For Renewed Optimism, Turn to the Young

The annual World Economic Forum, a multinational conference that addresses (among other things) the global status in terms of development and sustainability, was held last week in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, one of the words uttered most often this conference was ‘future’. Topics discussed in addresses, panels, and lively debates include the future of emerging countries; the future of healthcare; the future of our environment; the future of global economic situations. But one ‘future’ rises above all others in its prevalence and its importance. This ‘future’ is at once a problem, an issue of a debate, and a solution in and of itself. I’m referring, of course, to the future generation.

The future generation goes beyond the children that we as young people will have decades from now. We are the future generation, already here to pave the way. We are the youth of now, the leaders of the future, and the Earth is on our shoulders. We are the ones who will be around to see the future we create, and as such, it is our responsibility to shape it in a way we can be proud of.

Real change is happening on a global level, with youth taking the helm. Our energy and zeal is unmatched, and we are harnessing it into powerful movements that inspire change worldwide. Our work has not gone unnoticed, either. In a discussion on global development, Paul Polman, the CEO of multinational food and cosmetic corporation Unilever, emphasized how involved the youngest generation has become. “[Youth] understand what is going on better than [anybody]… They understand what it means to have sustainable and equitable growth, where everybody gets a chance.” He explained.

We needn’t even look far for an example of how we, as the youngest members of society, are taking the future of our planet into our own hands. Roots & Shoots is the very definition of youth driving action and creating change. Youth are acknowledging the issues that our world faces, from climate change to global poverty. More than this, we are choosing to act against it, and rallying together to have our voices heard.

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Unlike our predecessors, though, our voices carry louder and farther, beyond borders and between countries. By using the tools of the information age, we are reinventing social justice by removing geography from our activism. Through the sheer power-in-numbers that social media generates, we act as a powerful force to be reckoned with: we demand more action, and receive more answers, than was previously imaginable.

As Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, pointed out in her address about sustainability and the economy, there is true citizen power behind social media. Many events in the past few years have shown us the true ability of social media to move governments by inspiring action and by allowing us to gather as a global community with shared dreams for the future of our shared planet. This trend is only growing stronger as we learn how to use social media to our advantage in connecting and acting.

The title of this blog post comes from Christine Lagarde’s lecture on Resilient Dynamism, where she also made a poignant remark about another inevitable truth regarding the future generation.

“Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled,” the formidable woman said, words that resonate far beyond their humor. Lagarde went on to talk about the power of the citizen in preventing that fate, and highlighted the role of young citizens in particular.

We as youth are the key to unlocking the potential of the information age. We as youth have the savvy, the verve, and the fresh ideas. That doesn’t mean we don’t need the guidance of the men and women who lead us, though. As Polman pointed out so succinctly, “If [the leaders of today] can provide the framework, [the future generations] certainly have the energy and the power”.

Together, using our strengths, the future seems bright.

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