Meet the UN75 Youth Essay Competition Finalists - Ania Sauku

Best Essays of UN75 Youth Essay Competition in Albania

How can the pledges and commitments expressed under the UN75 Initiative transform our future?

by Ania Sauku

Imagine this, it’s 2050 and the world is flourishing. It has been 30 years since the harmful systems that took place not so long ago have been dismantled: there is no poverty; the economy can sustain itself without heavily damaging the earth and climate change is reduced to nothing but a cautionary tale, one that is told in a scolding tone to naughty children who litter. The ecosystems are protected and new species have made Earth their home. Wars are a relic of the past and the world celebrates its diversity without conflicts. This scenery when put in the perspective of the turbulent climate of 2020 is reduced to a Utopian tale, a visionary thought for the most optimistic out there, that in my good days include me.  But once we take a step back from daydreaming about the future we want, especially in this year of bittersweet changes, it’s important to talk about how we can transform the present that we live in.  In recent years, one of the central ideas advanced as a key to sound policy for all is sustainability. Yet the question remains: Can we achieve sustainability and use it as a tool to transform our future?

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To achieve sustainable development, The United Nations has put forth Agenda 2030, a plan of action for the people, planet, and prosperity that will transform our future.

The long-term transformation that needs to be addressed first and achieved for the longevity of humanity is man-made climate change, which is caused by our use of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and

gas, that when burned, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has

the property of trapping heat in the earth and warming the planet. We need a transformation of our energy systems and our industrial processes and other contributors to greenhouse gases so that we stop the dangers of human-induced climate change. But we shouldn’t stop there.

 We also have to recognize the importance that different implemented systems have regarding the role that individuals and communities play in climate change and sustainability. People that are below and inside the poverty line cannot afford to be environmentally friendly or to behave sustainably.

Examples of this case are: they don’t have access to fresh and organic food or ethical fashion and with the rise of gentrification and lack of opportunities they can’t help but make choices that inadvertently are bad for the planet. So it’s important to identify that environmentalism and zero-waste as movements deeply rely on classism (Beaton) and we need to include in our conversation the importance of the redistribution of wealth if we want to achieve the goal of "No Poverty" by 2030, especially because the gap between the rich and the poor has only widened during the pandemic. (Ostry et al.)

In the UN Brundtland Commission Report, Brutland and Khalid claim that “Growth must be revived in developing countries because that is where the links between economic growth, the alleviation of poverty, and environmental conditions operate most directly. Yet developing countries are part of an interdependent world economy; their prospects also depend on the levels and patterns of growth in industrialized nations (Brundtland and Khalid 51). While this remains true in a theoretical aspect we should also take into consideration the fact that growth is not the problem, equity is.  There is a clear lack of Indigenous People and other people from vulnerable communities/ developing countries in the leading conversation about climate change even though they are the ones that are facing the disastrous consequences of it. If we require transformation, they have to lead this conversation as their knowledge of sustaining the environment goes beyond ours and at the same time, their own existence is at stake. 

When we talk about climate change, we can’t help but also mention youth, their power, and the fact that they are continuously underestimated. The young vacillate between the two extremes of ‘infantilizing’ and ‘demonizing’. On the one hand, youths are viewed as vulnerable, powerless, and in need of protection. On the other, they are feared as dangerous, violent, apathetic, and as threats to security. At the same time assigning youth’s role only in the future greatly erases their importance, validity, and their rights in the present. This statement is proven not only by the “Fridays for Future” protests that are organized all over the world but also by the government's unwillingness to line their policies with the Paris Agreement. (Goldapple)

To achieve sustainability and transform our future we need to recognize that these are long-term transformations and major system changes that require us to dismantle the harmful systems that are already taking place. Liberation is a long and tricky road that is stretched beyond global cooperation and sustainable development, those are just tools that we will use to achieve it. I dream of the future where my existence is not a question or a daydream, where climate change is just a cautionary tale and world peace is a daily reality.

 

Bibliography

Beaton, Caroline. “Is Environtmentalism Elitist?” Elephant Journal, 2014, https://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/12/is-environmentalism-elitist/.

Brundtland, G., and M. Khalid. Our Common Future. UN Brundtland commission report, 1987. UN, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-….

Goldapple, Lisa. “Global Climate Strike.” Atlas of the Future, 2019, https://atlasofthefuture.org/why-i-strike-fridays-for-future-barcelona/.

Ostry, Jonathan D., et al. “The pandemic will leave the poor further disadvantaged.” 2020, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/pandemics-poor-rich-economics-co….

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Ania Sauku
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RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office