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New York Times Asia-Pacific Writing Competition 2019

New York Times Writing Competition Secondary Category Runner-up

Congratulations to our student Philine who has won Runner-up in New York Times Asia-Pacific Writing Competition 2019 for Secondary Students category. Philine completed this essay during her Global Campus lessons.

In an age where unpredictability is the new constant, what can you the younger generation, do now to shape the future?

Together, we can.

The world we are living in as young people may be unpredictable. But so, how unpredictable was the outlook for our prior generations? Let’s say, my grandparents who just were born into the ruins of world war II? Or my parents, who learned how to ‘protect’ in case of a nuclear bomb at the height of the cold war.

Therefore, the first constant we should aspire for, is optimism. Yes, we have unprecedent challenges ahead: climate change, social injustice, the destruction of our ecosystems, the rise of nationalism. But we are the future generation and we can solve them – if we are living based on one foundational value: All these issues in the world can only be solved together. We as the younger generation therefore need to connect across cultures, across nations, across lifestyles. We can teach the older generation that egoism, nationalism and greed are all destroying our planet and our life. But how?

Firstly, we can use technology, social media and travel to learn, understand and connect with each other. In a time when most politicians care only about themselves and pray nationalism, we shall stay connected across borders, curious about each other and understanding that we share the same planet as our home. I personally spend most of my vacations exploring different cultures and making friends across religions, ethnicities and countries. Feeling global is the prerequisite for solving the global challenges ahead.

Secondly, we need to think about new solutions and bold innovation. For example, I am passionate about how to avoid plastic and to dispose of plastic properly. Our oceans carry so much of it that it is killing entire ecosystems. However, one of our younger generation, Lucy Hughes, a 23-year old graduate approached the problem with a breakthrough innovation. She developed a biodegradable material called ‘MarinaTex’, harnessing fish offcuts to create an ecofriendly plastic alternative, which can decompose in 4-6 weeks rather than 500 years as for plastic[1]. There are many such bold innovation opportunities waiting for us!

Thirdly, we need to mobilize also the older generation. ‘Friday for Future’ is the best example of how our generation today creates awareness and pressure that the adults cannot ignore anymore. If we take a stand together for the most important issues and use social media as well as real action to spread our message, then we can force change in mindset and behavior.    

In conclusion, let us imagine we share the optimism for the future and take all the challenges head on: connected globally, creative and innovative and pushing also the elders. Then we will be successful, like ‘Friday for Future’ has become a global movement, like Lucy Hughes showed us innovation to solve the plastic crisis; like Greta Thurnberg took politicians in the UN assembly heads-on on climate.

And like my friends and I, who help less fortunate children through our community work in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. We all can start these little things and together make them big and impactful for our future.