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Everyone counts: When young people in Vietnam come together to tackle climate change

Understanding that young people in Vietnam are very dynamic and powerful social force, in 2009 Oxfam explored the opportunity to work directly with them. Thuy Dinh, Advocacy and Communication Team Intern shares her peer view in working with Vietnamese youth.

“Environmental issues are such big issues that we cannot do anything about them…Agree or disagree”. That was my writing question in the TOEFL iBT Test not so long ago.

I was so surprised and triggered by the question that I started my essay without thinking, “Saying one person can’t do anything to save the environment is nothing but an empty rhetoric and an unreasonable excuse of some lazy individuals”. That’s exactly true from what I see! Working with youths in Vietnam, I’ve never doubted what they can do for their environment. If only one person takes action, nothing much will probably be changed. But if many people take action, individually or as a group, the impacts will be further resonated, creating an echoing effect that can lead to big change and make a huge difference.

3R is a youth volunteer group promoting the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. They are quite famous for the “Mottainai Fair” they organise annually. Mottainai events, a term fully adopted from Japanese showing a sense of regret when things are not put in a good use, attracted young people to come, have fun, and learn about the environment, at the same time exchanging stuff to reduce, reuse and recycle.

c4e_sC4E (Cycle for the Environment) is a prominent group of young cyclists who cycle on Hanoi’s streets on weekends to raise awareness about the environment. The group also organised nation-wide campaign, cycling along the road across Vietnam to promote environmental protection and to learn about impacts of climate change on poor people.

3R and C4E are just two small examples of the works of the Vietnamese youths. Knowing that it requires massive work and cooperation to deal with “big” issues like environmental issue, 3R, C4E and many other groups have consolidated into a network called Green Generation. Their mission is to maximise the involvement of Vietnamese youths in the fight against climate change and contribute to Vietnam’s sustainable development. Established since early 2009, the Green Generation Network has played significant part in many important events. Together with big events led by the network, there are individual activities from “green youth’, who also carried out green activities within their groups.

vysdf_sIn October 2009, together with some other agencies, Oxfam supported the Green Generation Network to organise the first ever Vietnam Youth and Sustainable Development Forum. Nearly 100 active youth leaders nationwide gathered in the event to exchange views and experience on how they can together tackle climate change and contribute to Vietnam’s development. “Change behavior against climate change” concluded the conference with commitments from each participant. A joint youth message and three Vietnamese youths within the network took part in COP 15 in Copenhagen, raising Vietnamese’s young people voice at the UN’s Climate change submit.

In 2010, counting down to earth hour, Green Generation organized yet another campaign across universities in North Vietnam to call for joint action on Earth Hour with a message: The Earth is ours”. Together with big events led by the network, there are individual activities from “green youth’ who also carried out green activities within their groups.

the earth is ours

In Green Space event 2010, a youth music extravaganza combining with environmental/climate change awareness raising, many young people had the opportunity to showcase their creative initiatives.

selling cards 

Selling recycled paper card made by disadvantaged children…

 making bookmarks

Making hundreds of bookmark with tips on saving the environment…..

posting messages 

Posting small but powerful messages to call for joint action…..

Young generation can create changes, but that is only possible when there are concrete actions committed by individual member in the generation. With their creativity and dynamic energy, youths can start with small initiatives that make a big difference. When young people know they need to take action in order to be heard, they unite in a diverse and powerful network, the Vietnam Green Generation.

So my short reply to the statement “Environmental issues are such big issues that we cannot do anything about them” is disagree.  Actually EVERYONE’S ACTION DOES COUNT!

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