Dubai: From pledging to embrace a paper-free work life to ditching single-use plastic, more than 500 UAE youths on Monday made vows to planet Earth to do better than the previous generations in protecting their only home.
The students from 92 UAE schools penned their pledges on the National Geographic Pledge Wall, erected for Earth Day which is celebrated annually on April 22. The wall was erected to encourage students to take steps to protect the environment at the Emirates Environment Group (EEG) 18th Annual Inter-School Environmental Public Speaking Competition, held in partnership with National Geographic Abu Dhabi.
Neola Castelino’s pledge to carry her glass straw and refuse plastic cutlery whenever eating out is a bold decision for a teenager. Yet she has no qualms about it.
“It was hard at first but with practice, it’s doable. We take our own reusable bottles and refuse straws and plastic cutlery when dining out and that’s because I’ve been passionate about taking care of the environment since I was nine years old,” Castelino, a Grade 9 student at Our Own English High School, told Gulf News.
Riya Kewalani, the Grade 10 student of Dubai Gem Private School, said she believes taking small steps in conservation such as switching off non-essential lights and taps can go a long way to care for the environment when done by everyone.
Kewalani even composed a song on conservation which her group sang during the competition to make the message stick with the young audience.
“The earlier you learn something, the more or the longer it will stay with you. It’s the same with caring for the environment,” Kewalani said.
It was hard at first but with practice, it’s doable. We take our own reusable bottles and refuse straws and plastic cutlery when dining out ... I’ve been passionate about taking care of the environment since I was nine.”
- Neola Castelino | Grade 9 student at Our Own English High School
Rhea Sequeria, a student from Sharjah, did not actually write a pledge but a heartfelt concern: “She [Earth] was beautiful once; make her beautiful again.” These impassioned youth and their collective action are the strength of EEG, Habiba Al Marashi, EEG Chairperson, said.
“Environmental work involves teamwork; it’s not a solo thing. We need to connect the chains together. So the voice of the 522 students that are here today and tomorrow will definitely have an impact,” Al Marashi said.
Rajdeep Chatterjee, Director Marketing at National Geographic, said they chose to partner with EEG and the youth for this initiative because of their ability to influence change through their persistence or “pester power”.
“Kids love to push their parents and parents love it when their kids do something good. Children have a strong influence on their parents so if a child at home is telling his or her parents to switch off the light or the car when you’re not in it, they will do it,” Chatterjee said.
Involving the youth in protecting the environment early on is key, he said.
“People say children are going to inherit the future but that’s not true. The children are part of the present. A child at home can help conserve the earth today.”
These conservation habits the youth learn while they are young will certainly form part of who they will become later on, said Syed Kashif, Manager — Factual Channels at National Geographic.
“Children are not the future. They are going to influence today and the responsibility lies on us that we have to involve them in conservation [initiatives today].”