Climate change is real and it’s happening here in Indonesia. That was the message from the “Climate Change Go to School” program in Jakarta last week.
The event, which was jointly held by Alpha-I, the National Council on Climate Change, World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and the United Nations Environmental Program, was designed to provide students from Jakarta high schools with a better understanding about saving the environment during the launch of the Youth Combating Climate Change program.
“To talk about the environment and climate change is now a cool thing,” said Nadia Syifa, 13, a student from Al-Azhar Rawamangun.
Nadia said she sometimes felt envious of people from the older generation, who lived in a cleaner environment during their youth.
When she was 11, Nadia joined The Climate Reality Project, an extension of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” campaign.
Along with other interested participants, she was taught presentation skills and how to speak publicly about the issue by Al Gore at the Jakarta Convention Center in April 2012. Nadia has since been sent to a several cities to speak about climate change, including Bandung and Durban, South Africa.
“Al Gore is inspiring. He said that climate change was not an opinion but reality,” Nadia said. “I learned that small things count.”
The Indonesian branch of The Climate Reality Project has launched its own youth-focused group, Inconvenient Youth, a campaign designed for people aged 12 to 18. In October, they will have their second annual Youth Climate Camp.
Ahmad Safik, the president of Alpha-I, the alumni association of Indonesian students in America that was established in March 2012, said the program was designed to promote further awareness around climate change.
“We all know it is easier for the younger people to change habits than us,” said Ahmad, who is a teacher at the Al-Azhar law school and a researcher at University of Indonesia.
To raise the army of youth combating climate change, they held an essay competition in 80 high schools across Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi in June, with winners to be announced at a ceremony at Hotel Aryaduta on Sept. 24.
Ahmad admits they are running an ambitious program, requiring education for both students and teachers.
“Our next goal is to have climate change incorporated in the school curriculum and train teachers about the whole issue,” he said.
Nadia said teachers often did not have a full understanding on how to explain the global phenomenon, generally just teaching the usual precautions such as keeping electricity to a minimum and putting trash in the bin.
“I learned 20 percent about climate change in my school and 80 percent from Al Gore,” Nadia said.
Dian Anggraini, 27, also a member of The Climate Reality Project, joined the program in the same year as Nadia. She has been involved in campaigns for schools, from elementary to high school, and other public conventions. The organization requires a presenter to speak 12 times a year about climate change. Having met school teachers and students, Dian also said a stronger explanation was needed from teachers to make students understand.
“We wish for students not to only know about the campaign, but also to understand the impact of climate change,” she said.
Inconvenient Youth does not only combat climate change through campaigns. They also have environmental programs, such as compost projects and a volunteer program to clean Jakarta’s Ciliwung river.
Indonesian pop singer Nugie, known for his involvement with environmental issues, suggested school students do something about the environment without expecting a reward. The singer ditched his vehicle for a bike five years ago because he was tired of waiting in traffic jams. He lives in Bintaro and travels to Jakarta by bike, which he said has helped him feel healthier and more efficient.
“I like to go through shortcuts,” he said. “Shortcuts are a Jakarta privilege. There are a lot of them and many are unknown.”
Nugie ended his talk by saying to contribute to the environment, habitual change is the most important thing. Having arranged an album about the environment helps people remember his name.
“Be unique by [adopting] a green lifestyle, because other means are replaceable,” he said.