As Cayman’s vulnerability towards climate change grows each year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) continue to release their concerning environmental impact assessments. Albeit terrifying, they still remind us that small islands are crucial to fighting the global war on an unsustainable world. They argue that change occurs through a collective of ‘community-based adaption’, which means forming strong local networks, empowering our community, and trusting our government to work towards a sustainable future with no excuses.
As a young Caymanian, it can be hard to fathom that you could ever be seated face-to-face with this reality. To reconfigure your view on the environment as a young activist is to be totally selfless; it means campaigning for a discern towards our deteriorating environment, and putting this above everything else currently affecting our world today. That’s why Isabella Watler and Dejea Lyons being selected as student representatives for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) marks a positive transformation in the way larger nations will view Cayman’s participation in the worldwide campaign against rising earth temperatures, carbon emissions and more, forever.
Our youth have been asked to give voice to global struggle by pitching to world leaders, all set in the periphery of an unnerving Coronavirus pandemic. Not only does this display just how powerful our youth can be, but also their ability to play a strong role in addressing “crippling problems that the world now faces”, (as Sir David Attenborough argues to be the purpose of COP26).
Many young Caymanians fear 2030, panicking over when somebody is going to actually do ‘something’. Although quiet, our young people see everything. The increasing size of the landfill on their drives every day only reminds them that things are not improving; a physical showcase of years of human neglect. Organisations like Protect Our Future, the Mangrove Rangers and Plastic Free Cayman have therefore become staple grassroots movements on-Island. Leading many of these groups are young Caymanians, frequently running monthly beach clean-ups and fundraisers. Here, the collaboration and determination of our youngsters prevails - a growth in like minds working towards one single goal: saving our planet.
What about environmental decline on a global scale? Who will protect our natural habitats, or work to deliver a net zero economy by 2050 where no country, or island, is left behind? Whilst you often don’t see ambition turning into action, young Caymanians like Watler and Lyons are different. What they bring to the table are level-headed minds, confrontational views, and a deep belief that things can change.
The steps our youth take to be heard, and make sure sustainability promises are acted upon, bodes well for the future of sustainability, globally and in the Cayman Islands. Their actions set a benchmark of high calibre that will imbue other young activist groups, which proves that Cayman’s youth matters in a civil society that is due an urgent response to threatened life on earth. We are now a voice of reason for tackling climate change on a global scale, integral to these negotiations, and we have our youth to thank for this.