Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Youth Involvement and Climate Change

By Emma Kiefer

It’s not always easy to find hope with the current state of global affairs. This population of humans faces more complex, dynamic, and ethical issues than ever before, the most concerning of those being climate change.

Boat Can Tho River_1

Of the populations affected by climate change, children and young adults are some of the most vulnerable. In a UNICEF report entitled “Unless we act now”, outlines the ways that young people are more exposed to the risks of climate change, saying that “the youngest will have to contend with the immediate and life-threatening dangers of climate-related disasters, food insecurity, rising air pollution, increased risk of vector-borne diseases, acute repertory infections, diarrheal diseases and malnutrition”.

Father & Daughter on boat_2

It’s difficult to find an optimistic outcome to this situation, but the young people who are faced with severe environmental challenges are more than ready to step up to the table. The last two weeks in Vietnam have been incredible because so many of our teaching assistants and groups we’ve met with have been young people who want to make a positive change.

One of the first groups we met with was Green Vietnam. Um Students with Vietnamese TutorsThe three young people from this group had such a clear concern for the environment, but also an attitude that made me believe that something could actually be done. What was it that made these people so hopeful?

CTU STudent with Cellphone_3

Another incredible group we met with for three days was the Delta Youth Alliance (DYA). We spent a day at Can Tho University (CTU) sharing presentations on environmental issues in both the Mekong Delta and Montana.  It was surprising to me how many talks were focused on young people in the region.

YFarm_Presentation_4This dynamic group of students from CTU showed me that hope is possible, and it is reasonable.

Vietnam is a rapidly growing, young country, with about 40% of the population between 0 and 24 years old, according to Index Mundi. There is so much potential with such a “young” country like Vietnam that it would be foolish to not empower, educate, and motivate youths to pursue a global change in action towards climate change.

YEM_CTU Presentation
The DYA also showed a remarkable amount of resourcefulness and enthusiasm. Not only did these students genuinely care about environmental issues, but they had the ability to research information and work on solutions of their own.

From meeting with the DYA, I noticed how our group from UMT wasn’t all that different from them.  We too, were passionate about climate change, and by traveling across an ocean we all showed we were willing to take action.  Seeing how these groups interacted made me hopeful for the future, because I know that inaction is not an option with them.

Students in Circle_8

While none of us can say exactly what will happen in the coming years, it is important to recognize that the current and future groups of young adults will bear the responsibility to tackle climate change. When making local plans to combat climate change, it is vital that we include ways to prepare for the massive challenges that the newest, and future generations, will face.



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