by Julie Melrose, Delegation Director
On World Environment Day, 5 June 2012, I am taking the time to reflect on the ANU Rio+20 Project.
I am really proud to have seen this important student initiative come to fruition over the last few months of our preparations for observing the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and this week we are leaving to start our journey on the 'Road to Rio'.
A few months ago, 17 committed and enthusiastic young environmentalists from a range of disciplines across the ANU were selected to be accredited by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) to attend Rio+20. But the delegation project has become more than simply a group of students attending a conference. We have grown as a strong team over the last few months of planning, fundraising, engaging in debate about sustainable development, and attending Government and NGO stakeholder briefings and forums related to Rio+20.
I am so impressed by the way those on the delegation have thrown themselves into the Project, and are using their position on the delegation to talk to others both within ANU and externally about sustainable development and what that means to them. They are not afraid to ask the hard questions in Government forums. They are not afraid to take risks, to think big and have an open mind.
I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of empowering young people with a strong voice to contribute to the debate and discussions about the future of our planet.
As Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens, said at the ANU Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, "Optimism is a driving force for getting things done". This is very true. Yes, it may seem we have not come very far since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, twenty years ago, but it does not give us permission to give up hope that we can still change things.
That is what the Rio+20 Project aims to achieve - we want to use our experiences in Rio to come back to ANU and start some real debate amongst young people about what sustainability and sustainable development means to us, and what we want our Government to do in working towards it.