Social Issues Concern Youth

By Deborah Senior, Co-ordinator Youth Week '97, Youth Action Network, Canada

Conservation ... conserving what? Panda bears? Am I expected to be a tree hugger? If so, I've got more pressing problems at hand.

What are the real issues involved in this type of forum, and how do they directly affect me, where I am and where I live? These are the questions that the youth I work with ask.

As the Coordinator of Youth Week '97, a project of the Youth Action Network in Canada, my mandate includes encouraging a more concentrated effort to ensure a youth prescence in the decision-making process on environmental issues.

For too long, many groups, not just the young, have been excluded from `environmental' discussions, because of the lack of connection between their socio-economic status, and its relation to their environment.

Those of us are young and who live in low-income housing are perhaps a little more concerned with food, clothing shelter and health related issues, than saving the Panda bears (even though this is a worth-while cause).

Environmentalists should portray how one's environment is directly related to the social issue in young people's lives, we think. The western environmental movement must lose its upper-middle class packaging in order to effectively connect social and conservation issues.

Key linkages must be established between marginalised groups and communities, to provide the tools to get involved to safeguard their surroundings.

The IUCN objective of guiding the development of human communities towards ways of life that are sustainable through grassroots projects is a step in this direction.
Another hindrance to achieving results in environmental action identified by youth is how power structures and power relationships continue to plague the environmental movement.

The youth journalists and advocates represented here recognize the importance of exposing the social dimensions of environmental issues such as those raised and others that relate to health and environmental racism.