The Future We Want Will Be Created By Us!

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The "Flying Monkeys" at the US Center at RIO+20 (Courtesy Photo)

This month, the theme for the blog has highlighted sustainable development in honor of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, which took place from June 15-June 22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference focused on reducing poverty, advancing social issues and ensuring environmental protection.

What you may not know about Rio+20 is that youth actively participated in this event – sharing their ideas, networking with key influencers and taking the opportunity to sit down and learn from one another. Allow me to introduce you to some incredible youth leaders that I meet at Rio+20 and share some of the innovative ways they are already working to create a future that lasts.

Meet the Flying Monkeys, a group of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa. These innovative teenagers are the creators of a prosthetic hand device that helped a four-year-old girl without fingers write for the very first time. Their advice to youth interested in engineering a better future is to find an idea you’re passionate about and test it out. They say no idea is too small, because big things have small beginnings.

Lucia Herrmann and Shayanth Sinnarahjah are two high school students who have developed a practical solution to clean energy problems. Together they designed a portable water filtration device that works without electricity and will be fully functional in Haiti this summer. Why is this invention important? 1 in 8 people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water and 1 in 5 deaths in children under 5 is due to waterborne related diseases.

Water Filtration Device

Water Filtration Device showcased at RIO+20 in June, 2012.

Georgetown Energy, the winner of the White House Sustainability Challenge, is making a difference. This student-run organization based in Washington, D.C. designs and executes clean energy projects on their college campus, in their community and abroad. Their most notable accomplishment is the creation of the Green Revolving Loan Fund, which aims to further sustainability projects on campus. One of Georgetown Energy’s flagship projects involves installing photovoltaic panels on university-owned townhouses to show neighborhood residents that using solar energy to power homes is possible and economically viable.

Lisa Curtis, Sammera Savarala and

Lauren Borsa served as youth delegates at Rio+20! As Agents of Change for SustianUs, these women spent the duration of the conference working with government officials, civil society members, and other youth to promote youth-friendly, future-focused policies related to sustainable development. Check out the videos below for some words of wisdom from these fearless pioneers.

These are just some examples of how youth are developing creative solutions to social challenges. As Gary Guzy, Deputy Director and General Council from the White House Council for Environmental Quality said very eloquently, “Youth have inherited incredible economic, social and environmental challenges, but they continue to meet them with innovative solutions that inspire us all.”

How are you making your community more sustainable?