Change starts with us: Lessons learnt from the European Youth Parliament event in Georgia

author: Nika Gogatishvili  02-04-2020

Environmental issues, public health, climate change, food safety – these are some of the topics I had the pleasure to discuss at the 14th National Selection Conference of the European Youth Parliament in Kutaisi, Georgia, on 20–23 December 2019.

The topic of environmental issues is certainly not unknown or even new to me. I was born in Chiatura – a town with quite a few ecological problems, such as air pollution, deforestation and water pollution. As the negative outcomes of such environmental conditions gradually increase, these issues often affect our health. At the age of 13, I had already been an active ecologist when I decided to join the local student council – ‘Unionof the Residents of Chiatura’. This association aimed to solve ecological as well as other problems in our town – we planted trees in problematic areas and organised eco-actions in the city centre.

During the National Selection Conference in Kutaisi, I was in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) where we discussed with other committee members the management, reduction and prevention of plastic waste. Discovering innovative alternatives and analysing the impact of certain changes was one of the best parts of the whole session. We discussed several initiatives in the field of environment that pertain to the European Union. I shared my knowledge and experience in ‘the three Rs’ principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) and the launch of a similar initiative in Japan. I also started a discussion on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 12 (Responsible consumption and production), 13 (Climate action) and 14 (Life below water). I think most of the participants agreed that these frank discussions on several important issues helped us all to understand each other's perspectives.

Air pollution and environmental disasters have no borders and we cannot tackle them on our own. Pollution, waste and deforestation can slowly destroy our ecosystem. By polluting our streets and water with rubbish and microplastics, we directly affect the environment, harming the species around us. These problems have become a major worldwide issue, which cannot be solved by the efforts of one.

The discussed topics made me think again about my hometown’s environmental situation, which cannot be solved only by the government and the local municipality. Change has to come not from above, but from the local population who can play an active role in changing the environment for the better.

Currently, I am pursuing a B.A. in Political Science at Tbilisi State University. There are several reasons why I decided to study politics but one of the main reasons is my interest in ecological problems in the context of politics. This conference was a delightful chance to think about and discuss environmental issues. It was a great honour for me to attend this conference as a Young European Ambassador, and I can confidently say that I will remember this productive weekend for a long time.