One hundred fifty passionate youngsters signed up for the 2019-20 One Planet Youth (OPY) Education Programme, set up by WWF-Hong Kong to provide young people the opportunity to join WWF’s conservation work. Based on their interests, members take part in leadership training, self-led project learning and scientific surveys.
Dedicated young conservationists can sign up for the OPY Leadership Training Programme, which consists of training workshops and hands-on nature experience. OPY leaders attend training workshops on such topics as river conservation and marine protected areas, to gain an understanding of the conservation status of different habitats in Hong Kong and equip them with skills in organising conservation campaigns. “From the training workshops, I have learnt to think from the perspective of various stakeholders,” says Judy, one of the OPY leaders. “I have also become more aware of environmental issues.”
To turn conservation ideas into concrete action, OPY leaders this year split into five groups to develop and carry out their self-initiated projects. This year, however, COVID19 pandemic posed unique challenges for this OPY cohort.
“We were forced to alter our project planning and adapt to constant changes in our own lives,” said OPY leader Sofia, who was among those who shared their experience of the past year at the annual results-sharing event. “But I’m glad everyone remained committed to this project.”
While some of the face-to-face activities had to be scrapped due to government social-distancing measures, teams came up with creative ways to complete their projects. In the case of the “Taste of Hong Kong” team, which aimed to raise awareness of the environmental cost of food imports, members challenged themselves to only buy local produce for five days. Based on their experience, members then created a map of which MTR stations had shops offering local produce.
Another group, “Eel-Pro Road”, which focused on eel conservation, discovered from its online survey that people actually preferred the taste of the sauce in the eel dish rather than the eel meat itself. They then came up with a public awareness campaign on avoiding eel consumption as most of the types sold in Hong Kong supermarkets are endangered. The campaign included producing a video showing how to use sustainable alternatives.
Since OPY was established in 2017, OPY citizen scientists have carried out more than 100 scientific surveys in Hong Kong’s natural environment, ranging from ecological surveys in Mai Po, baseline studies in Hoi Ha Wan, along with other surveys under the One Planet Youth Action - Citizen Science Programme. The data collected are used in various conservation projects such as for ecological monitoring at Mai Po Nature Reserve.
To date, some 900 youngsters have taken part in WWF-Hong Kong’s OPY programme. A new batch of young people with a passion for conservation will start the OPY Leadership Training Programme in August. In addition, three new citizen science projects: Black coral research@Tolo Channel, Mai Po Oral History Study and Black-winged Stilt Breeding Platform project, will get underway in 2020, allowing participants to study nature in various ways.
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic and perhaps even more so at this time, inspiring and empowering young people to conservation and environmental education will remain at the heart of the OPY programme. In the words of OPY leader Sami: “Conservation is not easy during this time, it’s not for us to give up. Be passionate at all times and let’s try our best.” Listen to the voice of the youth.