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01 March 2024
From Insight to Action: My Transformative Experience at the World Environmental Education Congress
Imagine stepping into a realm where every conversation, every session, ignites a spark within you. This was my reality at the World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC), it is the world’s largest gathering of environmental educators, leaders, advocates, and even students to forge a sustainable future through the power of education.
“Connecting People, Creating Tomorrow” was not just a theme, it was an invitation to embark on a life-long journey of sustainability. It challenged us to make a collaborative effort on finding ways to achieve a more sustainable world. We can learn from one another. We may have different approaches to solve the problem, but what matters most is that we’re solving it together for the better.
Among the mosaic of sessions, the keynote speech captivated me. The speaker, Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, empowered the minds of the youth to foster a culture of sustainability. Powerfully, she emphasised that knowledge alone is not enough to solve environmental problems but also the dedication and willingness to protect the environment.
The speech painted a vision where education transcends knowledge dissemination to become a catalyst for empathy, action, and innovation. This wasn't just a speech; it was a call to action for the next generation, which has not only the knowledge but also the heart to protect our planet.
But what made WEEC truly unforgettable were the connections forged in the spaces between. Over steaming cups of coffee, we shared stories, empowering youth with our journey to winning the Zayed Sustainability Prize. In our sessions, we united in the conviction that together, we can overcome environmental challenges worldwide.
Leaving the congress, I felt hopeful and determined. The Congress marked a pivotal moment for me, transforming my perspective on our environment. It made me realise that those of us who care about the planet need to lead by example, showing both knowledge and compassion in our efforts.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the Zayed Sustainability Prize for this life-changing journey. I am keen to share the valuable insights acquired at WEEC, just as I have done here. Let's apply these lessons in our communities and classrooms to drive meaningful change. Together, we can forge a future of collective action, living in harmony with nature.
24 January 2024
Nkhata Bay's Solar Triumph
2014 Zayed Sustainability Prize Winners in the Global High Schools category, Sub-Saharan Africa
By Principal George Kulaso
Our school, the Nkhata Bay Authority in Malawi, was the winner of the Zayed Sustainability Prize in the Global High Schools (Sub-Saharan Africa region). This was an honour not just for our school, but indeed for our entire community.
Last December, our school's delegation had the honour of attending the Prize Awards Ceremony at COP28 UAE. Joyce Mhango and Mary Zayed had the distinct privilege of highlighting the transformative impact that the Prize has had on our entire community. I then joined them in thanking the UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his support.
We shared the profound impact winning the Prize had on our community. A testament to this was Joyce's story of how Mary received her name in honour of Sheikh Zayed, being one of the first babies born in a well-lit health clinic, a direct benefit of our Prize victory.
For some context as to why this meant so much to us, Malawi is one of the least electrified countries in the world with only 5 percent of rural communities having access to power and electricity.
Winning the Prize enabled us to build the Zayed Solar Academy – the very first solar academy in Malawi targeting rural youth and women.
The Zayed Solar Academy initiated the formation of a solar curriculum in collaboration with the Malawi government. We are now a national college specialising in solar PV technologies, recruiting youth around the country.
We are working towards becoming a centre for excellence for solar technologies and research.
Thank you, Sheikh Zayed.
19 January 2024
Architect of Change: A Youth Activist's Journey at COP28
I'm Harry Rostron, a youth climate activist and third-year student studying Architecture and Environmental Engineering at the University of the West of England. As a Zayed Sustainability Prize Youth Ambassador, I had the privilege of participating in COP28 this past year, an event which left an impression on me and altered my perspective of the climate movement.
Growing up in Indonesia I developed a love for island nations and a personal mission to protect the most vulnerable countries against a rapidly changing climate. When I learned that a historic agreement was reached on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund on the first day of the conference, I knew that COP28 was going to go down in history. With over $700 million pledged, the fund marks a critical starting point for bridging the gap between the global North and South.
The invitation to serve as a Youth Ambassador at COP28 was especially exciting for me, as it opened doors to numerous speaking engagements, a rarity for someone my age. I engaged in constructive dialogue over subjects I feel deeply connected to with people at the centre of the topics.
During the Conference of Youth, I was part of a panel where young people discussed their schools’ sustainability initiatives, focusing on the challenges and innovative solutions we encountered. Later, I participated in a panel that highlighted the need for inclusive digitisation and equitable access, while emphasising the integration of sustainable practices across industries. This talk reinforced the critical role of emerging generations in driving transformative change. I am very proud of my contributions at COP28 where I, as a young person, was encouraged to share my thoughts and actively participate in shaping a better future.
My journey as a changemaker, uniquely positioned at the vital nexus of architecture and sustainability, has been profoundly defined and sharpened by the insightful discussions I engaged in at this pivotal event, which stands at the core of the climate crisis. Witnessing history in the making at COP28 has left a huge impression on me.
The pressing need for transformation in our energy-intensive built environments is clear, and it begins with a field that has captivated me for the past five years: architecture. Engaging with many experts at COP28 has solidified my belief in the urgency of integrating sustainable practices into architecture and construction. This revelation, alongside the significant outcomes on Loss & Damage, stands as one of my most impactful takeaways from the conference.
The voice of the youth is powerful and is now being heard loud across the globe due in part to the increasing inclusivity of COPs. I have been truly inspired by my own generation’s drive to enact meaningful change, and I left the conference with a newfound hope and optimism for the future of our shared planet.
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