A Sustainability Revolution – a Desperate Call to Action for Thai Youth to Act Up!

Being exposed to endless news headlines unveiling the most recent symptoms of ‘climate change’, it is only right that we have been instilled with a sense of urgency and commitment to protect our planet. Being bombarded with devastating news like the death of baby dugong Marium who was found with plastic waste in her intestines and the recent forest fires in Northern Thailand, this only reiterates the scale of the climate crisis. In recent years, the climate change movement has gained international media coverage, largely owing to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who had popularized the movement through her #FridaysForFuture school strikes. The success of this movement reflects the power of the youth in mobilising public awareness and inspiring change, while also proving that we are determined and committed to transform what we perceive as a far from utopian world.

Indeed, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 by all United Nations Member States addresses these persisting environmental concerns, but it is not solely based upon the environment. It is, however, a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.”[1] The 17 Goals are all inter-connected which means that work towards Goal 4 ‘Quality Education’, for instance, will have positive implications on achieving Goal 1 ‘No Poverty’.

[1] https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html

As ambitious as it may sound, it ultimately emphasizes how governments worldwide have recognised the importance of sustainable development and the need to form a balance between economic, social and environmental elements in state planning.  In Thailand, the SDGs have been integrated in the 20-Year National Strategy Framework (2017-2036) and the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2017-2021). These plans are also in line with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) or what we often hear as “เศรษฐกิจพอเพียง”, formulated by His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The philosophy of sustainable development is therefore deep-rooted in Thailand, having long promoted a sustainability mindset.

Put in the simplest terms, ‘sustainability’ is having a lifestyle today which will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. As the outcomes of the SDGs will directly affect the future of the present youth, it is only right that we should be active agents of change and promoters of sustainable development, rather than being merely a passive bystander in the global attempt to transform the world. The roles of the youth are not only invaluable in determining the realization of the SDGs, but the roles are also exclusive to our demographic. Our unique ability in bringing fresh and open-minded perspectives is unmatched by older generations which makes us suitable for the role of ‘innovators’. We are able to combine our direct insight on the issues that the youth face and our boundless creativity to come up with alternative ideas and solutions. We also have a crucial role as ‘communicators’ of the development agenda, fuelled by the our generation’s greater accessibility to social media. Those surrounding us are often unaware that governments across the globe have come to a historic agreement on the SDGs, and therefore it is our duty to spread the word and mobilise public awareness, simply starting from communicating with our close friends and family. Those who feel empowered and equipped with relevant knowledge may take on the role of ‘leaders’ whom will drive social progress and inspire their fellow youth to be ‘change makers’.

The Global Goals aim to bring about sustainable development through different channels : through empowering ‘People’, promoting ‘Prosperity’, protecting the ‘Planet’, championing ‘Peace’ and encouraging ‘Partnership’.

However, given that Thailand is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, the need to protect Mother Nature is more than imperative. Climate change threatens all the key sectors of Thailand’s economy, including agriculture, tourism and trade. Increasing occurrences of floods, droughts and severe storms will threaten the agricultural yields of Thai farmers, posing a direct threat to their incomes and standard of living. Rising sea levels will threaten to submerge Bangkok while the increased intensity of coastal flooding will affect the tourism industry which accounts for almost one-fifth of Thailand’s economy.[1] Aside from the economic impacts, environmental declination in the form of unhealthy PM2.5 air quality also has direct implications on the health of citizens. Therefore, unsuccessful measures to tackle climate change not only negatively impacts the environment, but it also inhibits progress in achieving other goals such as Goal 3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’. It goes needless to say how important it is to protect our environment and as the youth are most well-informed on the issue of climate change, we are most responsible and capable of driving progress from the household level to the local and national levels.

[1] https://www.thaiwebsites.com/tourism.asp

It is time for Thai youth to act up! The best part? There are so many ways to get involved. Perhaps start with a quick browse on the SDGs to familiarise yourself with the 17 Goals. Once you feel inspired and educated, begin on the action! Tell your friends and family about the SDGs and why it is important for our society. Immerse yourself in ideas for action suggested in the ‘The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World’ (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/LazyPersonGuide.pdf).

The actions are categorised into four levels starting from driving change from the comfort of your couch up until your school/workplace. For example, sharing informative posts about development issues on social media, shopping local to support small family-owned businesses, bringing a refillable coffee cup to your local coffee shop, shopping for second-hand clothing or encouraging your school to engage more in social responsibility activities. Develop habits like bringing a reusable bag to the supermarket, recycling paper and plastic and taking shorter showers. Less obvious actions may involve buying the ‘funny (ugly) fruits’ which would otherwise be overlooked by consumers to prevent excessive food waste, or cooking more sustainable recipes for your family (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/actnow-food-challenge/). These actions only represent the tip of the iceberg, but they are all easy and practical while still having the potential to bring about profound change if enacted upon by the mass majority. The key is to start by reflecting on the social, economic and environmental impacts of the choices that you make, whether big or small. Then, change your daily habits to engage in a sustainable lifestyle. Go beyond the expected to encourage and empower your friends and family in order to drive progress in the local level. With collaborative efforts, a profound and lasting change on the national and global level will come into light, ensuring the successes of the sustainability revolution.

Author’s Bio

Pim Kanthamanon

Pim was born and raised in Bangkok, but since the age of 13 has gone on to study in a boarding school in the UK. Now 17, she is passionate about global development and sustainability and she hope to inspire and empower people through writing.