There Is No Planet B: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to Combat Pollution and Save Our Environment
Young Voices of the Sahel utilizes the urban art and culture festival FAU DAKAR to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our environment.
Dakar, Senegal (June 5th, 2023) - Breathing under a tree or by the sea, inhaling the pure and refreshing air, is priceless. The mere thought of having to pay for it is alarming. Thus, investing our energy and time into preserving it becomes an unparalleled necessity."
These words had a profound impact on the children attending the FAU DAKAR festival at "Empire des Enfants" (Children's Empire), as climate youth advocate Maguette Ba explained why it is crucial for everyone to learn and understand how to protect the environment.
Maguette is a member of Young Voices of the Sahel (JVS), a group of young changemakers who have been actively participating since 2020 in various events and public debates concerning environmental issues and climate change. They were present at the third edition of the FAU DAKAR festival, which promotes sustainable development through urban art and culture.
This year, the FAU DAKAR festival brought together approximately 2,000 children, adolescents, and young people from Dakar and Thies regions. They engaged in activities such as dancing, hip-hop, rollerblading, volleyball, fitness cardio box, basketball, and numerous workshops organized by JVS, focusing on climate change. JVS members passionately conveyed their dedication to the environment by sharing their experiences and utilizing various awareness techniques to emphasize the significance of protecting the environment.
"My passion for the environment stems from my involvement in ecological weekends during my childhood, where I was educated on various environmental topics, including plastic waste and endangered animals," said Aminata Marianne Cisse, a 16-year-old member of JVS. "Moreover, I have always had an affinity for nature and animals. Consequently, I have long aspired to be a guardian of the environment, raising awareness among those around me and adopting simple ecological practices that contribute to the fight against climate change."
Climate change is not a future crisis; it is happening right now and posing a threat to the lives of children everywhere. In Senegal, we are witnessing unseasonal rainfall, increased floods, temperature changes resulting in more heatwaves and droughts, environmental degradation, and various other natural disasters. Sadly, children and young people, despite contributing the least to climate change, are disproportionately affected by its impacts.
"During the last rainy season, heavy rains impacted several areas in Senegal. As a result, many families lost almost everything, including their homes, livelihoods, and crops. In such situations, some children suffer from malnutrition, girls may drop out of school due to the financial strain on their families or because they spend their days walking long distances to find clean water or helping with household chores instead of studying," announced Mame Diarra Niang.
While the awareness-raising workshops held during the festival primarily focused on teaching children about responsible behavior towards the environment, recycling, and reusing objects, Young Voices of the Sahel also placed special emphasis on educating children about the dangers of plastic pollution and how to combat it.
"Plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives. It is present in various sectors, but its widespread production and usage generate significant waste that harms the planet. People often overlook where the plastic they use ends up," said Maguette.
"Did you know that it takes centuries for a plastic bag on the ground to decompose? We must stop using them now before it's too late and embrace sustainable alternatives," urged Mame Diarra Niang, another member of JVS. "In Senegal, five million plastic bags are discarded every day, and 30% of our livestock die due to plastic ingestion," she added, expressing deep concern.
According to Marianne, plastic pollution is an environmental scourge that not only causes harm on its own but also gives rise to other issues such as water pollution (including groundwater), the extinction of certain animal and plant species, and air pollution when the waste is burned. Plastic pollution is a multifaceted problem, and to protect our biodiversity, it is crucial to eliminate this plastic pollution.
Marianne also calls upon young people to take action and save the environment. She encourages them to recognize the importance of our environment, care for it, and commit to its protection because there is no Planet B. As young individuals, we can adopt simple habits like using fabric bags for shopping, opting for reusable water bottles instead of accumulating plastic bottles or water bags, and actively participating in recycling efforts. Let's dedicate ourselves to the preservation of our ecosystems and take initiatives that ensure a healthy environment for future generations.
Maguette, the climate youth advocate, suggests three fundamental principles in combating plastic pollution: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. By reducing our plastic consumption and reusing plastic items creatively, we can make recycling more manageable. Additionally, saying no to plastic, picking up litter, and supporting community efforts are essential solutions to tackle plastic pollution.
Mame Diarra proposes solutions to fight plastic pollution, including the installation of digital fountains in each district and large schools, where individuals can use their own stainless steel water bottles, thus reducing the need for water bags. She also suggests that people prioritize bulk shopping over retail purchases to minimize the use of single-use packaging.
To accelerate youth-led action on climate change in Senegal, UNICEF Senegal is supporting youth organizations and activists by strengthening awareness campaigns, advocacy, and influencing movements. This includes supporting the participation of groups like Young Voices of the Sahel in initiatives like FAU DAKAR.