The time to act was yesterday
By Yen Parico
CoalitionWILD Community Organizer
Yen Parico spoke at the closing ceremony of the Global Landscape Forum Closing Plenary – Frontiers of Change (7 November 2021) on behalf of youth globally. Below is a transcript of Yen’s speech.
I have inherited a planet in crisis.
In the past three days, the GLF Climate has sent a clear message: “The time to act is now.”
But we heard the time to act was 30 years ago in Rio. We heard the time to act was 6 years ago in Paris. The time to act was yesterday in Glasgow. Perhaps TODAY is finally the time to go beyond words and commitments. Today is the day to start speeding ahead without hesitation. Today is the day to say something different, to do something different, to be something different.
From forest and food, to finance and beyond, there are many different ways to address the climate crisis, but one thing is undeniable: the climate crisis knows no borders or silos.
I am privileged to have the chance to convey this message to you today, and to represent the youth in this space for pursuing climate justice. From what I have seen so far, youth sacrifice a lot to gain a foothold in the environmental sector. We sacrifice our childhoods marching in streets, writing letters, and pleading to decision makers to shift their decisions.
However, working for an equitable and thriving environment for all should NOT be a privilege only for those with the time, money, safety, and security to do so. But it still is and yet we still show up. We still make time. We still take up unpaid internships. We still volunteer.
Because this is our present and our future.
I am proud to tell you that the youth are not waiting for any high-level decision to trickle down so we can start to act. More than 60,000 students and young professionals are part of the Youth in Landscapes Initiative Network today. In the past two years more than 450 young people have applied for the funding of the Restoration Stewards Program. And just this October, more than 70 participants from 30 countries followed the #GenerationRestoration advocacy digital learning journey. The organization I work for, CoalitionWILD, receives more than 200 applications for the EXCELerator leadership program every year. These are just a few of the many initiatives out there.
So when you say “together we can,” live up to that promise and actively involve youth in the decision making processes by supporting our work with actions.
We have heard the commitments. Now we need to follow through. Coordinate more effectively among donors. Listen to young people, to women, to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, to activists, scientists, knowledge-holders and practitioners who know their landscapes best. Invest into capacity building programs for young people. Create green and fair job opportunities accessible to all. Support the action on the ground that is already taking place at every corner of the Earth.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration vows to be the decade for us to heal our planet. But maybe, and more importantly, we should focus on healing humanity’s relationship with nature. In the next decade and beyond, one thing must remain clear: business-as-usual will not cut it. We cannot create the world we need if we continue to rely on an extractive economy, fossil fuels, or solutions that do not account for the social aspects of the climate crisis. To heal our planet and pursue climate justice, we need to genuinely listen to the youth. We will be the ones living in the world of tomorrow, but that world will be shaped by the policies and actions of today.
We have already taken action – so imagine what else we could do if we had the means. We might not have the experience of older colleagues but we have skills that are equally important: vision, determination, knowledge and the bold belief that we are the generation that will change the world for the better.
CoalitionWILD Community Organizer
Yen is a firm believer in the significant influence of the youth in creating a better future for the planet. She is advancing youth empowerment as the Program Manager of CoalitionWILD—a grassroots organization that connects and equips the world’s young change-makers to tackle our planet’s greatest conservation challenges. Prior to joining CoalitionWILD, she was a Researcher at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and a Small Island Developing States Research and Communications Intern at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Her experiences and learnings in the Philippines shaped Yen’s deep-rooted foundation as a sustainability advocate. Yen holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. At present, she proactively pursues her passion for ocean conservation and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU).