My dream became very apparent to me at that moment. We needed to find a way to involve the youth, because they will pave the way for the future. Not only did we have to raise awareness, but we needed to start doing it locally first, before we could take on the rest of the world.
DOHA, Qatar — Since early childhood, I always felt fascinated by nature. I saw it as a lasting testament of life. As the years passed, I recognized our environment’s rapid decline and the urgency for change.
Determined, I set out to assemble a team of like-minded people. By maintaining strong roots in the community, we managed to start an independent organization whose sole priority was to raise awareness and find solutions to climate change before it’s too late.
Growing up in a city where everything felt man-made and artificial made me more conscious of the environment around me. It wasn’t the tall skyscrapers or the intricate city centers that fascinated me. On our little island of steel, I felt happiest around the mangrove trees that grew near my home. I spent hours staring at the leaves rustling, and the water underneath them slowly moving. I remember my excitement building up every time I approached them. One day, while visiting the trees, I noticed the leaves had lost their color. They seemed to be withering away. The sight of them made me sad, like I was losing something I had grown up with, something I loved. I was still just a kid, and I felt helpless to do anything.
Watching this unfold made me realize the importance of nature, not just for the planet itself, but its effect on people, too. Whether we realize it or not, nature has an important effect on us. It is vital for us, even beyond the physical benefits. Slowly, I started to envision the changes I would like to make in the world. Once I enrolled in university, I studied science, but a feeling that I needed to do more lingered inside me. I shifted more and more towards environmentalism and developed ideas I wanted to implement. However, I knew I could not do it alone, and needed to assemble a team.
Eventually, after getting my bachelor’s in bio-engineering, I went for a master’s in energy and environmental engineering. While browsing all the different organizations that were aiding the environment, I noticed that so many of them seemed to keep the public at a distance. They inform people of the consequences of climate change, but little is actually done to ensure everyone is on the same page. Big companies or organizations tend to alienate their audiences by creating a wall between those in charge and the ones listening.
One day, while attending a conference for Climate Change in 2015, I noticed that nobody in the audience seemed under the age of 35, or from ethnic countries. The Arab region, for example, had no representation at the time. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, we often read about world issues surrounding climate change, but we rarely ever discuss local issues. This motivated me to build something within our community that would get everyone involved.
My dream became very apparent to me at that moment. We needed to find a way to involve the youth, because they will pave the way for the future. Not only did we have to raise awareness, but we needed to start doing it locally first, before we could take on the rest of the world. I sought out a plan to make climate change issues available to everyone, so that change could begin within our community first. Most initiatives take on more than they can carry. In Qatar alone, almost all jobs revolved around gas and oil. The country itself represented the future and progress, and yet it also showed the effect this lifestyle had on the environment around it. We started working on solutions to help the country by reducing our fossil fuel consumption.
Our work began over five years ago, but it took us around three years to finally get registered as an organization. First, we started educating people in places that promoted inclusion. In mosques, for example, after prayers, we held small seminars to discuss climate change with people. We started a Climate and Water program to raise awareness through speaking events and social media. We also focused on finding long-lasting solutions for a greener future.
I gave multiple interviews on the matter, published in Al Jazeera, BBC, France24, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, among others. I felt glad about the platforms I was given access to. Our work carries an urgency behind it, as we only have a limited amount of time to save the planet. If we fail to act accordingly now, we will soon face irreversible damage and the consequences of our actions. With global warming comes drastic temperature changes, more illnesses, less resources such as food and clean water, the death of many species, more severe storms and drought, and many other terrifying disasters.
My goal is to leave a legacy behind – not under my own name, but rather something aimed at environmental preservation. By including climate education into the very essence of a community, we ensure that it becomes a shared responsibility for all, a chance to connect and grow. We have witnessed a rise of youth climate activists already, with inspirations like Greta Thunberg, Ilyess El Kortbi, and Dominique Palmer, to name a few. They use their platforms to promote change, as well as raise awareness and plan demonstrations. They started with a small circle that soon became entire nations. Our ultimate victory starts at the root of our community.
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