By Elle Morrell
ADELAIDE - More than 100 young people from across Australia took up the challenge to salvage a livable future at the third national Environmental Youth Alliance Australian Conference, held here over the Easter weekend.
A report from Michelle Hovane, the EYA delegate to the United Nations Youth Summit on Environment and Development, held recently in Costa Rica, set the tone of the conference.
"The world is in crisis", she said. "The earth, air, soils, oceans and forests on which our lives depend are being seriously degraded. Grossly unequal distribution of wealth and power threatens our immediate future and the very existence of future generations. Deepening poverty for two-thirds of humanity and environmental degradation are not separate problems. Neither problem can be solved in isolation from the other."
The conference adopted a charter that addresses bridging the structural and economic inequalities between North and South so that environmental devastation can be stopped. It concludes that it is not possible to separate problems of the environment from economic development, inequity in the global economy, military expenditure and human rights abuses.
It calls on Australian youth to lead the way in showing solidarity with developing countries and demanding action to reverse the economic model that is destroying the planet.
The theme of the conference was "One people, one planet, one struggle", reflecting the need for an international solution to the problem.
Participants pointed out that the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), being held in Brazil in June, will not solve the crisis because of the refusal of wealthy countries' governments to commit themselves to any substantial agreement. The Australian government, like the US, puts economic "rationalist" policies ahead of environmental protection.
The conference endorsed the call from the Costa Rican youth summit for international days of action on social and environmental issues. On May 30, there will be actions on the theme of North-South solidarity.
EYA Australia is campaigning to save the small Indonesian island of Siberut, whose rare ecosystem is under threat from poverty, logging to make way for palm oil plantations and a golf course, and migration of Indonesians that will destroy the indigenous culture. In each capital city and Newcastle EYA, is planning pickets of Indonesian companies involved in the exploitation of this island, rallies and public meetings.
We are also planning events on World Environment Day, June 6, and on October 11 to "un-celebrate" the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas, which began the European eoples there.
We will also campaign around the issue of public transport with demands for increased services that are safer, reliable and inexpensive. Public transport is essential to reduce car use and greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information about EYA or how to get involved, write to EYA National Office, PO Box R1240, Sydney NSW 2000, or ring (02) 569 4604.
[The writer was elected national coordinator of EYA by the conference.]