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Caribbean Youth Rally For Climate Change

By Andrea Downer
CaribWorldNews, KINGSTON, Jamaica, Weds. Sept. 2, 2009: Thirty young environmental advocates from 12 Caribbean islands recently met in the Dominican Republic to discuss climate change issues in the region and to gain insights into effective ways to get the public and their respective governments to engage with climate change in meaningful ways.

The three-day workshop, which was a joint initiative of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN)  and 350.org, was part of efforts to mobilize Caribbean youth in light of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen in December  where world leaders will meet to decide on a new global treaty on climate change. 

Many of the participants were not native Spanish speakers but they spoke the same language on one thing: climate change. They all had stories to share about the impacts they were experiencing, and the work they were doing to take action in their home countries.

`I am from a depressed community; there was not much happening there for youths.  Marijuana smoking was the main social pastime for young people.  So meeting on a corner and smoking weed was the main form of social interaction,` Says Nintus Magre, a 31-year-old environment advocate, teacher and performing artiste from St. Lucia explained. He is also the CARICOM Youth Ambassador for St. Lucia.

According to Nintus, farming is the main subsistence in Desruisseaux, the rural community in St. Lucia where he lives and as a result, he sees preservation of the environment as crucial to the livelihood of the persons in his community. Recognizing the potential and effectiveness of youth, he sought to get them productively involved in environmental initiatives. He explained that he seeks to engage young people in his community in projects geared at environmental protection, advocacy; climate change and bio diversity, among other areas.

Nintus explained that through CYEN, he has been able to organize a number of events aimed at raising public awareness about the environment.

`These include special assemblies, a pageant, radio and television interviews and an annual environmental challenge/quiz for primary schools which is held in a different school district each year,` said Nintus, who is also the president of the southern division of CYEN, St Lucia.  `We participated in the Coastal Clean-up for two years, partnered with the St. Lucia National Trust as recent as this year to stage Earth Day activities in St Lucia. Also worthy of mention is the involvement of CYEN in the development of a plan for the sustainable use of the Point Sable National Park in Vieux Fort in the south of the island.`

His compelling story was part of a key component of the training; Public Narrative and Leadership.  The segment, which was facilitated by Carlos Rymer, a young Dominican environment advocate living in New York, was aimed at sharpening the young people`s leadership skills with the use of `stories` or personal narratives.

`Public narrative is `why` of organizing, the art of translating values into action through stories. Stories communicate our values through the language of the heart. It is what we feel – our hopes, our cares, our obligations – not simply what we know that can inspire us with the courage to act,` said Rymer to the  participants – some of whom were also from Colombia and the United States.

Like Nintus, most of the participants were part of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, CYEN, based in Barbados. CYEN, which was formed in 1992, has youth groups and individuals who aim to promote positive action among Caribbean young people on environment and sustainable development issues. Climate Change, which was the focus of the Climate Change Advocacy Workshop, is one of CYEN`s major foci.

The three-day workshop, was sponsored by organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, UNDP (Barbados), and the Organization of American States, OECS. It was held from August 9-11, 2009.  The workshop formed part of a larger event; the 4th biannual CYEN Youth Exchange.