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In Myanmar, eco-justice flourishes even in challenging settings

In Myanmar, eco-justice flourishes even in challenging settings

To use his learning from the Youth for Eco-Justice training, Hau Sian Suan conducted his own project on “climate change and water management” in Myanmar. © Nang Kim Mang

31 October 2012

By Susan Kim (*)

Hau Sian Suan, a young man from Myanmar, and his peers have drawn close to work together for eco-justice, even in a community where communications are difficult. Suan likes to reflect on the moments that shaped a new initiative in his home country.

After hosting a forum on climate change at the Lawibual Baptist Church in Myanmar, Suan recalled joining other young people who were planting 21 trees on the church grounds.

Seeing the newly planted trees was inspiring – but talking to the other young people about eco-justice impressed Suan even more. “I learned that youth in my area have very innovative and interesting ideas on climate change because they face issues related to it in their daily lives,” he said.

 

 

That day, as they planted trees together, the young people's enthusiasm grew, and they vowed to keep their group alive because the work was so important to them. “In my life, I can never forget about that wonderful day,” said Suan.

Last year, Suan participated in the Youth for Eco-Justice (Y4EJ) programme, which was jointly organized by the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation. When he returned home, he found ways to apply his training in a challenging setting.

He lives in Tiddim, in the northern part of Chin state in western Myanmar. “It is difficult to visit and difficult to communicate,” he said. “To get to Yangon, Myanmar's business capital, it normally takes three days and three nights of travel and, during the rainy season, it takes even longer.”

After his Y4EJ training, Suan was determined to spread the knowledge and enthusiasm he picked up. “I visited three villages by bike. The road is rough and very difficult.”

He began a programme called “Awareness Training on Climate Change and Water Management.”

His training not only covers eco-justice related theology and justice; he also educates young people about the latest technological advances in reducing the use of firewood and charcoal. “Reducing the use of those fuels also reduces CO2 emissions,” he pointed out.

 

Motivating young people: Five tips from Suan

1. Suggest reachable goals.
“In Myanmar, where the lack of electricity means people depend on firewood for cooking, suggesting that people stop cutting trees would come across as nonsense,” said Suan. “Telling people to use firewood as efficiently as possible and not to waste it is more inspiring to them,” he said.

2. Introduce a “caring for creation” theology.
To help educate young people in his community, Suan built his efforts on a theological foundation in which salvation itself is caring for creation. “I focused on this aspect of theology to help them understand the concept of 'eco-justice'.”

3. Draw young people out into the community.
“We spend one day a month as 'Work Day',” said Suan. “We pick up plastic litter along the street. We clear the gutters.”

4. Focus on issues that affect daily life.
“We suffer from climate change because we get too much rain, and that collapsed the streets in many parts,” said Suan, “we also don't have enough pure drinking water or hydro-powered electricity.” Suan focuses on these issues because, he says, “they happen in our daily lives.”

5. Communicate a sense of hope.
From stoves that burn less wood to organic gardens, Suan and other young people in Myanmar learn about new products and practices to build a “green” economy at a grassroots level.

 

In addition, Suan keeps his eyes out for new eco-friendly products. At least one local man is crafting special stoves that use less firewood. However, for now, they are too expensive for most people to afford. As more stoves are made, Suan hopes to watch the price come down.

[613 words]

This feature article is part of a series that provides information about the follow-up initiatives of the Youth for Eco-Justice participants.

(*) Susan Kim is a freelance writer from Laurel, Maryland, United States.

Read also:

40 days – no emissions? Swedish urbanite lives the concept (WCC feature article of 14 August 2012)

Rio+20 disappointment impassions youth to pursue local eco-justice (WCC feature article of 16 July 2012)

“Youth has a stake in the issue of climate change” (WCC feature article of 1 May 2012)

Youth promise active involvement for environmental justice (WCC feature article of 14 December 2011)

The LWF and Youth for Eco-Justice

More information on the WCC and eco-justice