A platform to educate Qatari youth about climate change
My name is Neeshad, I am 29 years old and I am from Qatar. Qatar’s ecosystem is fragile. The country is facing numerous environmental issues: water scarcity, climate change, desertification, sand storms, and increasing air pollution. Climate change is a major component amplifying other factors, including water scarcity, biodiversity loss and desertification under the changing climate scenario. Furthermore, Qatar is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, as 18.2 percent of its land area is subject to inland flooding, which is a big issue, considering that 96 percent of the population lives in coastal areas.
If we want to avert this ecological crisis at a global and local scale, technologies and policies alone are insufficient. A change in the collective behavior is necessary in order to foster effective solutions. However, changing perception, attitude, and, most importantly, behavior takes time. Sustained, targeted, and high-quality environmental awareness campaigns are crucial to change the collective behavior of society. A recent public opinion survey suggested that a staggering majority (89 percent) of the public says they would like to have more information to help them build an eco-friendly lifestyle.
The Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCM-Q) responded to the urgency of environmental education in Qatar. Creating an ecologically-conscious society is necessary to achieve a sustainable society. The Arab Youth Climate Movement aims to stir the consciousness of the community through various channels of information.
AYCM-Q is the only platform for climate change and environmental education, awareness, and advocacy for youth in Qatar, the first voluntary non-profit association to ever be registered in Qatar. The organization, founded by me, functions thanks to a team of part-time yet fully committed volunteers.
The AYCM-Q team is qualified when it comes to issues related to environmental education, global climate politics, and environmental policy in the Gulf and other Arab regions. In the last two years, AYCM-Q has worked with various local stakeholders to co-organize events on awareness, advocacy, and action regarding various environmental issues. AYCM-Q strives to educate the general public about the benefits of adopting a green attitude and conserving natural resources. Moreover, AYCM-Q actively engages in workshops at local, regional, and international conferences, including UNEA2, COP18, COP21, and COP22, which goes to show how quickly this small initiative has grown to represent youth in the country.
AYCM-Q works with many national and international partners and is supported by a wise advisory council in order to be able to deliver the best environmental education possible in Qatar. We have adopted three different pedagogical approaches, targeting all socioeconomic and age groups in Qatar: develop innovative and creative digital campaigns on wider climate change issues among youths in Qatar; develop workshops and seminar on climate change, natural disasters, and climate diplomacy; and spread awareness among local citizens to develop and support local and global environmental initiatives through charity and philanthropy.
One of the flagship projects of AYCM-Q is the “Earth Talk Series,” which brings eminent environmentalists and experts to raise awareness on global environmental problems and discuss the scientific, ethical, social, and political dimensions of environmental issues. We organize six annual lectures featuring four international speakers and two local speakers, spread throughout the year. The key objective of this project is to bridge the knowledge gap of global environmental issues among Qatari citizens.
AYCM-Q in partnership with our local stakeholders developed innovative and creative videos and infographics on environmental and climate change issues, not only limited to water and energy consumption but also focused on broader ecological and social issues. We produced short, crisp and fact-filled videos on each theme and published them on social media. With this, we want to develop a deeper understanding of our impact on the environment and how it will impact future generations if we don’t change our behavior now.
Apparently, there are very few effective and consistent training programs on environmental issues in Qatar. Therefore, the aim of our workshops is to train young Qataris and non-Qataris on environmental issues, teaching them sustainable practices of consumption and how to preserve the environment. On a practical level, Qatari youth are trained to understand the threat we are causing to the environment and to find creative ways to respond to the crisis through creative project designing.
Our organization also organizes deep spiritual environmental awareness experiences in eco-lodges and deserts. The programs last for two days and they feature deep philosophical discussions and contemplative practices like walking meditation, deep listening, and storytelling. Also, AYCM-Q sends candidates to NGOs across the world for eco-trips, where they are trained to get a better understanding of local ecosystems and human-nature interactions. We arrange two to three trips per year and send six candidates on every international trip.
Over the years, our campaigns have generated great enthusiasm about environment conservation and protection in Qatar. People started realizing the importance of environmental protection and conservation with active interest and AYCM-Q can take credit for engaging youth in climate activism. The recent trend of more youth going vegan and switching to a healthier lifestyle is another example of changing community-level mindsets. The government too has been actively promoting campaigns on environmental protection, taking a completely new direction. The fact that the Qatari government signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 only gives more purpose to AYCM-Q to keep working to turn Qatar into a low-carbon-based economy.
We believe that environmental issues are one of the greatest threats facing humanity. The challenges we will face in 2018 and in the coming years are urgent and massive. But the promising news is that when we act together, we are stronger, and change is inevitable. Creating a sustainable and just world takes a lot of time, effort, and patience, but together, we can achieve it.