Young but revolutionary: Youth efforts for environmental sustainability

Image Credit: Edeline Tenges

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Ask Singaporeans what they think of our little red dot, and you will likely get an answer lamenting about the hot weather. And for a good reason—Singapore’s temperature has indeed risen over the years, with our annual mean temperature increasing from 26.9°C in 1980 to 28°C in 2020, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat.

Globally, the Earth’s average temperature is also rising. Phenomenal changes in the environment are happening all around us as higher temperatures have a Domino effect in triggering climate-related events worldwide, with no country spared. Rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more extreme weather patterns have all reared their ugly heads around the world, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. 

This is no coincidence, and science has an answer: climate change. 

Climate change—not just another buzzword

You have heard so much about it, be it through the news, word of mouth, or on social media. Climate change is attributed in large part due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere leading to global warming, and world famous naturalist David Attenborough has called it “the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced” at the United Nations’ (UN) Security Council open debate.

Globally, the rise in global average temperatures has produced knock-on effects such as melting of glaciers and sea ice, notably in the Arctic, Antarctica as well as Greenland. In addition, thermal expansion of oceans occurs when the water bodies absorb heat and increase in volume. These contribute to rising global sea levels. Precipitation patterns are becoming more unpredictable, bringing intense droughts in some places and heavy floods in others. More erratic weather patterns are also bringing about natural hazards such as stronger and more frequent heat waves and cyclones, to name a few.

Singapore has seen our fair share of impacts from climate change. Our sunny island is low-lying and at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels, with most areas just 15 metres above—and 30% of land less than 5 metres above—the mean sea level (also known as the Singapore Height Datum). More extreme variations in rainfall patterns can pose challenges to our water resources, as droughts will undermine the reliability of our water supply while more frequent heavy downpours can overwhelm our drainage systems and cause flash floods. Furthermore, not only will higher temperatures cause increased heat stress among our population, they are also ideal for the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue.

Regionally, Southeast Asia (SEA) is very susceptible to the effects of extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels as compared to other parts of the world, due to its long coastlines, low-lying islands and dense populations. Last year, the region saw more than 500,000 people displaced by weather-related natural hazards such as typhoons and floods, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism and fishing can be badly affected if climate change continues unchecked without mitigation. Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam are among the globe’s ten countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years, according to the Global Climate Risk Index by nonprofit environmental group Germanwatch. 

All these go to show that the effects of climate change are of critical urgency. Fortunately, against this backdrop, our generation and its successors, who have incurred the ever-augmenting radical effects of climate change, are not backing down.

Youths trailblazing the way forward

Back in 2018, teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg first made headlines when she protested outside Sweden’s parliament to raise awareness for environmental activism, which sparked the Fridays for Future climate strike movement. In 2019, she gave a strongly-worded speech at the UN Climate Summit, berating world leaders for their slow progress in tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Among global efforts, youths have been stepping up to make a difference, driven by their passion for the environment and their dream to avoid endowing the future generation a world that has been ravaged by climate change—a poignant reality created by their predecessors. 

Local sustainability efforts driven by youths encompass a wide range of issues, from promoting zero-waste lifestyles to supporting environmental conservation efforts in Singapore and abroad, as well as advocating for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these initiatives include Project bECOme, Singapore (SG) Climate Rally, Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA), Seastainable Co, and the East Coast Beach Plan. 

Project bECOme, founded by a group of youths passionate about environmental sustainability, works to reduce usage of disposable materials, promote reuse of resources, and encourage zero-waste lifestyles. Next, the SG Climate Rally, co-founded by NUS Environmental Studies undergraduate Komal Lad, aims to instill a greater sense of urgency in Singaporeans to tackle our global climate crisis. On that note, the SYCA aims to engage young people in climate action or environmental volunteerism. In addition, Seastainable Co and the East Coast Beach Plan are bottom-up initiatives started by Samantha Thian, a NUS Environmental Management Masters graduate. Seastainable is a social business which supports marine conservation in various SEA countries by promoting more sustainable lifestyles and raising awareness of human impacts on the environment, while the East Coast Beach Plan provides a platform for anyone to self-organise cleanups along East Coast Beach to reduce plastic pollution in oceans.

Climate change is everyone’s battle to fight, and today’s youths are actively joining in the movement to safeguard the planet’s future through various ways, big or small. As cliché as it sounds, age is just a number. 

Raising awareness and building understanding of the climate crisis is an essential first step, and one way to do so is through games which teach about sustainability through fun experiences.

Tencent’s game creation competition with an environmental focus

If you are a university student passionate about sustainability and you have an interest in gaming, Tencent’s environmental-themed game creation competition is your chance to turn your imagined, greener future into reality.

Tencent has announced that it will be hosting Green Game Jam for Youth, an international online competition inspired by the wider Green Game Jam, challenging university students to create games incorporating environment-focused elements such as forest restoration and ocean conservation. The competition is organised by the UN-facilitated initiative, the Playing for the Planet Alliance

Image Credit: Tencent

The competition welcomes all students with the inner passion to do their part for the environment, and the interest to share their ideas about how to create games to raise environmental awareness—regardless of game development experience. Through webinars and online courses from the Tencent Institute of Games and other mentors from the gaming industry, participants will get guidance on games development and learn how to adopt effective ways to promote environmental responsibility.

“This competition seeks to motivate the next generation of gaming developers in Southeast Asia to be climate-conscious and offer the tools and knowledge to raise environmental awareness through technology. Games have the power to raise awareness among billions of people across the globe about environmental conservation and restoration. They can also educate about the actions and solutions needed to strengthen response towards the threats of climate change”, shared Krittee Manoleehagul, Vice President of Tencent Cloud International for Southeast Asia.

“The Green Game Jam for Youth represents Tencent’s corporate social responsibility, using games to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of protecting the planet.”

Krittee Manoleehagul, Vice President of Tencent Cloud International for Southeast Asia

Image Credit: Tencent

The competition will bring together the biggest names in the video games industry, across mobile, console & PC, with the goal of educating and empowering millions of players to act for nature. It aims to engage students from over 300 universities across Southeast Asia, China and North America. 

The competition’s top four winners will receive awards and cash prizes, and the results will be shared to the world in November 2021 during the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

Cash prizes for the respective awards include: 

  • US$10,000 for the Gold award
  • US$3,000 for the Silver award
  • US$1,000 for the Bronze award
  • US$500 for the honorary fourth place

You can register to enter the competition by 30 July through TiMi’s website here.

Action for environmental sustainability

Climate change may be the biggest challenge of our time, but the energy and passion of our youths in advocating for a cause they believe so strongly in gives reason for optimism. Regardless of your demographic, I believe that we all can do our part, big or small, to safeguard our planet for our future generations. Come, let’s put our inhibitions aside and collectively take charge of our future and make a healthy, sustainable earth a reality.