Secondary Schools 2013

1st Place: Cho Su bin – We are responsible for sustainable development

SEC English School

Republic of Korea

In Papua New Guinea, there’s a place called the ‘Green Desert’. Afforested in the tropics to make paper from its trees, a eucalyptus forest was planted. It is called the ‘green desert’ because there’re no birds singing and other plants cannot live near it. According to reportage writer Kashida Hideki, since the 1980s, eucalyptus has been widely planted in tropical regions because of its fast and straightly growing nature. But soon the plantations bore many problems. The biggest problem was that the eucalyptus forest was afforested in places where tropical forests had formerly existed. A tropical forest is a base of biodiversity, home of countless species, and the motor that makes oxygen. Cutting down tropical forests to make ‘copying paper’ is serious environmental and social destruction. A eucalyptus absorbs all the water and nutrients around it with its deep roots. Its toxic leaf is welcome to nobody but koalas. Naturally, a eucalyptus forest becomes a barren land, or ‘green desert’, that has no other life near it.

Who is responsible for this destruction? It’s the government of developed countries, international finance organizations, and multinational corporations. The organizations force developing countries to open their economies to foreign investors. Governments of developed countries assist developing countries with development funds, while encouraging them to cut their trees and plant eucalyptus. Then, exploitation by corporations follows. This ‘green desert’ case shows only the tip of the iceberg. ‘The haves’ take what they need from weak countries and burden them with waste and pollutants which are shown in a variety of plantations, the digging of resources such as oil, and the shipping of waste to poor countries. Like eucalyptus planted in the tropics, growth in developing countries is fast but the health of the earth is sacrificed. The more developed countries flourish, the more the other countries are devastated.

While there are people who convert forest to desert, there is a woman who makes forest from desert. She’s a Chinese woman named “In Wie Jeon”. She got married to a guy who lived in Maowusu desert. She couldn’t stand living in her barren desert home, so she started to plant trees with her husband. This has been continuing for over twenty years. The result is unbelievable. About forty-five million square meters of desert became forest, wells were made, and more people started to live in the area. With more supporters, she keeps her mission even until today. This shows how hugely an individual can affect to the Earth.

Everybody keeps his or her possibility as big as “In” inside oneself. I think it’s really possible to stop ‘the haves’ from destroying the environment. We should lift up our voices, not just wait for them to realize their faults by themselves. Consumers, buy eco-friendly products. Government, stop pressing developing countries to enforce development they don’t want. Encourage eco-friendly industry. Media, track whether the haves still attempt to threaten the environment. If everybody requests the haves to develop in a ‘sustainable way’, with all our voices, we’d have no choice but to make difference. Then, the desert will be green again. And again the Earth will be a plane where humans and nature peacefully live together.

 

2nd Place: Tiffany Wang – Seven-Generation Vision

Concordia International School Shanghai

China

Long ago, the Iroquois Native Americans cautioned that, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” With such conviction in the importance of foresight exhibited some 1,000 years ago, it seems strange that in our present day we cannot see how our irresponsible actions threatens our collective welfare. In the recent plan proposed by the United Nations “Rio+20” Earth Summit, the lack of agreement or action for the environment was apparent. Within the plan, the vague promise to “encourage” action appeared 50 times, whereas the decisive “we will” appeared a paltry 5 times. Indeed, the only decisive agreement reached was that no significant progress had been made on 86 of the 90 previous environmental objectives promised at the last meeting. With the nearsightedness of our leaders, who can step up and create a clear vision for a sustainable future?

With 80% of the world’s resources being used by the wealthiest 16% of the population, the people who must plant the seeds for environmental sustainability are the citizens of developed nations. As citizens, we hold immense influence. We can influence businesses as consumers, the media through popular opinion, and politics through activism. Too often, we expect our policymakers to lead environmental initiatives, but the government should play a supporting role to the will of the people. With the seeds planted by the consumers, government should only have to nurture and create the infrastructure for sustainability—funding energy initiatives and crafting sustainable policies. However, effective influence of the people rests on widespread participation. Many people are aware of greener alternatives, but there remains a wide disparity between knowledge and action. In a study conducted at Leeds University, 67% of the people in the UK said they “looked favorably” towards organic food, yet only 5% of the market at the time was based on organic foods. Thus, consumers must not only be informed and look favorably to the greener choice, but also be willing to take tangible steps to support sustainable efforts with their “green vote.” Many people avoid green lifestyles due to perceived additional costs, but the actual cost of not living responsibly will be far greater.

What about those who are unable to make the “greener” choice? Promoting environmental sustainability in wealthy developed nations seems simple enough, but what about developing nations? Environmental conservation is often neglected in search of economic advancement, but both are intimately tied to long-term success. Environmental degradation in developing countries affects the health, livelihood, and safety of its citizens. For example, over-exploited lands and oceans compound issues like natural disasters and weak crop yields, leading to a counterproductive effect on the benefits of economic growth. Thus, rapidly growing countries like China and India must take the lead in sustainability efforts, not only for future generations but also for their own benefit. Although many point to the reckless destruction caused by western industrialization in the past, society must remember the population scale and context we live in. The earth is already stretched beyond its capabilities. Sustainable growth remains the only way to ensure a future livelihood.

Through the smog-filled haze of our newly industrialized world, we can see clearly who must take action for the future. Some seven generations ago, as America underwent its Industrial Revolution, our predecessors were ready only to reap immediate reward, with little thought to long-term effect. With the benefit of hindsight, our generation must establish a vision for sustainability to see seven generations into the future.

 

3rd Place: Jacob Karlsson Lagerros – Who is responsible … are we ready to take responsibility for the future of our planet?

Viktor Rydberg Gymnasium

Sweden

The fundamental delusion of humanity”, according to Zen master Yasutani Roshi, “is to suppose that I am here and you are out there”. If there is one state that the world is rapidly approaching, more than any other, it is interconnectedness. Globalization, innovations in transportation and faster broadcasting speed shorten distances and diminish borders. The concept of interdependency has been explored for centuries within eastern mysticism; and subsequently entered the western zeitgeist through macroeconomics, chaos theory and modern meteorology. As Yasutani Roshi claims, it is impossible to endorse a worldview supposing that the “I” is a separate entity, independent both in action and reaction of its surroundings. I might blame you for global warming, yet my glaciers are still melting.

Interconnectedness is the only way to legitimize, justify and establish responsibility without invoking some abstract, universal dogma. Because “responsibility” is a grand word and has meant both “duty” and “burden”, it has been exploited to wage war and help fortify compassion, and been uttered more often than it has any meaning. However, speaking of ecological responsibility, the scenario differs from other ethical questions. Irrespective of who is to blame no one is immune to the consequences. I might claim ecological disaster is your fault, yet my rainforests are still shrinking.

The inescapable conclusion is that since we are all affected, we are all responsible. The way of action, then, is to restructure the very core of society to an ecological one.

Some vital actions have to be taken by individuals; such as choosing public transport over private cars, wasting less paper, avoiding consumption of non-biodegradable products, etc. Yet, the majority of societal power is held by governments, major businesses and international political associations. These institutions are where power is centralized and most effectively utilized. We ask ourselves: are we ready to take responsibility for the future of our planet? And if we dare, if we will, if we are able to pronounce the daunting “yes”, we have to make sustainable development permeate these fountainheads of potential. Through infrastructure, logistics, city planning, laws and constitutions, ecological policies have to be integrated into the very core of society. Civilization should proceed sustainably not because it chooses too, but because we construct it so that no other direction is possible.

The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states that “peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.” Humanitarian standards and ecological development are entwined as parts of the vast, postmodern web of interdependency that structures the 21th century zeitgeist. For climate destruction is – inescapably, undeniably – a crime against humanity. The willful devastation of our own, and currently only, home is not an esthetic problem, but a humanitarian crisis in the full sense of the term. The enormity of ecocide does amount to that of genocide. Thus, the establishment of an international ecological court is instrumental in ensuring a sustainable future. The UN Security Council has to endorse ecological intervention and ecological self-defense; the right to, as stated in Article 51 of the UN Charter, “use preemptive measures when a serious threat or attack is imminent and likely to be overwhelming […]”. Deforestation and oil spill are just as severe ethical violations as armed assaults.

To combat the climate crisis our societal structures have to be reworked from within, thereby rendering future devastation impossible. Applying the aforementioned measures, whichever actor chooses to perform whatever action, it will be sustainable. We are all affected, thus all responsible. And even though there is only one way forward, i.e. changing our current ways, the future may diverge into a multifaceted palette of splendor and fascination.

 

Subscribe to our newsletters

About our charity

Learn more about the work done by The Trust for Sustainable Living... Read more