The Aspen Environment Forum kicked off on Monday May 30, 2011 with its plenary session entitled “Coping with Calamity: The Art of Looking Ahead” how the talk of the forum was the fireside Chat entitled: sustainability 2050; Youth Leaders Speak”. This session saw a dynamic, diverse and passionate group of four young advocates within the fields of Climate Change and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights as the evening speakers. Moderated by Former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka the session was probably the most ethnically diverse group of speakers at the entire Forum: from a Jamaican, American, and Mexican to Indian.
The session was aimed at re-visioning a sustainable world, what are the pathways to achieve it, and how can the youth lead this cause. Orain Edwards and Roli Mahajan both from Advocates for Youth highlighted the correlation between Climate Change and the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of Women especially those living in the developing world. Both Orain and Roli passionately advocated for the inclusion of SRHR providing information form the recent advocates for Youth Climate Change E-consultation, testimonials from women living in Africa and the recent earthquake that hit Haiti.
Orain delved into the various adverse effects of climate change has on the social, economic and even cultural aspects of the average human being whether male or female, then later went on to highlight the specific effects of climate change on the health of women especially those within the developing world. Orain’s argument was supported by Roli who was able to share the experiences of women living in India and women from the eastern side of the world.
Both Orain and Roli passionately advocated for the inclusion of SRHR within the various Climate Change debates and the inclusion of active Youth participation in driving this campaign forward. Orain implored those present to tap into their available youth resources and ensure that at every level there is at least one young person present. Orain mention that the youth are fearless, less likely to have any political allegiance, and less like to lose anything from lobbying or advocating for a cause than their adult counterparts. Orain also highlighted that when one is in his/her youth he /she is more passionate about the issues affecting the youth population and better way to create a better future than by using the youth who are the future.
The session was an inspiring one it became the most talked about session for the entire forum. The success of the session was not only dependent on the fact that the four panellist opened up a new topic which would be discussed at both formal and informal table discussions, but that these four individuals were able to achieve so much in a time when youth leadership and passion is decreasing and that as young people they have been able to effectively utilized the new media and galvanize support and awareness about issues that are important to the development of the world.