision makers, in business, politics and diplomacy, when we reach the 2030 deadline. Their ability to understand climate change and the power of human action in reversing the degradation of Earth’s ecosystems, will be key to the future of humanity.

As the theme of this year’s Earth Day is ‘Ending Plastic Pollution’, we call on young people to take action in their communities and cities to combat the harmful pollution of our ocean, which is already killing over 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless other marine species every year according to UNESCO. The Ocean Action Hub, a platform launched by UNDP and Sweden to encourage citizen action towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal No. 14: Life Below Water, now has over 260,000 participants from all over the globe. An incredible 93 percent of the Hub’s members are between 13 and 17 years old. We count on their action to #SaveOurOcean.

In celebration of the Earth Day 2018, we are hosting an event with the Smithsonian Institution’s #EarthOptimism movement, which is dedicated to promoting inspiring, positive news about citizen action to protect nature and advance sustainable development all over the globe. You can participate online. The trend of climate fatalism can be reversed with more young people engaged in climate and ocean action. We wish an inspiring #EarthDay2018 with #EarthOptimism. Join us in this movement for the good!

About the authors

Andrew Hudson is head of the Water and Ocean Governance Programme in the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at UNDP. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AHudsonUNDP

Nancy Knowlton is the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Editor-in-Chief of the Ocean Portal. Follow the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Initiative on Twitter: @EarthOptimism
 

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