About the conference
The Roots and Shoots Asia Pacific Youth Summit, organised last month by Roots & Shoots Hong Kong, aimed to make youngsters from around Asia more aware of some of the urgent issues facing our planet and create a momentum that would trigger change.
Participants learned about issues ranging from dolphinariums and the bear bile industry, to local climate change and global poverty.
But most importantly, thanks to leaders like Jane Goodall, Naomi Rose and Jill Robinson, they saw change is possible. You just have to decide it is.
Pearl Chan, 16
On meeting Jane: Although soft-spoken, the weight and passion behind each word Goodall spoke was inspiring.
On the summit: "It might seem like they're smiling, but they're not; their faces are just like that. They look like that when they're happy, they look like that when they're sad, they look like that when they're dead." Dr Naomi Rose's riveting speech about marine animals caught in the lucrative world of dolphin show business revealed to me how serious and overlooked this problem is. The welfare of "smiling" dolphins is, sadly, rarely examined by the public.
Tilly Fidler, 12
On the summit: Dr Naomi Rose talked about the captivity of dolphins and other marine mammals worldwide, particularly in Hong Kong. Rose said most dolphins are caught in the wild, and often injured or even killed during capture. The dolphins are taken from their pod, which makes them depressed, affecting their physical and mental health. Dolphinariums are small, and allow limited social interaction.
On a positive note, some countries are passing laws against the capture of marine mammals. Rose came to Hong Kong to discuss with Ocean Park the importance of conservation, asking them not to expand their marine mammal population.
On meeting Jane: Meeting Dr Jane Goodall was an amazing experience. Her work is non-stop: she travels around the world 300 days a year to talk about the Roots & Shoots organisation. Goodall always ends her talks by saying: "Every single one of us makes a difference, every day". I personally hope that each difference that we make is for the better.
Edelweiss Ching Tuet-tsz, 14
On the summit: I attended the workshop at Crossroads, where I learned what it means to be poor. For me, poverty had always meant simply not having money. But after the workshop, I understood that it's not just not having money, but also not having choice. The poor might have to steal, cheat or beg for what they need. Dignity is sacrificed. They have to choose between life and death.
We should give thanks for our good fortune and realise how lucky we are not to have to make the choice between living and giving up.
Hollie Chung, 17
On the summit: It's hard to believe that coconut waste can be made into something useful and profitable. But that's what I learned at the Green Terrafirma workshop. Green products can force people to care about our planet. Workshop leader Paul Ikin's efforts and beliefs have made him truly successful.
On meeting Jane: Although there have been hard times for Dr Jane Goodall, she's never given up. I admire her persistence. It's definitely not an easy job to work alone in jungles with chimps. But with Dr Goodall's passion for chimps and her desire to create a better world, miracles can happen. I believe teenagers should be more active, especially if they've taken part in the Roots & Shoots programme.
About participants: While Hong Kong participants were mainly picked for their enthusiasm, 30 Roots & Shoots representatives from abroad where selected to join the youth summit for their Roots & Shoots efforts at home. At the end of the workshops on Sunday, the representatives introduced the projects they realised with their Roots & Shoots groups. They came from far and wide, including Australia, Uganda, Korea, Japan, Nepal and Singapore. Japan representatives Risa Mehara(15) and Serusa Katabam(17) spoke about their campaign, which encourages people to bring their own chopsticks instead of using disposable wooden ones. Nepal representative Anup Raj Pokwel spoke about his Roots & Shoots group's efforts to release caged species. The summit was an opportunity to raise more money for their programmes.
Hetty Lee, 15
On meeting Jane: What was most astonishing about Dr Jane Goodall was not her endless list of achievements, nor her modesty in the wake of the hype that her presence and the first Asian-Pacific Roots & Shoots summit inspired. It was her quiet passion that made the biggest impression on me, and her lack of self-consciousness. That trait is, I think, what allowed her to branch out from simply being a primate devotee to founding programmes such as Roots & Shoots and Tacare. It was also what made her a United Nations Messenger of Peace. She travels 300 days a year to speak worldwide, remembering her carbon footprint and planting trees to compensate for fuel emissions. She has a clear-cut approach to changing the world, saying: "We can't only help animals and not people - but nor can we help people and not animals."
Justin So, 11
On the summit: It was a time for reflection. Part of the summit on Saturday was to visit the Crossroads slum simulation in Tuen Muen. We had to imagine what life would be like in slums and refugee camps. I never thought living in a slum or refugee camp would be that hard. My group – or ‘family’ - had to make paper bags for a living. We earned less than $10! How can you live in Hong Kong with just $10?
My ‘family’ didn’t earn enough money to survive in the slums so we were sent to an even worse place… under the bridge! There, we continued making paper bags and give them all to a loan shark. We kept making bags until we could pay back the loan shark.
This experience made me realise who lucky I am living in Hong Kong the way I live... with more than $10. I personally will donate money and hope everyone else does!
Jill Robinson(left), founder of Animals Asia, and Naomi Rose, senior scientist with the Humane Society International