Act Now! A youth climate champion’s bold demand for climate action

Young and enthusiastic, Eirini Stogioudi, a forester-environmentalist from Greece, was one of the young speakers at the Asterousia Hybrid University 2020, co-organised by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and MIO-ECSDE. She was also a previous attendee at the 2019 summer university programme. Eirini represented her country as the Greek UNESCO MAB Youth Delegate at the first ever UN Youth Climate Action Summit in 2019.

You participated in the 2019 Youth Climate Action Summit, didn’t you?

Yes, I was honoured to represent my country as the Greek UNESCO MAB delegate. The Summit opened a dialogue between youth and decision-makers, putting young people in the driving seat giving them the voice to realise their potential and show their persistence towards climate action. It brought together youth climate champions from over 140 countries to a platform to share their solutions on the global stage, and to deliver a clear message to leaders all over the world: we need to act now to address climate change.

I found myself on an international stage, where the biggest political decisions are made, with such a large and brilliant delegation of young people; it was a remarkable once in a lifetime opportunity and an unforgettable experience. I enriched my knowledge on climate change, and met several new people with a shared vision and an active role in protecting the environment. I exchanged views and ideas with other UNESCO delegates from around the world. Needless to say, new friendships were also created.

Tell us about your experience as a forester-environmentalist.

My love of the natural environment started early in life as a child and I have never considered working in any other field. After a Master’s integrated degree in Forestry and Natural Environment from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, I am currently finishing my Master of Science degree in Sustainable Management of Forest and Natural Ecosystems: Protection, Production, and Exploitation. Research experience and continuous training urge me to constantly seek new challenges.

I took part in the Erasmus+ programme, “Future Environmentalists – Linking EU Natural Capital Management to Field Research”, held by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. I was also honoured with a Prize for Excellent Performance by Aristotle University during my student Internship Program at the Institute of Applied Biosciences (CERTH), in Thessaloniki, Greece. As a Forester, I am an active member of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), the Youth EuroMAB Network and have been doing voluntary work.

My advice to women is, surround yourself with people who want to work with you, uplift you, and encourage you to succeed. A lot of people in our industry are a great resource and if they feel you are serious about your job, they will go out of their way to help you. Future women foresters have incredible opportunities for an exciting and dynamic career wherever their interests lie: ranging from working outside in the field to strategic planning and working alongside stakeholders and the government.

What is the value of UNESCO programmes to young people?

I am very happy to have participated in two summer university editions held within the context of the MAB programme on "Integrated Management, Sustainable Tourism and Promotion of Biosphere Reserves". I also represented my country at the Regional Symposium organised by the UNESCO Regional Bureau under the topic, The future of South-East Europe and the Mediterranean in the context of Climate Change .

My feeling about UNESCO programmes is that youth get a better understanding of Biosphere Reserves as beacons of sustainability, an ideal place to apply the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We, as young people get to learn a range of strategies and methods for effective management, branding, and communication in BRs and other designated sites, which will be useful one day.

How will Covid-19, in your opinion, ultimately impact climate change? What are young people doing towards climate action?

We have the foresight and we act for a better world. As Nelson Mandela said, “Vision without Action is merely a dream, Action without Vision is merely passing Time, but Action with vision can change the world”. We do have vision and the willingness and power to act.

Our vision is for a better planet for future generations across the world. Let this vision be the target for every one of us. Millions of young people took to the streets worldwide, as part of the global climate strike movement. The strikes made national headlines, highlighting the power and spread of this youth movement in their unwavering demand for change.

As the Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, remarked at the UN summit, “We showed that we were connected, and young people are unstoppable.”