By Georgia Austin
Following a day of innovative and informative speakers, the National Trust of the Cayman Islands concluded their 35th anniversary Conference Day with an open discussion about the National Trust’s future legacy with a panel of knowledgeable and pioneering youth activists.
Dejea Lyons, Julian Menko, Isabella Watler, Ally McRae, Brody Thomas, and James Elsmore joined forces virtually and in-person on the National Trust stage to share their experiences as climate and sustainability activists in Cayman.
National Trust Environmental Programmes Manager Catherine Childs moderated the discussion, establishing the importance of youth input in the face of the fast-changing future of Cayman.
Premier and Minister for Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Wayne Panton said, “We know we cannot achieve our goals of sustainability and climate resiliency alone, it takes collaboration and partnership.” In this nature of collaboration, Ally McRae identified one of the benefits of living in a small place as, “People in positions of power are very accessible,” and McRae urged the PACT Government to make big changes, including prioritizing the National Development Plan and conservation laws.
Taking Panton’s words further, the youth panel called for collective action and political engagement to tackle threats to Cayman’s natural environment and historic sites, but also highlighted the critical need for individual action in amongst the various organisations inspiring change when protecting, preserving, and educating about Cayman’s built and natural heritage.
Olson Anderson, Chairman of the National Trust explained, “This conference provides an opportunity to have dialogue at a national level on what our community feels is important for our legacy.”
And whilst the National Trust uplifted and amplified the voices of youth when starting a public discourse, this has not always been the case. Dejea Lyons spoke of youth activism groups having to create their own seat at the table to have discussions with larger organisations about the threats and solutions of the climate crisis in Cayman. Lyons went on to explain, “Young Caymanians are starting to get the opportunity to be well-versed in our global community” yet “as Caymanian youth we feel like we don’t have a prominent seat at the table for some discussions and changes that we want to see in our community.”
Bringing together the value of experience and youthful passion, Lyons both exposed and solved problems in the same breath, she continued, “In my opinion as youth, I think our role to conserve historic and the natural state of Cayman is to be the changemakers we want to see by creating our own table and our own seat.”
Isabella Watler asked the public to “recognise value beyond financial gain,” emphasising the value of Cayman’s education system, community, and natural resources. These young advocates and activists prove time and time again that they are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today.