International Youth Day: What is it? When is it? And what’s it got to do with aquaculture?
It can be hard to keep track of all the international days of awareness, but don’t worry – ASC is always here to help you out. Today’s lesson is on International Youth Day, which is marked every August 12, and should mean a lot to anyone who cares about the future of the planet, for obvious reasons.
First, you might be asking, what’s the point of all these awareness days? Well, they can be a great opportunity to stop and think about issues that are really important but that can get lost in all of the other urgent issues making the news on a day-to-day basis. They also involve activities and events all around the world and in this way can bring people together and inspire new ideas and ways of thinking about how we tackle these vital issues.
Meaningful and universal engagement
International Youth Day is fairly self-explanatory – there are no prizes for guessing what the focus is on. But we can still tell you some very interesting things about why this day is so important, and what it has to do with our work at ASC.
International Youth Day began after a recommendation by the UN’s World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in 1998, endorsed by the UN General Assembly the following year. The idea behind the day is to celebrate young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives and finding ways to encourage their meaningful and universal engagement. It might be a cliché that children are the future but it’s also undeniably true – and you just need to look at the way young people around the world have shown leadership when it comes to the climate crisis to see the value in bringing them into the conversation more often.
Young people are also often disproportionately affected by crises – as demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those in school have faced months of disrupted or interrupted learning in most countries. Those who have finished school have fared little better: according to the World Economic Forum, the global fall in adult employment in 2020 was 3.7%. For youth employment the drop was 8.7%.
Transforming Food Systems
So, what does this have to do with ASC? For so many young people today, the biggest issue is reversing the damage done to the environment and slowing climate change by changing the way we interact with the earth’s ecosystems. That matches up pretty well with our own priorities, and our mission is to transform aquaculture to an industry that provides the world’s growing population with healthy protein with minimal social and environmental impacts.
In fact, this is so important, the theme of International Youth Day 2021 is ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’.
Transforming food systems is what we love to talk about at ASC. Because, as many young people have argued, the way things worked in the past aren’t fit for the future. The world’s population is continuing to grow. We shouldn’t be thinking just about how to feed all of us, but how to feed ourselves in a way that is healthy for us and the planet.
Aquaculture can tick both of these boxes. Seafood can be a very lean and healthy form of protein (depending on how it is prepared of course). It already provides vital healthy calories to many populations around the world, and it has the potential to feed far more.
It can do this with fewer impacts than many land-based proteins, as well. This is true of carbon emissions, but also things like land and water use: one of the big factors in climate change and general ecological destruction is the transformation of land for food production, while fresh water is an increasingly precious resource in a warming world.
No simple solutions
But, you might be saying, aquaculture isn’t perfect, and in fact it can contribute to some of these problems. You might be thinking of the sometimes unsustainable ingredients that go into fish feed, or the impact of farms on wild fish populations, or the irresponsible use of chemicals and medicines. And these are all hugely important issues. And that’s why at ASC we don’t say aquaculture is automatically the solution to all our problems. You can’t simply start farming fish and hope that it will be impact-free, because it won’t be. That’s why our standards require farms to limit their impacts on all of the above issues as well as hundreds more.
And this is the point: there is no simple solution to these problems. There is no magic bullet. We need new, different food systems such as aquaculture, but we need them to be done in a way that respects the environment and the people involved. We need to change our approach to food production from thinking only about what we get out of the environment to thinking about how we can protect it and work collaboratively with it. Many young people, who know only a world of climate change, instinctively understand this. We owe it to all of them to make this a reality.