Aristia will be moderating a youth round table discussion on key topics relating to “Changing communities, sustainable landscapes and equitable development“
Find out more about the youth session here!
I was born deep in the tropical forest of West Kalimantan, a place where I could feel at peace in the pristine environment. I was raised among local communities who highly respect nature, and who showed me how people should connect with nature. From my childhood experience, I believe that forests and nature are important for us now and into the future. I realized that someday I would be a person who works to protect them.
But the situation had changed when I entered the professional working world.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in Forest Management at University Gadjah Madah, Indonesia, I was persuaded to join a private sector company that developed plantations in forest areas. To be honest, it was the greater economic benefits provided by the private sector, compared to conservation, which drew me in as a fresh young graduate. This was one of the biggest challenges for me as a youth working in the forestry sector.
However, during my working experience, I witnessed how developments in the forestry sector faced difficulties in balancing all aspects of a green economy. I saw how forests have been demolished to open new areas for plantations. It felt like I was seeing my birthplace being transformed, from the beauty of green tropical forest to harsh oil palm plantations. Although plantations like rubber, timber and oil palm could bring significant economic growth for the area, environmental protection was not always guaranteed. I saw that forest land conversion was one of the major drivers of deforestation. Therefore, I left my job and decided to get a more advanced education in forest and nature conservation.
I was lucky enough to learn many things during my graduate education at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Apart from the practical and theoretical knowledge that I gained, I learned other priceless values that have helped me face the biggest challenge of working in the forestry sector. I recognized that if I want to tackle a challenge, I had to work with dedication and integrity. I had to work to ensure that the economic development of the forestry sector includes environmental and social protection as the top priorities. I get my happiness from working with local communities for forest conservation, and see this as important in working towards green economic development, balancing economic growth with environmental protection and social development.
I see the Forests Asia Summit as an opportunity for youth to contribute to solving these challenging forestry issues in Southeast Asia’s forest. I believe that youth are important because they will take leadership control from managers of today. Involving youth is a wise investment that will be paid off for years to come, ensuring the sustainable future of our forestry sector.
The existing forestry sector needs to give more roles to youth. I hope this Summit will give valuable experience for youth to get familiarized with the issues, to collect innovative ideas and put these into action. Young people will get a chance to learn directly from the experts and share their experience among participants from other countries. However, the most important thing for youth is to learn from past mistakes, because we are the ones who will suffer from the consequences of current forestry issues.
As Herbert Hoover once said, “Older men declare war, but it is the youth that must fight and die.” So it is the right time for us to prepare the youth for a better future of Southeast Asia’s forest.
Aristia Hady Wanjaya