On the international stage, climate change advocacy has been greatly fuelled by youth. Although the country has not placed heavy emphasis on grassroots advocacy, a few youths have taken it upon themselves to join the global youth movement. For instance, long before facing the devastating climate disaster in 2017, youth such as Shahara Sky, Ferdison Valmond, and Ashfred Norris were already educating Dominican citizens about the dangers of climate change.
The Population and Housing Census data (2011), recorded 17,600 young people ages 10 to 24 and explained that young people accounted for about 26% of the population in Dominica. This implies that less than 1% of youth in Dominica may be leading climate advocacy drives. The limited youth activism or lack of interest is puzzling especially since the country’s leader indicated that he wishes to transform the island into the first climate-resilient country.
Climate activist Ferdison Valmond is not daunted by the lack of support for youth activists and urges other youth to get involved. He says, “If you are passionate about climate change and concerned about the effects it has on the livelihoods of the population, don’t sit at the back of the screen or hear it from someone, buckle up and start speaking in the communities. It is also important that, as a climate activist, you hear the perspectives of other young people on climate change, as this will allow you to provide youth within your space with adequate representation, which they need on all levels”.
Valmond is from the indigenous community in the Kalinago Territory and was still in high school when Hurricane Maria struck the island. After creating his first youth group at the age of 15, he decided that he should expand his target population by searching for organizations such as UNESCO, OECS, CARICOM, and the United Nations (UN) that covered the youth work.
But his climate advocacy journey started when he grew an interest in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), mainly SG13 “Climate action”. He subsequently started attending webinars and participating in campaigns. Later that year, he was asked to apply to be part of the 2022 Global Youth Climate Summit hosted by the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center.
He recalls that at that time the two-phased application process took months, after which he was notified that he had been chosen as a delegate for the Global Youth Climate Summit 2022. Valmond was one of the 500 delegates competitively chosen from over 1200 applications from 70 countries across six continents and the only youth from the Caribbean region to participate in such a global event.
Valmond eventually settled on being an indigenous people’s advocate on climate change and environmentalism. The activities he has completed; Global Youth Climate Summit; Youth for Climate Conference; the National Youth Council of Dominica Environmental Assembly; the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Conference; the FXB Climate Advocacy Youth Summit; the Stockholm Global Assembly; and the Climate Justice Summit.
The training that Valmond has completed includes; YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) training for climate advocates; FXB Climate Advocacy Capacity Building; and; Learning for Nature: Ecosystem Restoration.
Valmond believes that these pieces of training shaped his thirst for climate justice and created lasting bonds and partnerships that are essential to continuing his advocacy journey. He explained that climate justice is important because it has the potential to generate positive change within communities and, by extension, countries. Climate justice, he said, allows individuals to understand how human activities can trigger climate change and helps everyone appreciate how the burden of this crisis affects the most vulnerable groups.
In the near future, Valmond intends to execute projects and activities aimed at indigenous youth in agriculture. He also intends to focus on cultural preservation, youth development, and youth peace and security.
He hopes that his efforts will result in instilling the knowledge and skills needed to be a resilient population despite the impacts of climate change on livelihoods. He also wishes that the steps he has taken will inspire other young people to be environmentally conscious.
Valmond’s story is one of perseverance and passion. Hurricane Maria completely destroyed his family home, causing his family to lose everything. This predicament did not deter his drive. Instead, it fed his desire to be part of shaping the future, recognizing that youth activism is a driver of social change and is essential in building climate resilience in Dominica.
In the country’s quest to become the “First Climate Resilient Country”, it is critical for the leaders to create a platform whereby youth like Ferdison Valmond and others can take on leadership roles within their communities, thus helping to make decisions and shape policy. This is especially important in communities that have faced climate challenges.
This is because young people are the key to driving innovation and are often more open to new ideas and willing to take risks, which is essential for coming up with groundbreaking solutions to push the climate adaptation and mitigation agenda. Moreover, youth can also generally be more tech-savvy than older generations, giving them an important edge in today’s digital economy, which is an important tool in sharing climate change information with other youth.
Hence the importance for politicians and other leaders to recognize the potential of ordinary, young climate activists on the island of Dominica. By providing opportunities for climate activists to gain skills and knowledge, leaders can help them grow into responsible and active players in building stronger efforts.
This story was published with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture of Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.