UW students return from Paris climate talks, advocate for stronger youth voice

GLFCOP21 Youth in Landscapes during the closing ceremony Picture credit: Youth in Landscapes initiative (YIL)
GLFCOP21 Youth in Landscapes during the closing ceremony, Picture credit: Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL)

Students from the College of the Environment lived a dream in Paris—they took part in a global conversation about how to combat climate change alongside leaders and decision-makers, shared their perspectives as youth representing the Pacific Northwest, and expanded their understanding of the planet’s interconnected landscapes through forged connections.

Now back in Seattle after attending the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), part of the Paris climate talks, the group of University of Washington students is united in their call for greater youth perspective in discussions about the future of our planet.

“2015 was a huge year for international climate legislation. It was important for youth to be there and for our voice to be heard,” senior Salina Abraham said. “To be present was powerful.”

GLF attendees, 3,200 people from 135 countries, were committed to looking at the complexities of climate change and its impacts on landscapes together. Abraham, along with Natalie Gray and Rachel Yonemura from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and Lars Olson from the Department of Biology were able to attend through their involvement in UW’s chapter of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA).

The students learned from leaders in forestry, agriculture, water, energy, law, and finance who addressed everything from resilient landscapes to green growth compacts and watched as innovative products and initiatives aimed at tackling real-world issues were launched, all while sitting at the center of a global conversation. Representing four of 50 IFSA members chosen to attend the GLF, the UW students also networked with their peers—now friends and likely future collaborators—from Belgium, the Philippines, and beyond.

“The youth are everything. They have the energy, mindset, and flexibility to implement big ideas,” Gray said. “Enabling young people to live up to their full potential is one of the things we think is most necessary moving forward.”

Read the full article on The University of Washington’s College of the Environment website.