Communcation & OutreachSustainability InfluencersUN Global Goals

Speaking at the celebration of the UN’s 73rd birthday

The youth perspective

On October 24, when Copenhagen Business School hosted the celebration of the UN’s 73rd birthday, the Sustainability Influencers, represented by Luna and Mikkel, gave an inspiring speech on the importance of bringing in youth when trying to solve the global challenges. Here are some of the key points from the speech.

Action for sustainability is strongly needed, and if not now – then when? And if not us, the young generation – then whom?

We aspire to help create a change – a change where we approach the challenges of today and tomorrow differently than we previously could have imagined. A change where students are mobilized and engaged to drive the change themselves, in each our their communities.

BUT, the fact is that our societies and our global economy are confronted with one of the greatest challenges that humanity has ever faced– how sustainable development can be obtained and achieved – and how sustainable development successfully can be implemented in all layers and in all corners of our society.

This challenge we face today is unprecedented – the steps ahead of us to transform our societies into economic, environmental and socially viable have to be taken now, which means that we will have to navigate and create a new path together as we move forward.

Because the ways we have been behaving and gone about our business – both in the literal and metaphorical sense – everything ranging from running businesses to organize our economy – has not been sustainable. This calls for rethinking how we want to structure our economy, run our businesses, public institutions and our society in general.

This is why we believe it is so critical that we dare to challenge the existing and unsustainable paradigm, which has prevailed for far too long, and that we dare to aspire to transform business-as-usual.

Climate change

Around the world, we are already witnessing climate change. This summer was the warmest summer that Europe has experienced in more than 100 years. We have seen how climate change affected farmers’ yield and we continuously witness cities so polluted that is causes health issues and impeding economic growth. Climate change and the over-extracting of our planet’s resources is a reality.

The 1st of August was marked as Earth Overshoot Day, that is the day when all of humanity has used more from nature than our planet can renew in an entire year. This year, 2018, it was the earliest overshoot day ever.

Challenging status quo

So how do we go from here? How do we take action and create a new path towards a more sustainable future? Action can be driven by all of us – political leaders, businesses, universities and us, the younger generation, the students. But if societies are to evolve, develop and foster sustainable growth, a youth movement is crucial. Preferring status quo over change is self-destructive and omitting the voice of the younger generations will result in a reduction of new and transformative ideas. A youth movement must take action and must be given a chance to act unconstrained by the old and narrow paradigm. We have to foster thoughts that will allow us to approach the world from entirely new angles.

The need for a youth movement

A youth movement to drive change is crucial. The positions currently held by the older generations will sooner or later be passed on to us, as a natural process. But the question will then be, how we will build on the existing structure and how will we challenge our linear economy and transform it into a green, circular and sustainable one.

As we begin to see climate change impacting our entire community, and there’s nowhere to escape, we begin to realize we’re part of that larger community and that everything is not a zero-sum game, with only a few winners. And so we’re getting our younger generations beginning to empathize with our fellow human beings and our fellow creatures in one biosphere. This is a hopeful narrative of the human race. This is the reason why we as the youth must stress the very importance of bringing communities to the front, and of ensuring partnerships across networks, sectors, and industries.

Partnerships 

Partnerships should not only be built between sectors and industry as a critical mean to achieve the SDGs, it should be built between generations. When building such partnerships, we allow novel thoughts and learnings from the former generation to pass on to us, which we will refine, rebuild and rethink and this will be a crucial step to sustainable development.

We challenge you

We challenge you as students, professors, politicians, and businesses to take responsibility and engage with each other. We all have to really come together. We’ve got one generation —ours— to lay down the plans and execute them. It ours and your responsibility to carry this weight, a weight that no generations had in history. We don’t know of any period in history where one generation was called upon to save the human species. But we don’t have to shy away from the seemingly daunting task. Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done, but we believe that we can learn from each other, and begin to mobilize, engage and empower not only students but everyone to collaborate to find solutions to those shared challenges that we face today.

If you want to know more about the day, you can read all about it here.

Malene Mølgaard Christensen

Author Malene Mølgaard Christensen

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