Read, Debate: Engage.

'You are not alone': How Bermuda's youth fight for the planet

November 25, 2022
topics: Climate action
by: Ellen Nemitz
located in: Brazil
tags: Bermuda, conservation, education, food security

The takeaways from the second Youth Climate Summit in Bermuda are numerous, but one stands out: every action matters.

For more than 25 years, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI) has been cultivating ocean literacy.

"We believe that you have to understand the ocean as a living organism in order to connect with it, appreciate it and understand what the change of the climate is doing to the ocean," explained BUEI CEO Karla Lacey.

From 21 to 26 November, BUEI is hosting the second edition of its Youth Climate Summit, a week-long event focused on conservation, sustainability and climate justice.

In 2021, about 150 young fellows between the ages of 13 to 22 took part in the summit and carried out action on various environmental fronts: from promoting food security by teaching small-scale gardening techniques and reducing plastic used in lunch boxes to the reforestation of Bermuda's mangroves and the protection of seagrasses.

In this year's summit, 160 students were predicted to join the event, as well as several international speakers and contributors, Lacey told FairPlanet. 

The CEO added that seeing as youths are currently overwhelmed with copious amounts of information, we need to investigate what it is they actually want to do when it comes to environmental action and ensure that they are seriously heard.

"One of the challenges we have is ensuring that all sectors of the community, particularly those that are most impacted and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, are engaged and have a voice, and understand the importance of using that voice," she said. 

She added that she believes the power of inter-personal connection can make change happen, and that instances of collaboration around environmental causes leave her optimistic about the future of humanity and the planet. 

Fabiola Adams, 16, who participated in last year's Climate Justice Group gardening for food security project, has become an alumni activist in 2022 and mentored new members on sustainability practices and climate action.

She listed the benefits and achievements of the projects she and her colleagues engaged in, which included improved solutions to local plastic pollution problems, increased storm preparedness through the preservation of mangroves and the reduced impact of food importation into the island.

"[It also boosts] tourism, because people love to go to places where they can see climate action taking place," she added. Through the project, Adams also learned about the importance of teamwork: "Nobody can do it alone, it is a collective effort between nations, communities and persons." 

sketching out a better future in the face of change

Lacey stated that while Bermuda has been somewhat lucky in that it hasn't (at least so far) been hit by the hardest impacts of climate change, such as sea warming and coral bleaching, there are nonetheless plenty of initiatives working to improve the island's environment and prepare it to the impending challenges.

In Bermuda, she added, citizens, local NGOs and the government are assuming responsibility for some of the most urgent adaptations needed to take place in order to protect the environment and ocean, both of which are intertwined with their livelihoods. 

There are, naturally, several challenges on the local level that need to be addressed and overcome. Julie Steele, BUEI's Director of Education, explained that building data is, for instance, an area in which small islands such as Bermuda need additional support.

Lacey, on the other hand, mentioned the cost of living, and of being environmentally friendly, as a barrier for advancing even further on the environmental front, as well as the difficulty of engaging certain demographics, such as young men. 

"Nobody can do it alone, it is a collective effort between nations, communities and persons." 

For Andreas Ratteray, a Bermudian-born environmental scientist and one of the virtual hosts of the Youth Climate Summit, change can be an opportunity if community members and decision makers accurately identify its parameters - such as fresh water availability - and work together to build the right strategy to adapt and understand how to ensure an equitable access to resources.

"Climate change has a really negative connotation, but we need to remake its sense," Ratteray told FairPlanet. "Climate is changing, but we can write that story to have a positive outcome."

He added, "[A] Story enables us to understand the way it used to be, and that if we've experienced the change in the past, we can experience a change of equivalent if not greater amplitude or magnitude going into the future."      

Small actions matter

While Lacey, Steele, Adams and Ratteray were getting ready for the upcoming virtual and in-person meeting, one of the broadest summits on climate change, COP27, was taking place in Egypt (from 6 to 18 November), embodying, for some, the planet's deepest hope of salvation.

For this proactive group, however, building the future is not only up to global leaders. 

Steele believes that every small action has the potential of positively impacting and making a difference in the world.

Students from Bermuda are realising through environmental education, she affirmed, that they are not alone, that young people around the globe are facing similar realities and try to raise their voices. In her opinion, it is all about making personal connections for the participants to seek their own ways of making a difference.

"You can have a passion about something, maybe music, or something completely different from what you think [would be useful], but you can also have a positive impact on the environment and climate," she, adding that she is looking forward to the music presentation of the indigenous artist and activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Ratteray, on his part, stressed that small actions are indeed incredibly helpful, since having a healthy environment at a local scale is also a valuable goal.

"It helps to have the global picture in mind, but at the end of the day all the decisions that you make also make your environment better," he said. "It is always a good idea to protect the environment, even if you don't think about the whole world."  

In order to make it all happen, Fabiola Adams, the youngest interviewee, highlighted the youth's role and the importance of true commitment to climate justice and conservation.

"Don't expect everything to happen right away, have patience," she advised. "Some of your plans may be good, but not realistic, based on your resources, such as time, money, people and your location.

"Be prepared to delegate, if you are a leader, or be willing to help wherever you are needed."

Article written by:
WhatsApp Image 2019-07-19 at 22.26.02
Ellen Nemitz
Author
Brazil
\'We believe that you have to understand the ocean as a living organism in order to connect with it, appreciate it and understand what the change of the climate is doing to the ocean.\' Karla Lacey
"We believe that you have to understand the ocean as a living organism in order to connect with it, appreciate it and understand what the change of the climate is doing to the ocean." Karla Lacey
\'Don\'t expect everything to happen right away, have patience. Some of your plans may be good, but not realistic, based on your resources, such as time, money, people and your location.\'
"Don't expect everything to happen right away, have patience. Some of your plans may be good, but not realistic, based on your resources, such as time, money, people and your location."
For BUEI\'s members, building the future is not only up to global leaders.
For BUEI's members, building the future is not only up to global leaders.
.
.