I am from the countryside. I grew up around nature. I love looking for bugs. But I have seen in just in my short lifetime that sea levels are rising, and animals are disappearing. We are killing nature and we have to be responsible for the consequences. As young people we have a responsibility to shape other people’s actions on the environment.
This year unemployment in Costa Rica reached its highest ever level, with one in four adults out of employment. Young people want careers in green industries, in sectors that are sustainable and will still exist when we are old. But now’s the time to stop waiting for the jobs to turn up – and to get on with making them.
Activism does not know borders.
We are at a critical point. If we continue living the way that we have been, with excessive consumerism, and pumping plastic into our oceans, we will kill our planet. The planet is telling us it is sick. We need to take action now. If we do not do it tomorrow, it is too late. If we are being honest, we should have done this years ago.
So now we just must be conscious about using the time we have got left. Volunteering with Raleigh International alongside young people from around the world showed me that activism does not know the boundaries of nationality. Despite coming from different sides of the world with different ecological challenges we can feel just as much of a desire to do something about it.
I am a firefighter and youth leader.
It was only after beginning studying that I realised I wanted to work on environmental issues. I was one of the original graduates of Costa Rica’s first ever eco-tourism degree, which felt very pioneering. I am now completing my formal training to become a nature guide in our national park here in Guanacaste. It is great to be finding work in the green sector.
But my real love right now is volunteering. I have been training as a firefighter to play my part in tackling wildfires that often burn huge areas of our beautiful tropical forest. I cannot wait to get stuck in with the practical firefighting, but now I am learning the skills around incident management, as well as showing communities how to take care of our natural resources.
I am also really enjoying working with Raleigh International’s ‘Youth for Green Growth’ programme. We have been training as young leaders to develop our skills on how to try and change people’s behaviours towards saving the planet. It is really intense but exciting work and we are currently preparing to launch a big campaign next year.
Show people about the issues you care about.
Changing attitudes is hard but necessary. My mother never recycled. Nor did my aunt or my sister. Then I turned up, asking tough questions, like ‘why are you throwing this away?’, ‘why are you not recycling that?’. And now they are all for it! So it is really down to us to set examples and work on changing people’s behaviour that way.
My advice is talk to people. People have the capacity to listen to reason but if they do not understand why things are important, they will not change. The first step is knowledge, right? Let them know why the things you care about matter – and why they should care too.
It is time to level out the inequalities between urban and rural areas.
Obviously, we still need to see these actions replicated from the top. Our biggest companies, the organisations that are having the most polluting effects on our country, need to be forced by governments to finally act on their environmental obligations.
Progress needs to be made on access to technology, too. If I went out today to buy a solar panel, it would cost a millioncolones (£1,200 GBP). When families are living on a quarter of that each month, it is just not affordable. Lowering taxes on these products that will reduce our dependencies on polluting fuels can only be a good thing.
In the capital city of San José, there are trains, there are better public transport networks. Here, we rely on the road. Work needs to be done by national leaders and world leaders to level out the differences between urban and rural and ensure we have all got access to non-polluting ways to travel and technology to live our lives.
As a Latina woman, being a Youth Champion makes me proud.
Being chosen as a Youth Champion for Green Jobs for Action Not Excuses makes me feel really proud. I have been involved with Raleigh International since 2012 and as a Latina Costa Rican woman, representing my country makes me feel like, wow, we can do it! I feel honoured to be giving a voice to those young people looking for or trying to create green jobs.
Through Action Not Excuses, we want to say that there are actions to take. This is not about talking. We want people to start asking how critical the situation is. We want to show them the reality of what is going on but the things they can do to stop it: real, practical things that everyone can manage. And then most importantly, we want them to share these.
It is too late to act in 2030. We can survive this pandemic but if we are not going to make it to 2060 because of climate change then we have a problem. I want to see people getting as passionate about planting trees as they are about washing their hands.
Tomorrow is too late. We need Action Not Excuses. Join us today. Stand with other young people.
Action Not Excuses will be a platform for young people to raise their voices about the urgent issues facing our planet. Visit ActionNotExcuses.org and join the movement.