Indonesia’s children will lead the way to a green economy

Satya S. Tripathi, The Jakarta Post | Opinion | Fri, September 19 2014

The essence of sustainability is defined in the report of the Brundtland Commission ,which despite being almost three decades old remains deeply relevant today: “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The bridge within this intergenerational vision is today’s youth — the physical embodiment of humanity’s future.

Indonesia’s youth are a force to be reckoned with, in both national and global terms. Of a population of roughly 250 million (the fourth-largest in the world), around 50 percent of Indonesians are aged below 30 and 29 percent are between zero and 14 years of age. A green generation in Indonesia would propel Indonesia’s green economy transition. Further, it would inject considerable momentum into the global sustainability agenda. It is with a sense of great potential and anticipation that the Government of Indonesia has committed to identifying and supporting one million Green Youth Ambassadors in schools and communities across the country by 2017.

The ground has been laid for Indonesia to achieve this ambitious target. The country has come to play a leading role in setting the global sustainability agenda, as affirmed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s co-chairing of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. At the national level, the Government of Indonesia is committed to a vision of “sustainable growth with equity”. At the heart of this vision, and the key to translating vision into reality, is a redefinition of how humans interact with their environment.

Indonesia is a country that possesses an almost unparalleled diversity of natural capital. Yet in decades past this wealth has been depleted at a rate matched by very few other countries. Thankfully, Indonesia has in recent years committed to walking a pathway of sustainable development, one in which its REDD+ programme (to reduce deforestation and forest degradation) is an important milestone. REDD+ is not just about reducing carbon emissions. It is about transforming the political economy of forests and rural development to bring about more resilient and healthy societies. It is about ensuring that the types of activities and values required to sustain healthy ecosystems are embedded within Indonesian economy, politics, society and culture.

Schools are critical arenas in delivering the vision articulated by REDD+ and Indonesia’s broader green economy transition. President Yudhoyono referred to schools — and homes — in his speech at Harvard University in 2009 (right after the Pittsburgh Summit), calling them “the real battlegrounds for the hearts and minds of future generations”.

It is in our homes and in our schools that our children’s views of the world are shaped and it is there that the future of Indonesia’s sustainable development agenda will be decided.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by the head of Indonesia’s national REDD+ agency, recently visited Green School Bali. Sustainability and green principles are embodied in the school’s curricula, energy and food sources, waste treatment, its breeding programme for endangered Bali Starlings, and its outreach programme to local farmers. All of these elements contribute to an education in the fullest sense, supporting children to be global citizens and pioneers in making sustainability a way of life.

Ban described the school as “the most unique and impressive school I have ever visited”. The children there provide an illustration of what it means to be a green youth ambassador: sustainability pervades the values they profess, the products they use, the energy they consume, and the ways that they engage with their classmates and communities.

The rationale for Indonesia’s green youth ambassador program is based on recognition of the power for positive change that each child represents.

Should this power be joined and scaled up to form a nationwide network of young people committed to delivering a sustainable and prosperous future for themselves, there will be momentous positive consequences for their nation and their world.

Given the increasing costs of our unsustainable ways of living, there is a rising urgency to seize the initiative and use our power for creative thought and committed action to defy the pathways set by our predecessors. Children and youth are a great force for change.

The green youth ambassador program presents an unprecedented opportunity to harness the power of the young generation. It is indeed them that have both the potential and the right to define the terms of their future.

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