As the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council (JCCYC) approaches its fourth anniversary, the organisation is looking to inspire the next generation of young people to become involved in environmental advocacy.
The JCCYC is the youth affiliate of the Jamaica Climate Change Advisory Board.
In an interview with JIS News, JCCYC Director, Eleanor Terrelonge, says since the group was launched in 2017 on April 22, which is recognised as Earth Day globally, they have been focusing on raising awareness of the role of citizens in climate change.
“Climate change for Jamaica is a bread and butter issue and a life and death issue. Climate change is directly affecting Jamaica’s biggest economic earners – tourism, agriculture and fisheries. This, in turn, means that less food will be available for us down the line,” she adds.
According to Ms. Terrelonge, youth involvement is crucial to making Jamaica a more environmentally conscious society.
“We are the generation that must live with the impact of climate change, so we must be the generation to make an impactful change. Climate change affects so much more than the birds and trees; it has serious implications for our economic, social and public health sectors. Therefore, it is imperative that young people become involved in making these changes,” she argues.
The JCCYC has organised and hosted annual expositions focused on including high-school students in climate change and their role in addressing this issue.
Reflecting on the organisation’s efforts since 2017, Ms. Terrelonge identifies the annual exposition as one of the organisation’s major achievements, along with its Albion Heights ‘Green Community’ Project and ‘Haad Tackle’ Capacity Building Retreat.
The Albion Heights project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, aims to create a sustainable rural community and monitor a sustainable community in rural St. Thomas, which allows residents to improve the quality of the natural environment and their quality of life.
“We are working with members of the community to install solar-powered street lamps and solar-powered home systems. We have also installed rainwater harvesting systems in selected households and established income-generating opportunities from community recycling programmes,” Ms. Terrelonge notes.
She adds that the JCCYC is hoping that this project will act as a model for other rural communities that want to explore sustainable living.
According to the Executive Director, the JCCYC has responded with vigour to the COVID-19 pandemic by using the digital space to reach more persons.
“We held eight virtual conversations called #COVIDChat, looking at the intersections of COVID-19 and climate change on society between May and August last year with experts in each sector, which were very well received by our guests and audience alike. We then used the findings from the #COVIDChat conversations to create our 2021 ReImagine Strategy, as we want to make sure that our activism is done in a way that is relevant to the people in these difficult times,” she notes.
Ms. Terrelonge has advice for young persons who are looking to become advocates.
“Do not be afraid to agitate, and you are not too young to make a change. Get involved with a group or organisation that can provide community support and help you build your network. Get familiar with your local representatives (MPs and Councillors). You might think your contribution is just a drop in the bucket, but enough drops will fill it,” she says.
Ms, Terrelonge points out that the JCCYC is now looking to the future and is calling on more youth to join them in its advocacy.
“You can visit our website, ourfootprintja.org, and fill out our signup sheet. You can also contact us on social media @OurFootprintJa (Twitter), @OurFootprintJA (Instagram) or @OurEarthJA (Facebook) or via email email@example.com,” she adds.