IUCN Spotlight: Next generation
Time and time again, conservation leaders at the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress emphasized the need to cultivate the next generation of conservationists — for it is they who will inherit the Earth. The greatest hope is that the IUCN summit leaves a legacy behind, inspiring the next generation of youth to take action.
The energy was palpable at the International Union for Conservation of Nature's inaugural Students' Day: Hawaii Youth Challenge 2020 on Tuesday, Sept. 6 as more than 1,000 middle and high school students and teachers from throughout the isles packed the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
"It's really an event to empower youth and the next generation to take action," said June Chee, program manager for Kupu Hawaii, "and let them know, at this point in life, they can make change."
Students came from as far as Kaunakakai, Molokai as well as from Honolulu's private, public, charter and home schools.
Their challenge was to create solutions to environmental challenges through an “interactive, design thinking experience.” Students from different schools were placed in groups of five to answer questions like: "How might we as students take care of our island home called Hawaii?"
Are today's students interested in conservation? The answer is yes.
For Sharmaine Allas, Edna Felix and Tara Sumida, 11th graders at Waipahu High School, there’s not necessarily a need to be labeled as “conservationists.” At the same time, they’re definitely worried about global warming “because it’s going to affect not only us, but our children and our children’s children.”
All three signed the giant, communal “Show the World That #WeNeedNature” board with simple phrases: “Love Nature,” “Aloha Aina” and “Nature is Life.”
Mid-Pacific Institute teacher Sumoha Jani, who teaches project inquiry, was thrilled to be able to bring her students to the conservation congress — a part of history, given that it's the first one to be held in the U.S. — to practice the "design thinking" approach she encourages in her class. In the past, students have used the same approach to design water catchment systems and a solar oven.
If anything, technology is one way to get students interested in conservation. That much was clear as students explored the nine different themed pavilions on the exhibition floor.
Students had fun exploring Google Expeditions, a virtual reality platform, at the Oceans pavilion, learning about NASA satellite models as well as experiencing Conservation International’s virtual reality tour of "Valen’s Reef," the story of how this previous area at Raja Ampat in the Bird's Head Seascape of Indonesia was saved. They also got to watch NOAA’s maps ever-evolving maps of storms, coral reefs and even the migration of sea turtles on a giant globe called “Science of the Sphere” (which, by the way, is also available at Bishop Museum).
Musician Jack Johnson also sang for the students.
Primatologist Jane Goodall, who was sought-after for selfies with kids and adults alike, spoke often at her engagements of how important it is to nurture the next generation of conservationists, part of the mission of her non-profit, Roots & Shoots.
At her final IUCN presentation with the World Resources Institute, Goodall said: "One of my greatest reasons for hope is the youth of the world."
Related video by Hiki No, Sacred Hearts Academy (Students from Kupu Hawaii remove invasives at Makiki, with help from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell):