On Thursday, January 28th, 2021, The Arctic Youth Network held the fourth session of the Arctic Youth Networks Webinar Series, which focused on Environmental Stewardship. The webinar explored the biodiversity of Arctic flora and fauna, as well as discussed traditional approaches to conservation and land-use practices from a youth perspective. The aim of the webinar was to showcase the Arctic, not just as a region in need of conservation, but as a flourishing environment, while also providing an understanding of the impact humans have had and continue to have on the Arctic and its conservation.
Meet the Speakers:
NILS ÁNDÁ BAER:
Nils is a Sami reindeer herder from Jokkmokk, Sweden. Nils is from a reindeer herding family, so the environment has always been part of his life. Growing up he noticed a lot of changes in the region as a result of logging and other environmentally-taxing industries, which has contributed to his involvement in environmental stewardship.
ÞORGERÐUR MARÍA þORBJARNARDÓTTIR
Þorgerdur is an environmental activist from Iceland. She grew up near Egilsstadir, Iceland. Her experiences with environmental degradation due to the local dam led her to the field of environmental conservation. Þorgerdur is also the chair of the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association. She also co-wrote a book called “Handbook for Environmental Advocacy.”
What is Environmental Stewardship?
Environmental stewardship is an area that members of the Arctic Youth Network have expressed a passion for. But what exactly is environmental stewardship? According to the EPA Innovation Action Council, environmental stewardship is defined as “as the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.” (Johnson, 2005)
The webinar is available to watch on the Arctic Youth Network Website or on the Arctic Youth Network Facebook Page.
One of the key takeaways from the event was the precarious balance of economy and environmental protection. Nils addressed how, for the most part, overdevelopment has often pushed aside nature and diversity for economic gain. It can be difficult to speak out against a job or an industry that, in many cases, has the potential to drastically improve the financial stability of the local community, even at an environmental cost.
Another key takeaway from the webinar was that the effects of climate change and environmental degradation do not stop at human-defined borders. While the webinar focused on the Arctic, it also addressed how actions being taken, both positive and negative, have environmental impacts on other regions in the world.
Going Forward/Key Takeaways:
Your voice matters. Many people, especially young people, often feel that their voice or their opinion does not matter or will be ignored. One of the key takeaways that Þorgerdur emphasized from her own experiences was to remind viewers that you do not need to know everything about the issues you are passionate about to be able to discuss them with others. The important thing to remember is that when having these discussions, it is not only important to have strong communication and analytical skills, but also to have strong listening skills. There will always be people with other opinions which are valid, so make sure to listen, and try to understand other points of view as well as your own.
Þorgerdur said that she often finds it helpful to begin by listening to the other people’s opinions first, and then try to explain your perspective. It is important to try to frame your argument in a way that people will be receptive to. The speakers also recommended reaching out to people from a mutual value perspective. They have often found this to be very persuasive.
Nils stressed the importance of making sure to have a conversation, and not to label those with opposing views as the enemy. It may just be the case that they are unaware of the detrimental effects certain types of economic growth industries, such as mining, can have on the environment and in the long-term. Focusing on the future can also often help to get your point across. It can be helpful to get people thinking about both the short- and long-term consequences of their actions. For example, while it might be financially beneficial to work in the local mine in the short term, what are the long term effects both to your future health, and the environment? This can also spark the conversation of coming up with ideas to help mitigate these risks as more people join the conversation.
Focusing the discussion on the long-term effects also reveals the importance of having local people involved in the development of jobs in a region so that, when possible, they are a part of the process from the beginning. One of the challenges that many regions have experienced has been industries, such as mining, are brought into the region, usually with a promise of jobs. Oftentimes, however, most of these jobs are given to people also from outside the community. Furthermore, the products and the financial benefits also usually leave the region, leaving the local people only the resulting environmental challenges to deal with. Being largely reliant on one industry also leaves the region open to both financial and environmental exploitation, as local people will often be more tolerant of environmental destruction if they fear the industry will relocate and their jobs will disappear.
Þorgerdur said that she stays energized on these topics by speaking with other activists and surrounding herself with supportive people. While it is important to be engaged in the topics you are passionate about, it is also okay to take a break when needed. It is important to remember to celebrate the small victories and that no act is too small to make a difference.
Get involved, whether this is just in your local community on a small scale, such as cleaning up the local river, joining local discussion groups, or by joining larger organizations like the Arctic Youth Network.
Johnson, S. L. (2005, November). EVERYDAY CHOICES: OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP. Retrieved from https://archive.epa.gov/stewardship/web/pdf/rpt2admin.pdf
About the Author
Olivia is a recent Masters in Global Affairs graduate from the University of Prince Edward Island in association with Universidad Rey Juan Carlos with a passion for national and international defence, intelligence and procurement. Olivia also holds a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto with a specialization in history and a minor in Canadian studies. Olivia is also one of the founding members and the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Global Affairs Review, a new academic review based out of Madrid, Spain.