By Regina Flores, TG Magazine Youth Journalist

It is common for youth to be concerned and active only with local environmental issues that directly pertain to them. Naturally, some feel disconnected and distanced from efforts across the globe because the relevance of the problem is not as clear or vivid as the problems they confront in their own community. How can Canadian youth bridge the gap that separates international youth efforts concerning the environment around the world? Why is it important to do so? These are questions Canadian youth journalists explored this week.

Support from Canadian youth is essential to stop the destruction of the environment, according to Jorge Cappato, Executive Director of Fundacion Proteger for sustainable development and health (and member of the Global 500 Forum and Argentinean member of IUCN).

Youth in Argentina are protesting the planned construction of a mega-project that would have serious, detrimental ecological effects in addition to negative social, economic and health impacts, he said. Youth both from the region being affected and from other areas further away are involved in trying to save Panara, Cappato said. Students from a number of schools, mostly at the elementary level and usually a group of more than 1000, gather in what is known as "encuentros regionales de jovenes," or regional youth meetings where discussions can occur and efforts can be united.

The youth from the "de la Costa" (from the coast) community do not have the mechanisms to deliver their message internationally. Therefore, Cappato says that North American youth must "be the voice of the voiceless," because it is in North America that the crucial decisions regarding many mega development projects are made. In the case of Panara, the technology and materials needed for the undertaking are controlled in the United States, therefore, the connection of interests is clear. Youth can push for media attention and put political pressure on authorities of corporations and government officials, he said.

Cappato stressed that it is in our best interest to help save this area which contains more than 300 fish species, and 250 bird species. In addition, rare species from the Amazon migrate to this area to reproduce in certain seasons. Conservation of biodiversity is a global issue and should be a global effort, he says.
Jacquie Manchevsky from Environment Canada, raised a similar point in saying that partnerships in efforts to protect and clean up the environment are critical because of the interconnectedness of environmental issues.

Even if Canadian youth are making efforts to clean up their environment, they must realize that at the end of the day they still share the air they breathe, the water they drink and the resources they need with the rest of the world. The state of the Panara region will ultimately affect Canadian youth.

According to Parvis Hassan of the IUCN Environmental Law Commission, youth play an important role in providing support for each other in terms of education and communicating messages. He said that educated youth especially, have an obligation to disadvantaged youth who are struggling with poverty and illiteracy, to educate them about their rights and inform them of their power to demand change in the environmental arena. It is the duty of the urban population to support the rural communities and to help them develop their agenda of environmental priorities, he said.

Manchevsky says establishing ties between youth from "developed" and "developing" countries is an important step to creating the global village needed to address environmental issues.

She thinks that international conferences such as the IUCN Congress provide important opportunities for youth to share their experiences and learn about those of others. Furthermore, with today's existing technology, some youth can set up international communication links quite easily. Ms. Manchevsky pointed out that in many underdeveloped areas, youth do not have immediate access to such technology. However, projects to expand services to reach isolated areas are in the works. With E-mail, Canadian youth will be able to remain in contact with youth involved in the Panara River project . TG Magazine's web site on the internet ( has allowed youth observers during the Congress to voice their concerns about environmental issues across the country.

In this way, Quebecers can inform others about the plight of the St.Lawrence beluga whales, while Ontario youth can debate the Temagami issue and Nova Scotians can expose the Fundy Park issue. Eventually, if we tap into a global network, the youth from Panara Medio in Argentina can transmit their message as well.

Perhaps schools might even begin to incorporate more sophisticated methods in the future such as video conferencing. We must continue to look for such venues that allow for "global generations" to exchange of ideas, the planning of events and the enrichment of knowledge in order for youth efforts to grow beyond regional protests into effective international action and change....

Back to home page...