Nature and Biodiversity

A new generation of young people is putting the planet first. Here's everything you need to know

image of a Polylepis seedling taking root during Queuña Raymi

A Polylepis seedling taking root in the soil of the Peruvian Andes. Image: Luis Torres for ECOAN

Florent Kaiser
Executive Director, Global Forest Generation
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One Trillion Trees

  • A new generation of young people and ecopreneurs known as Generation Restoration are putting the planet’s health first.
  • This youth-led movement shows the power of an environmentally savvy generation to bring about real, concrete change towards a healthy planet.
  • To support their efforts, the World Economic Forum is launching the #GenerationRestoration Youth Challenge to support young ecopreneurs.

We are witnessing monumental changes to the balance of the natural world and how the human world, responsible for these changes, is responding. The impact from climate change is coinciding with the coming of age of a generation of young ecopreneurs – Generation Restoration – who are choosing to build their lives around restoring the planet and our relationship to it.

At the heart of their motivation and energy lies a powerful shift in mindset. They have grown up as the warnings about climate change and the depletion of Earth’s wonders have become increasingly dire. The consequences of unrestrained growth on the environment, wildlife, and ourselves are propelling increasing numbers of young people around the world to come up with creative, hopeful, transformative solutions that are built upon the principles of restoration.

These principles require moving away from an extractive mindset – that is, taking as much as you can from the Earth to turn a quick profit. Instead, the goal is what’s in the best, long-term interest of all of us, the human and non-human communities that share our planet. The regenerative approach respects nature and learns from nature. The regenerative approach is hopeful, inspired by nature’s capacity for renewal, when given the necessary freedom and opportunity.

Ecosystem restoration and regenerative actions are making their way into the mainstream with the drive for progress coming from Generation Restoration. Young people are thinking big and seizing upon opportunities for collaboration to fix what’s broken with our interactions with nature. New projects and start-ups are appearing all over the globe. Fierce dedication to the protection of our planet is the powerful guiding light, inspiring young people to seek meaningful opportunities and careers to do well by doing good.

The shape of these efforts is incredibly diverse. Some are restoring forests in the Sahel through seeding native trees and fighting back desertification. Others are helping rejuvenate our oceans through the construction of artificial reefs that act as a foundation for underwater ecosystems. And key to many are the emerging technologies that are being used to develop trust-enhancing tech to enable sustainable work for forest communities, or facilitate investment in natural capital to bring landowners, accredited investors, and corporations together.

Many excellent Generation Restoration ideas are initially implemented locally where they have an immediate, transformative effect. When others learn about these innovations, they can be replicated regionally and globally and exponentially increase positive outcomes. For example, the successful grassroots reforestation efforts among indigenous communities by Peruvian conservation non-profit Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) was the inspiration for Acción Andina. This project is Global Forest Generation's Latin-led restoration initiative to safeguard water, biodiversity, and community livelihoods throughout the high Andes. It is a multi-generational restoration project, ultimately across 7 countries, and expected to take twenty-five years.

Restoring, regenerating, renewing, reusing, regreening, rewilding. These are the powerful mantras of this generation. And with this new mindset their dreams, lifestyles, and consumption patterns have changed, causing businesses, investors and policy makers to listen and slowly but increasingly change course with them.

The launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) on June 5 will be a global catalyst for a cascade of transformative actions that will result in significant worldwide restorative actions. Generation Restoration has a great opportunity to play an outsized role in this effort. What is clear is that it has never been more important to foster and support the energy, talent, and drive of the generation that will be most affected by climate change but is also best positioned to tackle the challenges of a lifetime.

Have you read?

For ecopreneurship to become the new norm we need to rethink training, education, policies, capacity-building, and promoting business and technical skills. We need to develop local cohorts of young entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. We at Global Forest Generation are proud to serve on the advisory board of the Forum’s, which together with Uplink, is launching the #GenerationRestoration Youth Challenge. The Challenge is a global call for youth-led solutions to conserve and restore ecosystems and is seeking impactful and inspiring solutions from young ecopreneurs and change-makers. This Challenge wants to surface bold new ideas, support them, and celebrate youth-led ecopreneurship by fostering their growth.

Ultimately, the success of the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration should not only be measured by the numbers of trees and forests grown, but by how many young people have been able to build successful professions, organizations and livelihoods around ecosystem restoration.

The task ahead is immense, but our collective future depends on it. If you have an idea to help empower the global youth restoration movement we encourage you to participate in the #GenerationRestoration Youth Challenge.

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