Wen-Yu Weng will be pitching an idea or recommendation at the youth session on the GLF theme ‘forests, agriculture, mountains and land use in the new climate regime’.
As a Taiwanese citizen who spent most of her childhood growing up in foreign countries, I have always been interested in the comparative environmental policies of different countries in the world. My name is Wen-Yu Weng and I grew up predominantly in the beautiful rural countryside of Thailand. When I was 16, I decided to study Biomedical Science at Mahidol University, Thailand. At that time, I was enamoured with the subjects of the sciences and wanted to consolidate my interests in the topics for social good. Going into medicine was an apparent and immediate logical conclusion.
However, although I loved the intellectual challenge and rigours of medicine and biology, I became gradually drawn to social work, youth activism and socio-political issues. From a young age, I campaigned on human rights issues as well as lobbied for better healthcare and welfare provisions for vulnerable populations in Thailand. I often felt there was something lacking in my studies, and what I was studying did not sit well with my desires to focus on the greater picture where maintaining meticulous details. Eventually, my interest was no longer monopolized by medicine, but was transformed into an extensive passion of understanding how science and technology change people’s lives, particularly through sensible and contextual policy-making. And following this, I saw the undeniable ties between our wellbeing and our greater environment.
My passion in environmental and policy issues motivated me to study a M.Sc. in Environmental Policy at the University of Oxford – where I looked at a broad range of topics from forestry, to environmental impact assessments, to corporate environmental accountability, to environmental laws and regulations, to sustainable development and the green economy, and so on. I particularly enjoyed exploring the nexus of environment, health and development. I love sharing these ideas with young people, which motivated me to pursue a career in teaching Chemistry, Debating and Mathematics for a short while. I quickly discovered an astonishing number of young people, much younger than me, who maintained powerful aspirations and nuanced, informed vision of the future world they wish to live in.
The ability of young people to fundamentally change the ball game has been said many times before, but in an age of increasing connectivity and democratization of information, this cannot be truer. I am happy that the Global Landscapes Forum is walking the talk: welcoming youth input with a genuine open embrace. The ambivalence towards youth opinions has proven to be a major contribution to the lack of resonance of various top-level environmental agreements. Far too often, youth voice was either dismissed as naively idealistic, empirically inchoate or paranoid. I choose to see the ambition of youth in challenging formidable established obstacles as something strongly positive. Other times, one can often read about the supposed increasing disengagement and disconnection of young people from public life. I believe people, whether young or old, are likely to choose to become engaged in public life when they have the motivation, opportunity, and capability to do so. It is important that society and policymakers create opportunities for political participation and consolidate greater decision-making legitimacy for youth. The establishment of a common purpose, the identification of a public problem, the belief that your involvement will make a difference – these are all powerful sentiments in harnessing the power of youth to engender change.
I am happy to be a small part of pushing the relevance of youth ideas forward. I am looking forward to learning as much as possible from my peer and to present their ideas in the best light.
This belongs to a blog series profiling youth and leadership in landscapes. Tell us your youth story – submit blogs to [email protected].