World Environment Day: Alumni strengthen environmental knowledge and connections in Australia
- Australia Awards
- Sri Lanka
Today (5 June) is World Environment Day, the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Fittingly, Australia Awards alumni from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are currently attending the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Brisbane.
For these alumni concerned about the future of our planet, the event will provide a strong understanding of climate science as well as the crucial communications, strategy and advocacy skills necessary to mobilise communities and catalyse solutions to the climate crisis.
Former US Vice President Al Gore, in opening the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training this morning, mentioned that he is inspired by rising generations and emerging leaders: what they are doing to protect the environment, and the innovations and initiatives they are introducing to build a better world. “The road ahead is by no means easy, but I am filled with hope,” he said.
The opportunity to travel to Australia and participate in the training was part of an Australia Awards prize package awarded to three alumni teams at the Regional Alumni Workshop 2018 for their environmental protection projects. Selected from a pool of 14 projects pitched at the Regional Alumni Workshop, these three projects have made a significant difference in their communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The training this week in Brisbane will further build the capacity of the alumni to make a difference as change agents for environmental action in their countries.
The team from Bangladesh (overall winning team at the Regional Alumni Workshop) implemented a project titled Community empowerment and action against illegal stone extraction to preserve the natural environment in Bangladesh. This project aimed to find solutions to the environmental threats and health hazards faced by the indigenous peoples of Bandarban, Bangladesh, due to illegal stone extraction from natural water bodies. The team went on to successfully lobby for environmental reforms as a part of the project, and secured a court verdict to stop illegal stone extraction, which was polluting local water sources in Bandarban. In addition to helping local indigenous peoples to access clean drinking water, the team’s actions will also help prevent further environmental hazards.
Speaking of the opportunity to participate in this week’s training, alumnus Pallab Chakma from Bangladesh said, “This will be a great opportunity for all of us to know and learn about different climate actions and strategies that the activists and environmental rights defenders are following to protect the mother earth. Equally, we could also share our experiences on the same issue to the larger communities”.
“We are expecting to be equipped with more knowledge and skills through this great learning opportunity. This exciting experience will surely be to our personal and professional benefit,” he said.
The team from Pakistan implemented a project titled Awareness and community engagement campaign across Pakistan for environmental protection through a blended digital and offline approach. This awareness-raising campaign, Sohni Dharti Climateers, targets youth in Pakistan—primarily those attending schools, colleges and universities, who constitute the largest population of the country. The team recently conducted a photo contest titled Nature & Us, receiving more than 100 entries from 70 people. Submitted photos depicted the impact of climate change in five categories: air, water, earth, people and wildlife. The top 16 images were exhibited at an event attended by more than 120 people, including students, photographers, climate researchers, activists, entrepreneurs, influencers and journalists. In addition to showcasing the winning images, the event (titled Climate Change Through Your Eyes) also included thoughtful discussions on the climate crisis, climate adaptation, and the power of individual, collective and government action.
When asked about the opportunity to attend the training in Brisbane this week, team member and Australia Awards alumna Saira Ahmed said she is looking forward to making new connections.
“I am excited to meet and learn from people who are committed to fighting for the environment, just like me,” she says, “I look forward to being trained by leading experts about the latest technologies that can help solve climate crisis issues, and learning ways to motivate and encourage others to take action.”
The team from Sri Lanka implemented a project titled Cradle to Cradle: Empowering school children to be catalysts for preserving the environment and tackling climate change in Sri Lanka. The aim of the project is to support schools to become climate friendly by adopting sustainable lifestyle measures, and to encourage students to be agents of change in building a climate resilient society. Australia Awards alumna Dr Pradeepa Jayaratne is representing the team in Brisbane this week. Pradeepa said, “I am very fortunate to receive this opportunity from Australia Awards to attend the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training. Such forums are crucial in facing the current environmental issues around the globe, which are having a significant impact—particularly on small islands like Sri Lanka. Attending this event and listening to experts around the world is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can use my learning and experience from this training to help my country to take positive measures to think and act against global climate change.”
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training will offer a rare opportunity for the Australia Awards alumni to learn directly from Vice President Al Gore regarding how to raise awareness of climate change and how to inspire others to act. The alumni will have the chance to join a range of in-depth, theme-based, and practical skill-building workshops that explore key climate challenges and offer insights into solutions from an extraordinary line-up of scientists, policymakers, business and technology innovators, and communicators. This is also a great opportunity for the Australia Awards alumni to reconnect with Australia, as well as a chance for them to develop more networks of relevance and empower them further as agents for change.