Role of Youth in Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability, In ecology this word describes biological systems that remain diverse and productive over a long period of time. Healthy wetlands and forests are prime examples of sustainable biological systems. For humans sustainability has economic, environmental and social dimensions. These are the three pillars of sustainability.

Economic issues - If a community does not have a flourishing economy, it will not be able to achieve sustainability over a long period of time.

Environmental Issues - A community can be sustainable only when it takes care of its environment.

Social issues - A community must address its social issues otherwise it will not be in a position to bestow the necessary attention to protect its environment. If these three pillars are not strong, the community is bound to collapse.



As per a report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), “India leads the world in pollution-linked deaths” (“India suffers most pollution-linked deaths,” 2019). According to a report of NITI Aayog (2018), 70% of Indian pollution is unable to get pure water. India is on 120th position out of 122 countries on the basis of quality indicator of water due to its huge population. As per the report, India has 17% of the world population while resources for pure water are only 4%. Every year, a huge area of the country faces drought. “A report of the IPCC on climate change makes it clear that the world will witness a greater sea-level rise, higher frequency of droughts and floods, and heat waves and countries like India with large populations dependent on the agriculture and fishery sectors would be highly impacted” (“IPCC report: India,” 2018). As a matter of fact, environmental degradation has already taken its toll.

Lack of humanism to the environment has grown up with the pace of industrialization in India too. “The concept of environmental protection and conservation is not new to India. The idea and practice have always been an integral part of our customs, traditions, and laws. From ancient times, the emphasis has been laid on the five elements of nature which have been both revered and worshiped”. Engaging youth in organised efforts to promote environmental sustainability has important implications for youngsters themselves as well as for their communities. Every third person you meet in an Indian city today is a youngster. In about seven years the median age of a person in India will be 29 years, making us the youngest nation in the world. Over the last two decades, India has firmly established itself in the world economy.

The Indian youth have both special concerns and special responsibilities in this context. A number of environmental risks and hazards will affect those who have to live for an extended period in the deteriorating environment bequeathed to them by the earlier generations. The nature, extent and severity of environmental problems vary tremendously from one part of the world to another but certain issues-most notably global warming and ozone layer depletion-are global problems and therefore of concern to everyone.

The role of youth in creating environmental awareness

Environmental education is one way of equipping young people with necessary cognitive skills to recognize and withstand the current issues. Young people with a stake in the more distant future are especially well-placed to promote environmental awareness. Anti-ecological ways of thinking and behaving have not yet been fully ingrained in them so they can approach these issues with fresh ideas. At the same time much of the environmentally relevant information young people receive comes not from formal education but from the media. In principle, formal environmental education and the media could join in the larger process of social education, though the fact that the media are generally driven by other concerns can get in the way of such a synthesis. Even then the media can be a powerful tool for education.

Strengthening participation of youth in environmental protection

One aspect of the innovative approach is the extent to which contemporary social movements are now transnational in character. They organize networks that span the globe, for example, the network against biopiracy. Aside from academic activities, there are possibilities for youth participation in practical environmental projects. Camps such as ‘Rural Youth Immersion Programme’ conducted by Development Alternatives (DA), encourages green innovations through Social Entrepreneurship Programmes, creating opportunities through Green Internships.

The participation of youth in environmental protection can be sought at levels ranging from grass-roots activism to policy-making bodies and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Their role can be institutionalized in policy-making through advisory bodies such as youth councils. Many national governments have ministries or departments of "youth affairs". In addition to their intellectual contribution and ability to mobilize support, young people bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account by the government.

Majority of Indian youth come from rural India where obtaining basic amenities of life continues to be a matter of concern. In such a challenging situation where immediate issues like livelihood and food are of primary importance, sustaining the support of young people is bound to be very difficult. That’s why they need to be trained in sustainable ways of living through vocational workshops that would empower them to fulfil their requirements without being harsh on the environment!!

A Youth Divide

Lack of attention and focus on youth-led social initiatives often deters the young dreamers from stepping forward to take the lead in making a difference.  They do not get the necessary support for their ideas. Burdens such as unemployment, lack of job skills, low income and job pressure are challenges hindering community welfare.

Understanding these need gaps faced in India, CSR initiatives undertaken by companies mobilize young volunteers by promoting youth volunteerism and engagement for local and global partnerships. They work to provide the necessary direction and empower rural youth in communities to become local change-makers.

Leaders of Tomorrow

The youth are ensuring that their voices are being heard as they now shoulder on going responsibilities and challenges faced across the globe. There still exists a disparity within the group, which must be addressed by establishing more youth-centric enablement programmes and campaigns that will propel them in their pursuit of becoming proactive change makers. Governments must acknowledge this segment of society as key stakeholders and partners of society. In turn, the youth must use their collective voice to advocate, collaborate and lead initiatives that act in favor of national and global growth. The youth are the next generation of entrepreneurs, educators, activists, philanthropists, impact investors, and innovators.  Industries and government should work together to use the brainpower of these young resources to solve the world’s acute humanitarian problems.

The present day youth knows that this is not the time to sit back and expect things to change by them. Therefore almost every day we hear about a new movement for or against various environmental issues, ranging from deforestation to discouraging animal ill-treatment. In the current situation of the environment awareness is bliss. These are the harbingers of the new age when India would not only be known for its cultural and geographic diversity but also as a country that prides itself on actively maintaining and upholding ecological balance through sustainable development. A Modern Youthful India!!