Youth message to today's leaders: 'let us lead the charge'
Derrick Mugisha is an environmental scientist from Uganda who is a member of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network and the Africa Regional Director for Earth Day, an organization working to diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement. In an interview ahead of the GEF Assembly, he spoke about his interest in climate education and sustainable development.
What sparked your interest in the environment?
My passion for environmental conservation grew from witnessing parcels of nature being destroyed and sold to developers. The urgency and gravity of the environmental challenges facing our planet and countries today deeply resonated with me, and I knew I had to act. I studied environmental sciences and started volunteering at local clean-up events and tree-planting drives, which allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations. Through these experiences, I developed a profound appreciation for the power of collective action in making an impact. Seeing positive changes in my community and growing environmental awareness among young people has been incredibly fulfilling.
When did your advocacy turn international?
As I continued volunteering, I realized that I had a genuine passion for environmental advocacy and a desire to contribute more significantly, also beyond my home country, as many of these challenges span beyond borders. I pursued further certifications in sustainability and climate change adaptation and became more involved in environmental initiatives at the policy level and with businesses to create more sustainable practices. My interest now is in climate education and greening development – that includes reforming financial flows and eliminating plastics pollution in nature. I’m also interested in creating new avenues for green jobs for young people, and ensuring equity and justice for the most vulnerable countries.
If you could say one thing to today’s political or business leaders, what would it be?
The power to create a better planet lies within your hands. Embrace the responsibility to act with courage and vision, for the long-term well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.
Recognize that sustainability and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive.
Let us lead the charge towards renewable energy, the conservation of natural resources, and responsible consumption. Together, we can build a legacy of positive change.
What are your other interests and areas of study?
When I am not advocating for a better planet, I like playing football, watching movies, reading the news, and playing video games.
I am also currently pursuing studies in international relations. I like to engage with people from different countries as we work to accelerate action for international conservation and development.
What are you looking forward to at the GEF Assembly?
The GEF Assembly is an opportunity to build partnerships across borders, sectors, and areas in support of long-term gains for the planet. A big part of this needs to be more support for young people working for the environment, and youth-led environmental projects. I am hoping to see a less bureaucratic process to access financing for youth projects, such as through a youth conservation fund. I would like to see more investment in environmental literacy and education for the younger generation, which can translate into skills and green jobs needed for the green economy. I also hope there will be signs of private sector leadership for a green transition, and a commitment to reform financial flows for more sustainable finance.