“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” Unknown

During the month of June, we celebrate Youth Day and June is also considered Environment Month. Therefore, in this issue it is apt to focus on the role of the youth and our environment.

The African continent is very vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather patterns are common which threaten the lives of the population. By 2030, 42 million people could be below the poverty line if climate-related development is not implemented to curb the impact of climate change.

The youth of today are aware of the climate crisis we face. If globally discussed climate action plans are not implemented and targets like the capping of global warming to 1,5℃ above pre-industrial level are not achieved then it will be the youth who will feel the full brunt of the consequences. Fortunately, through various ways (i.e.: School children march on 14 June 2019 in Cape Town) the voice of the younger generation is being heard. The youth need to be involved to secure their future. According to a UNICEF South Africa U-Report poll (Nov 2021) some 80% of young people in South Africa have been directly affected by the climate. Occurring climate conditions like droughts and floods were some of the main events that had an impact on their lives. “Children and young people are clearly already feeling the brunt of the climate crisis and environmental degradation” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF South Africa Representative. The U-Report managed by the UNICEF South Africa is a platform where the youth can participate and voice their issues and concerns.

On the legal front, according to our Constitution (section 24) everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing. Furthermore, the environment is to be protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures to secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development. Pollution prevention and promoting conservation are other measures noted in our Constitution to protect our environment. Section 28 in the Constitution supports the above by stating that every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, healthcare and social services, and climate change has an impact on all these rights.

When we look at our current local situation there are serious reasons to be concerned as the future of South African children are at stake. Worldwide movements and action groups by the youth have been formed and here in South Africa the same trend has taken place.

In a bid to improve the environment UNICEF South Africa has called for three actions to happen:

– To include children and young people in all climate-related decisions, according to the SA Youth Climate Action Plan. (https://saiia.org.za/youth/south-african-youth-climate-action-plan/)

– To increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health, and education

– To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a just and equitable transition towards an environmentally sustainable and inclusive economy (Source: https://www.unicef.org)

Various programmes have been implemented to engage children with preserving and protecting our natural resources like the ‘Yoma Green Challenge’. This is a digital marketplace for the youth worldwide to actively engage in social and environmental matters. ‘Tippy Tap’ challenge encourages young people to build water-saving handwashing facilities.

The awareness of protecting our planet starts with a journey at grassroot level. We the parents/guardians should set the example to our children by adopting sustainable lifestyle practices. At home and at school implementing small habits like recycling waste, throwing rubbish in the dustbin, turn off a tap when not in use, are the beginnings of being eco-conscious in the way we live. According to the United Nations in 2015 close to half a million young people globally were engaged in small grants programmes in their homes, schools, and communities (UNDP, FAST Facts: Youth and Climate Change, 2015, http://goo.gl/Luyn3P). It is important that the youth are given adequate information on climate change for them to realize the urgency of the situation and that they play a vital part in making a difference.

It is estimated that the global population will increase to 9,7 billion by 2050. A holistic approach, including all ages of society is required in the search for solutions to prevent further strain on our current natural resources. Sustainable consumption and production patterns need to be promoted.

What does the future hold for us? Sustainable development is a key element to reduce the impact of climate change. (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/) We need to create opportunities for the youth to partake, engage and collaborate in seeking eco-friendly alternatives. We need to equip the youth with environmental education, training in critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop innovative ideas and methods. We need to empower the youth with supportive programmes and organizations. From an early age a sense of environmental stewardship must be encouraged to protect their future.

“We are the first generation that can end poverty. We are also the last generation that can slow global warming before it is too late” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 2015

We, as a disposable food and beverage packaging company are aware of the contribution of food packaging has to the current environmental dilemma. Therefore, we have taken the responsible decision to expand our range of enviro-friendly packaging, keeping up with innovative trends within the global packaging industry, and being compliant with paying the mandatory EPR fees, an important portion of which is to be used in the education of our communities in eco-senstive solutions and enviro-friendly practices in terms of food packaging.