The green spirit

As part of a new youth movement to make Sri Lanka more ‘green conscious’ 300 people gathered for Earth Walk, an event organised by the National Road to Rio+20 Campaign
By Duvindi Illankoon

“I’m a mean, green recycling machine” “Global warming is hot” - Tongue in cheek green humour slogans were the order of the day as over 300 young green activists took to the streets of Colombo for Earth Walk. The first of its kind in Sri Lanka, Earth Walk was organized by the National Road to Rio campaign organizing committee, in association with Colombo Operated Model United Nations, the National Youth Services Council and the Academy of Design, to, “knock some sense into our country’s polluters”, as one young activist put it.

The walk that began from the Police Park Grounds at 9am, wound its way past University Grounds, through the leafy avenues of Cambridge Place, taking a right turn at the museum, the walk ended up at the Open Air Theatre of the Viharamahadevi Grounds. The exhilarating passion and enthusiasm of the young participants was what grabbed the attention of passers-by. Laksheta, 17, made an opportunity out of a red light at an intersection to dance in front of the vehicles waving her slogan around; Naveen, 20, who made it a point to enthusiastically inform innocent bystanders with trivia about earth’s climate (courtesy of a blaring loudspeaker), these young people made it a point to turn up at 8am on a Sunday morning and volunteer to crisp in the sun for hours, just so their voices could be heard.

The walk was organized for a purpose. With the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio being held in June, a youth movement, known as the National Road to Rio+20 Campaign (NRRC) was created and one of their goals is to speak at the conference, as part of a youth group that would accompany Sri Lanka’s official delegation. Billed as the most significant gathering of world leaders since the Earth Summit in 1992, the conference will focus its dialogue on climate change and sustainable development. Sikander Sabeer, co-founder of the NRRC along with Rehan Fernando and Sahan Hattotuwa, couldn’t be happier about the turnout.

‘The National Road to Rio+20 Campaign works closely with leading youth organizations in Sri Lanka on a global call to the United Nations, requesting governments to do much more to protect the planet and its youth. The Earth Walk was part of the campaign’s initiative to make Sri Lanka more green-conscious. The procession of chanting youth determined to make a change definitely got some attention-in fact, it even had some passers by joining in the fun! Haqeeqa Munas, who helped organize the walk said, “organizing Earth Walk 2012 was an amazing experience that helped me gain a lot of exposure, knowledge and skills.”

“ Coordinating between the many organizations that were involved was a massive task; it wasn’t as easy as it might’ve seemed. But the end result was very positive and I’m glad we were successful in achieving our aim of creating awareness about caring for the place we live in, whilst inspiring the youth to become the positive change in the society, ” said Munas

The walk wrapped up with a concert and fashion show at the Viharamahadevi Open Air Theater. The earth may not have become green overnight and Colombo isn’t going to make immediate concessions for climate change, but every major change has to start somewhere. Certainly, for many of these young activists, it began with the Earth Walk.

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