By staff writer
Every day, we see youngsters being continually recognised globally as the most fit to mobilise the discussion about climate change. They realise that this issue can no longer be swept under the rug, and that young people can no longer be dismissed as purely victims of the climate crisis. Cayman’s youth are no exception, and they are pushing to take an active role in the decision-making of their own future.
Over the past few months, we have seen Cayman’s youth reach extraordinary feats in their own efforts to fight for our environment. From their participation in COP26, to numerous grassroots initiatives solely spearheaded by them (such as Protect Our Future and Plastic Free Cayman), it goes without saying that Cayman’s youth are not backing down when it comes to securing promising changes for the future of our Islands and our planet.
“Human-induced climate change is, without a doubt, one of the greatest threats to our collective future,” said Premier and Minister for Sustainability & Climate Resiliency, Wayne Panton, on Youth Climate Action Day (23 October 2021), when he and the Ministry launched the Cayman Islands Youth Climate Action Challenge. The challenge, being a call to action for Cayman’s youth to use their voices and uplift others, offers the chance for winners to be featured on the Cayman Islands Government’s (CIGTV) Spotlight show, and share what Premier Panton describes as “new and fresh ideas to protect our environment” - ideas that he says are not only for our own benefit, but vitally necessary.
A month since the challenge was announced, Cayman’s youth are insistent on having their voices heard. “Young people, far too often, our voices are cast aside, not taken seriously, and suppressed by the mere fact of our age,” said Cayman Islands Youth Ambassador Reon Porter. Reon commented how young people are often silenced in the global battle against climate change, perplexed by how they “are constantly told "[they] are the future," but fail to be heard. However, Caymanian youth have proven their adeptness by stressing the importance of placing action above words to make a true difference at a social and political level, understanding climate change and its effects, and actively criticising human contributions to such disaster – “building fancy houses are nice,” Reon said, “but it won’t last if hurricanes are only getting stronger”.
Youth organisations tend to be different from more established organisations, in the sense that they encourage a behavioural switch, and a confrontation of how climate change is often treated with ignorance by those above them. Youth climate activist and participant, Shankar Paulraj (18), also holds this same position when it comes to the issue of older generations distrusting youngsters in the grand scheme of what can be an overwhelming, politically-charged fight: “Clean air is a right and not a privilege. If young people don't act now, clean air becomes a privilege and not a right for our future generations.”
Cayman’s youth will unfortunately suffer the brunt of inaction towards climate crises if they do not put pressure on larger authorities to take action. “I believe that change coming from the people of our Islands is more important than the change that is expected from politicians. If we, the residents of our Islands, don't change our toxic and environmentally destructive lifestyle filled with disposable plastics, we are headed towards a great disaster,” Shankar said.
We can see that the climate awareness amongst Cayman’s youth is indisputable, proving they are more than fit to run their own initiatives that have potential to far-exceed politics and regulations. As Reon noted, the youth are not afraid to “hold [their] politicians responsible and remind them of why we elected them”, inspiring other Caymanian youths to “make [their] voices heard by those in power”.
Cayman’s youth activists are using one of their most effective tools, their voice, to stress how their generation will soon be responsible for protecting the planet. More importantly, what this challenge truly represents is a great opportunity for Cayman’s youth to make a difference in the discourse of climate change for generations to come. It encourages a dialogue between the youth and their elected officials, as well as the rest of society, to encourage eco-friendly, climate-resilient ways of living. Navigating such social predicaments is a long-term process, that will continue as Cayman’s youth grows older. While older generations are quite impervious to change, our youth are malleable, adaptable, and keen to carry the torch to a victorious, sustainable future.
Premier Panton said it had been extraordinary to witness young people becoming more involved in the youth climate change movement.
“To help them become more engaged in this global challenge, we need to ensure that our own Caymanian youths can join in the global dialogue, take action, and help provide solutions. Young people are bold, they are resilient, and I believe it is critically important that they are engaged and encouraged to meaningfully contribute in the saving of their planet,” he stated. “Whether it is finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint, planting trees, reducing the amount of waste they generate, or whatever sustainable practice they are passionate about – the Cayman Islands Youth Climate Action Challenge provides an opportunity for our youth to join their peers locally and internationally and to be celebrated for their efforts.”
How to get involved:
The Challenge: Post pictures and videos of any activities that support climate change within your schools or at home with your families.
Prize: The winner/s will be showcased on national TV on CIGTV’s Spotlight show. Winners will be able to show-off their climate action plans and discuss the top five key areas they would like to see addressed.