August 12th, 2016 was International Youth Day. A day not only celebrated at the United Nations, but all over the world. Students and Youth Leaders met at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to celebrate and to call for action. The theme was Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The morning opened with a message from the Secretary-General to the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon. “The world’s young people – who make up the largest generation of youth in history – can lead a global drive to break the patterns of the past and set the world on course to a more sustainable future.” This theme was evident throughout the three hour event. Fulfilling the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is not just about holding our countries’ leaders responsible, but to hold each other, our communities, our neighbors, responsible.
In the context of SDG 12 this means that we need to be aware that what we consume on a daily basis sometimes comes at a steep price. The example brought up by UN Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi was the cost of a cup of coffee. Nowadays we pay more than $2 for a small cup of coffee, which is far more than a worker harvesting coffee beans gets paid. However, by spending money on this cup of coffee, we are validating the system over and over again. Ever passionate Mr. Alhendawi also remarked that without getting young people, such as you and me, involved, the SDGs cannot be achieved. “We have 17 goals and 15 years to reach them.” Let us also keep in mind that there are young people all over the world that have their human rights violated on a daily basis. But we can use our power as innovators and consumers to male and demand change. As Mr. Arthur Amaya Andambi, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations stated: “Tomorrow’s success has to do with what we choose today.”
Ms. Nadira Angelina Hira, author of Misled: How a Generation of Leaders Lost the Faith (And Just What You’ll Need to Get It Back), and her speakers elaborated on examples of how we, as consumers, influence the cycle of Extraction – Production – Consumption – Disposal. For example, a 1 liter plastic bottle requires 3-5 liters of water during production. Ms. Avery Kelly informed the audience about her time with the NGO Mining Working Group and the effects extraction has on indigenous communities. After all, the current extraction model is based on colonialism.
Especially memorable was the performance by poet Mr. Savon Bartley. His work “Mother’s Cry” demonstrates that art can be used to have a conversation and to educate about the effects of global warming. Everyone can contribute to educating family and friends, the community, even world leaders. For more inspiration, just take into consideration Ms. Lauren Singer’s Zero-Waste Lifestyle. The trash that she produced in the last four years fits into a 16 oz mason jar. Ms. Deepika Kurup is an inspiring sophomore at Harvard, aiming to solve the global water crisis. She is CEO and founder of Catalyst for World Water.
Ask yourself the question: Am I living up my own values? Am I contributing to the change I want to see in this world? All speakers agreed that education plays a major role in achieving all SDGs. Everyone that participated and attended International Youth Day can take what they learned back to their community. Challenge your friends to think about spending their dollar consciously. After all, we all a have a voice: Use it to make noise.