“How can we in the Nordic Region join forces and continue to raise awareness of climate issues? We need to draw attention to the people of action: the practitioners!” said Ketil Kjenseth, Chairman of the Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region in the Nordic Council, in his welcome speech in reference to the presence of five of the seven nominees for this year’s Nordic Council Environment Prize.
“Multiple challenges demand multiple solutions. Young people are demonstrating in the streets and demanding action,” he said, before passing the floor to two representatives from the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, Julian Lo Curlo and Annika Lepistö. The network is a new initiative supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers that seeks to build a platform that elevates the voices of young people to an international level in politics
The debate that followed made it clear that we cannot choose simply to focus on climate change or protecting biodiversity – the two fields are closely related. As Dag O. Hessen, Professor of Biology and nominee for the 2020 Nordic Council Environment Prize noted: “We have focused enormously on CO2 and I think 2019 was the year of waking up in terms of biodiversity. We saw dramatic forest fires in Australia, Brazil, and California. We saw reports on the loss of species, which made it very clear that nature not only responds to climate change, but that climate change is happening because of the loss of ecosystems.” He also complimented and gave some well-intentioned advice to the two youth representatives: “It’s really rewarding to see young people taking over. I’ve been in this field since I was 16 – it’s important not to lose patience.”
Preserving nature is probably the best way to deal with climate change aside from cutting emissions
Are there any words of hope?
The climate crisis combined with the COVID-19 pandemic made onep articipant ask whether there are any words of hope? The response from Julian Lo Curlo was clear: “From a generational perspective, there is considerable awareness there is hope to be found in that. Younger generations are ready and demanding radical change.”
Professor Hessen agreed: “Nobody can be a naive optimist these days, but there is hope. There is a willingness out there to change among businesses, investors, and the public. We do see positive signs towards recognising the problem and taking action. The pandemic has showed us that it’s possible to make drastic changes and raised awareness of the life we are living.”
Sofia Sollén-Norrlin from the Swedish Ecological Farmers Association, representing organic farming organisations in the Nordic Region and nominee for the 2020 Nordic Council Environment Prize, also chipped in with some good news: “The demand for organic food is rising. Although not enough in terms of its speed and extent, there is a greater awareness about how food is produced, which is being translated into consumption.”
Cecilie Tenfjord Toftby, member of Nordic Council Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region, summed up the discussion with the following encouraging words: “We all depend on ecosystems and we need to think about what kind of world we’re handing over. I think today has added value by bringing together decision makers, young people, and practitioners. It’s important to listen to the voices of young people. They’re braver than us and willing to make the sacrifices needed to challenge the usual means. To the nominees: your work will help lead the way throughout the region. Thank you!”
The winner will be announced on Tuesday 27 October 2020.