UNEP's "We have the power": raising environmental awareness

Somehow, today's disconnect between human and environmental conservation can be traced to a lack of or inadequate awareness that has prevailed over the years. Thus, more education programs are needed. What if that awareness starts with our young generation? They will grow knowing what the environment requires of us in order to be better and to provide us with what we need in return. What's more? They are likely to put those lessons into use, uploading into consciousness. 

"We have the power"

Enter the International Children's Painting Competition, a competition launched in 1991 by UNEP under the organization's Tunza Children program . UNEP, Al-Sayer Group, and the Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE) partners are hoping that every year, they can raise awareness on environmental issues and needs among children and giving them the power, connection, and tools needed to build a sustainable future. The program helps other people see the environment through the eyes of children, and hopefully, forces us to act on the issues raised.

In this competition, children not only research and reflect on environmental issues that affect us daily, but they also create art and express their feelings about those pressing issues. This includes issues related to water, deserts, energy, and food. 

This year's competition was all about harnessing renewable energy

On April 25th at the Nairobi's UNEP headquarters, the overall winners of this year's competition were present to receive their awards. The winners are Gloria Yang from the United States, Salya Richita Susanto from Indonesia, and Sataporn Thitiprasert from Thailand who have scooped the first, second and third positions respectively, in a painting competition that attracted a total of 63,000 submissions from 66 countries around the world.

This year's International Children's Painting Competition sought to reach out to the younger generation. To inspire them to share their vision of how harnessing renewable energy can help the world become a better place under the title "Energy: We have the power."

Gloria was chosen as the regional winner for North America region (Canada and United States), and her entry was to be pooled for a final global selection among many others. Her work shows the various sources of renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean energy. These are what she said are the alternatives for "making the planet beautiful" and a means to escape pollution from fossil fuels.

The effort helps to build a campaign based on use of renewable energy. Ambassador of Indonesia Nairobi, Soehardjono Sastromihardjo said during the Monday occasion that it is important to develop campaigns based on utilization of renewable energy sources. Besides, through such projects, children become more aware of how to save valuable resources such as water and energy.

Focusing on a future powered by renewables

Children are an important asset towards increasing the uptake of renewables. The aggressive reduction of carbon emissions as projected last year in COP21 is looking to the future and will rely on what we do now as much as what future generations will do. Thus we must start empowering future generations now to solve the problems of the future.

Fourteen-year-old Panchachon Phommueang from Thailand won first place in the Asia Pacific regional competition, with her simple artwork that shows how biomass, wind and solar energy can be used to fuel the energy needs of people. Echoing that the current energy production wouldn't be enough in future to meet our growing needs, she said she wanted to bring to attention the different kinds of renewable energy sources to the world that needed "energy security and sustainability."

Another winner Hussein Malla, a 9-year old Kenyan boy, who won first prize in the African regional competition came up with artwork that depicts an optimistic desirable future powered by renewable energy as he would like to see: a rainbow over a grey world where pollution is dominant and above the rainbow is a "good" environment powered by renewables. An hour glass at the middle depicts time is running out to shift to a renewable green energy.

Different inspirations

Young children are inspired by different things, from nature itself to conflicts that happen around them, to show their passion and expressions about environmental conservation and needs. That's not so different from what inspires companies, non-governmental organizations and governments to increase the uptake of renewables. It seems we are all largely inspired by the need to see a better world around us.  

Evdokia Bogacheva, aged 12 from Ukraine won first place in the European regional competition with a painting that represented sources such as biomass, hydro power, geothermal, wind, solar, hydrogen and the ocean. Inspired by the military conflict in her country, she said she was distressed by the problems faced by people there, and it was sad people can't use natural resources for peaceful purposes. She has learnt from TV, books and internet that alternative energy can be generated from all these sources.