Takeaways at Caribbean Gen Z Climate Conference: Consult, collaborate, and seek mentorship and stress relief

After discovering the benefits of meditation and grounding oneself in nature, Bodhi Patil is calling on environmentalists to prioritise self-care as he believes there is a correlation between caring for oneself and caring for the planet. Photo via Cari-Bois Environmental News Network and courtesy the Ohana Festival, used with permission.

By Keira Hinds and Colleen Mudie

From September 8-10, Cari-Bois’ first cohort of youth journalists attended The Cropper Foundation and Journal of CESaRE’s 2023 Gen Z Climate Conference. The content in this post was first published here and here on the Cari-Bois Environmental News Network, and is republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Communication, collaboration, mentorship, and self-care are all important aspects of any sustainable movement for change. This is according to a range of environmental practitioners who participated in the Gen Z Climate Conference, a virtual meeting of young people aged 16-24 from across the Caribbean. Despite working in different fields, each expert shared why these principles have been instrumental in the work they do, helping to expand their causes to a wider audience.

You are not an expert in everything

Entrepreneur Vandana Mangroo. Photo via Cari-Bois Environmental News Network and courtesy Mangroo, used with permission.

Entrepreneur Vandana Mangroo started a sustainable company called Hello Green in 2016, one of the first in the Caribbean to distribute certified compostable packaging. She has also used her brand to get involved in a number of regional consultations in an effort to guide policy to ensure a strategic transition away from single-use plastics.

Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or advocating for a specific issue, Mangroo stressed the importance of consulting experts in that field to gain better insight into specific subject matters. The self-awareness that “you are not an expert in everything” often leads to being open-minded and gaining new knowledge, which in turn offers both personal and professional growth.

When she first conceptualised Hello Green, Mangroo said the idea of compostable packaging and products was still gaining traction in the region, but by opening herself to learning more about the industry, and putting together a supportive team, she has been able to grow the company.

Collaboration opens doors

In 2019, energy and environmental reform activist, Akil Callender, was selected for the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. Photo via Cari-Bois Environmental News Network and courtesy of the British High Commission, used with permission.

Akil Callender is an energy and environmental reform activist who is currently a Youth Specialist at Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). The organisation has partnered with several institutions, including the United Nations, to advance the use of renewable energy.

Noting that he has already collaborated with Mangroo on several projects, Callender explained that through similar collaborative efforts, he was able to build networks with many other sustainable development experts. Over the years, those networks have helped him be part of discussions to drive action on renewable energy use.

Adding that strategic goal planning is also critical, Callender stressed the importance of young people having a sense of direction in order to help recognise and seize opportunities. Mentorship, he said, has been an invaluable part of his professional journey.

Seek opportunities to be mentored

Chief Executive Office of the Heroes Foundation, Lawrence Arjoon. Photo courtesy Cari-Bois Environmental News Network, used with permission.

Chief Executive Officer of the Heroes Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago Lawrence Arjoon has been working to promote youth leadership, calling for greater inclusion of young people in decision-making processes and collaborating with like-minded organisations.

A firm believer that “it takes a village to raise a child,” Arjoon believes any efforts to advance youth development must be collaborative in nature. There must also be communication among organisations so as to continue identifying gaps in youth development efforts.

Care for yourself, care for the planet

Bodhi Patil is a Young Ocean Leader with the Sustainable Ocean Alliance and
also serves as an Impact Advisor for OnDeck Fisheries AI and a Youth Advisor for World Oceans Day. With all these responsibilities, it is no surprise that he has experienced some level of stress.

Everyone experiences stress differently. Patil's stress manifests as a tightness in his body and a lack of security in the work he is doing, but by accepting that stress is part of life and the work he does, he has taken the first step in reducing the guilt associated with the diminished productivity stress often brings.

In terms of coping strategies, meditation techniques like deep breathing and grounding are designed to realign one’s energies by connecting with the earth. Patil firmly believes that before anyone can identify themselves as part of the environment or the world at large, they must cultivate inner resilience. Since you must be at your best to give of your best, this requires self-care.

For Patil, there’s a strong correlation between the ability to take care of yourself and caring for the planet, and he thinks environmentalists should listen to what their bodies are telling them in stressful moments.

By taking preventative actions, Patil said anyone who has “red” or negative energy can use the concept of a “blue mind,” which is centred around the concept of being around any source of water — whether it’s in your bathroom or virtually — as this increases the mind's ability to stay calm and balanced.

Given that oceans already help us breathe by providing half of the earth’s oxygen through its different life forms and processes, it can literally and metaphorically help young environmentalists take a much-needed breath as they continue the fight against the negative effects of the climate crisis.

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