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Young activist helps promote environmental sustainability in Brazil's Amazon region

© UNICEF Brazil/2010/Barbery
Rosicléia da Silva, 15, in front of the public school she attended when she first started her work as an environmental activist.

NEW YORK, USA, 4 October 2010 – Millennium Development Goal 7 calls for ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015. Among the young people working towards this goal is Rosicléia da Silva, 15, from the Amazon region of Brazil. She spoke with UNICEF Radio recently.

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Rosicléia lives with her parents and two older sisters in the village of Palmares, located within the city of Tailândia. She has been an environmental activist in her community since she was barely a teenager, and is now a major local advocate for replanting trees in an area hit hard by deforestation.

She believes that every day, people in her community can help act to preserve the environment around them.

“It’s very simple, just with basic things like waste sorting and using less water,” said Rosicléia. “Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean that you cannot preserve the environment.”

Plagued by deforestation

For years, Tailândia and other parts of the Amazon region have been plagued by illegal logging and rampant deforestation. For Rosicléia, violence and social ills in the region are intertwined with her environmental concerns.

“The biggest handicap is people themselves,” she said, reflecting on the obstacles to environmental change in her community. “Because many people come only to work and don’t actually live here, they think they don’t belong to this place. And so they don’t preserve it.”

Rosicléia said her community has problems with garbage disposal, as well as a lack of health facilities and a weak educational system. “The economic problems can be summarized like this: There are many things that other cities have that we don’t,” she added.

International attention

To help address these issues, Rosicléia began her activism in the public grade school she attended. There, she coordinated the implementation of Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of environmental action to be taken at the global, national and local levels.

Since then, Rosicléia’s work has resulted in international attention. She has participated in many conferences, including the 2009 Junior 8 Summit in Rome. As a representative of Brazil, she was among 56 teenagers from 14 countries who were selected to attend the summit, which has been conducted regularly by UNICEF since 2005 to add a youth perspective to the annual ‘G8’ meetings of world leaders.

In spite of efforts by activists like Rosicléia, however, Brazil remains one of the world’s largest polluters. And unlike the situation in most countries, where the burning of fossil fuels is the primary culprit, deforestation and other land-use activities are responsible for 75 per cent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Lasting impact

The principles of sustainable development are far-reaching; they cover everything from preserving necessary resources to protecting water, land and air quality for future generations. Rosicléia hopes for a lasting impact from her work on reversing some of the environmental damage done to the Amazon region.

"I believe it’s important, because what we have now may not be available in the future for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “That is why it is so important to preserve the environment for other generations.”




Youth activist Rosicléia da Silva, 15, speaks to UNICEF Radio about environmental sustainability in the Amazon region of Brazil.
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