Session 5 of our ‘Reimagine’ Youth Circle series, held on Wednesday, August 5th, was attended by 280 young people from across the UAE, as they engaged directly with our esteemed guests Dr. Asma Mahmoud Fikri, Research & Development Expert at Ministry of Health & Prevention and Professor Dr. Mohamed Yousif Baniyas, around the topic ‘Flattening the Carbon-Curve: Lessons from the Pandemic for other Existential Crisis’.
Before diving into the discussion, we asked our participants “Should healing the relationship between human beings and nature be a priority for the Covid-19 recovery?” – a substantial 94% of youth attending the session voted ‘yes’.
A fascinating discussion between our esteemed guests and attending youth ensued delving into potential solutions on what we have learned from this pandemic, and how we can use these learnings to secure a healthier future for us and the planet. The experts explained the scientific approach to understanding the problem and developing solutions, and most importantly, the crucial need to keep the balance for a healthy environment.
“From the pandemic, we have learnt that if we contribute negatively, it will have a negative impact and if we contribute positively, it will have a positive impact on us”– Dr. Asma Mahmoud Fikri stressed the responsibility each one of us has towards nature and ourselves, reconfirming that collective work is achieved when everyone starts working on themselves first, starting by making simple behavioural changes. She reiterated the value in educating ourselves about the virus, which will help us to better understand how to protect ourselves and the planet, when dealing with other existential crisis, such a global warming. She emphasized the term “awareness” by saying “the pandemic has made us aware of the relationship we have with nature – of how we are affecting the whole biological system that we don’t easily see through our own eyes” and that “we must realize the effect of our daily practices on everything around us including ourselves, as being aware will allow us to willingly change and adapt to healthier choices and behavioural change”. The pandemic has also demonstrated how awareness can lead to measurable change, as accounted in the UAE with a reduction in carbon emissions as we use human activity was reduced. “In a short period of time, we’ve had to improve upon our own habits to benefit ourselves and the economy”, and “by identifying these areas where we can do better to benefit ourselves and translating that into daily habits, will help produce the positive impact we seek […] If we change our habits collectively, we will be changing the world, and making it a better place for us, for nature and for the microorganisms” expressed Dr. Asma Mahmoud Fikri.
Speaking of educating ourselves, Professor Dr. Mohamed Yousif Baniyas communicated the importance of understanding and evaluating scientific data of a problem prior to attacking it. He reiterated that before we make assumptions about global crisis, for example, carbon dioxide emissions, and ozone depletion, we need to understand the real threat, through “resilience and research”. He explained to the youth in attendance, that whilst passion is great, they must “take it to the next level, by developing a scientific mind before jumping to conclusions”. Data must first be gathered objectively (without prejudice), then results must be evaluated, and finally evidence should be sustained. In achieving a nature positive world, he conveyed combining “passion with the right thinking, and right objectives – as the solution lies in the scientific data”.
Dr. Asma Mahmoud Fikri later added that as we increase our awareness, and research, we must avoid sharing misleading information, for example from pseudo scientists. We must consume information from reliable resources but also “develop critical thinking so that we can question the data and form logical statements”.
So, what did the youth of UAE have to say?
- 77% of youth in attendance believe that to secure a healthier future for us and the planet, we should plan and strategize to address threats before it is too late.
- 67% of youth in attendance believe that the increase of single-use plastic and packaging during the pandemic is a challenge that should be addressed most urgently.
- 60% of youth in attendance agree that prioritizing education on climate change and sustainable development will act as a solution to flattening the carbon-curve.
- 72% of youth in attendance are committed to change to sustainable behaviour to save the planet.
It was quite evident from the response we got, that our community of youth are committed to prioritizing healing the relationship between human beings and nature as a priority for the Covid-19 recovery. Notably, attending youth made it clear that they were ready to contribute to these efforts with 77% of them expressing their willingness to plan and strategize to address threats before it is too late. A large number of youth also agreed that single-use plastic and packaging during the pandemic is a challenge that should be addressed urgently. Some others mentioned they would like to see more focus on educating people about how excess consumption is affecting our planet.