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Story | Community
1 October 2021

Climate change activism should come from love, not fear, say QF panelists at Youth4Climate

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Qatar Foundation International hosted a talk that looked at how to connect youth globally to empower them to act locally

The fight against climate change shouldn’t come out of fear, but out of love, and taking action against the climate crisis means the narrative needs to change, a Qatar Foundation panel session at the Youth4Climate conference in Milan has heard.

We are seeing so many diseases, such as heart diseases and cancers, because of our environment, because of the food we eat

Lina Nayel Al Tarawneh

“We need a fierce love for the world,” Lina Nayel Al Tarawneh, Co-Founder of Green Mangroves, told a discussion hosted by Qatar Foundation International, a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), during the global youth-driven event.

As a medical student, Al Tarawneh says she wants to see medicine and climate change activism work hand-in-hand. “Both medicine and climate change activism are healing practices. If you look around, we are seeing so many diseases, such as heart diseases and cancers, because of our environment, because of the food we eat,” she said.

Qatar Foundation International was one of the QF entities hosting a climate-focused conversation at Youth4Climate. Image source: /IPA/ABACA, via Reuters

Al Tarawneh was joined by Cynthia Bolton, Head of Gifted Education and Manager of Learning 365 at QF’s Pre-University Education; Oweis Al Salahi, a Youth Advocate from Education Above All; and Jennifer Geist, a Global Education Consultant at Qatar Foundation International, who also moderated a discussion titled Connecting Youth Globally to Make Impacts Locally: Teaching Sustainability, held in partnership with Earth Day.

During the session, panelists shared their journeys in climate change activism and how their roles impact and contribute toward this. Explaining the role of educators in the area of climate change activism, Bolton said: “The concept of Learning 365 is to give a platform to the youth to extend their ideas out of the classrooms, and reach beyond what the regular curriculum can offer.

We support students to explore areas of the world that previously may not been explored in traditional classroom settings – for example, climbing a mountain

Cynthia Bolton

“We support students to explore areas of the world that previously may not been explored in traditional classroom settings – for example, climbing a mountain. In doing this, we are allowing them to explore sustainability and facets of the environment.”

Bolton also showcased a film that highlighted the tower garden initiative at QF schools, where students in the Learning 365 program attend virtual exchanges with schools in the US, through a partnership with Qatar Foundation International, to understand tower gardens, and watch plants grow in front of them in their classrooms.

We share the same space on our planet, and we all have to live together. And connecting with each other is really the secret

Jennifer Geist

The purpose of this virtual exchange is to make students understand the universal connection through food, as well as use the exchanges to nurture empathy. “We share the same space on our planet, and we all have to live together. And connecting with each other is really the secret,” Geist told the audience.

Explaining what sparked his interest in climate change activism, Al Salahi, an Education Above All Youth Advocate and a student at QF partner university Northwestern University in Qatar, said that when he was a teenager, he would visit playgrounds littered with plastics, and the climate change or the harmful effects of plastics never crossed his mind – until a teacher sat him and his friends down.

“She explained to us that if we aren’t going to care of our planet, no one else will. So, we physically picked up all the trash. Her words really stuck with me,” Al Salahi said.

Once we are aware of our social abilities and consequences, we will make better choices – which will happen from education

Oweis Al Salahi

Al Salahi believes education is the foundation in knowing how to approach issues, and that educators shouldn’t limit students to certain subjects. Everyone, he said, has a passion and a fire inside them, and: “We should let the youth pick what they want. The topic of climate change is linked to behavior, and once we are aware of our social abilities and consequences, we will make better choices – which will happen from education.

“And I think governments and policymakers should let the youth have a voice and a seat at the table, because eventually the youth of today are the future of tomorrow. We will be living the consequences of the decisions being made today.”

The session focused on how young people can be connected at a local level to make a global impact.

Schools at QF are exposing students to causes at a very young, changing the way they think and act, according to Bolton. “As educators our job is to expose our students to specific areas, and when we see that the students have passion for something, our job is to ignite and push for that passion to become something real,” she said

And passion comes from exposure. Al Tarawneh said, growing up in Qatar, she barely saw any greenery. During a road trip with her family, she was “mindblown” to find vast patches of greenery within water bodies in Qatar – a spark that ignited her mangroves project.

“If we take people outside to experience nature, they realize how beautiful this world is, and they take interest in knowing and loving this world,” she said. “So, push people to fight climate change with love and not fear.”

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