Meet our fifth Youth Session moderator: Luke Pritchard

Our fourth Youth Session moderator, Luke Pritchard.

Our fourth Youth Session moderator, Luke Pritchard.

Luke will be moderating a youth roundtable discussion on key topics relating to the Summit theme “Investing in landscapes for green returns”.

Find out more about the youth session here!

My route to this conference began nearly a decade ago when, as a student curious about forest ecosystems, I chose to venture into the field to perform rapid biodiversity assessments in Thailand and China.

Since then I have worked in Malaysia, Indonesia, and a number of countries in the Lower Mekong Basin in a variety of capacities, ranging from student and researcher to policy advisor and author.

As a forester and international development professional I have a long-held interest in the dynamics between forest resources, commodity production, and climate change in SE Asia. I witnessed this first hand when I spent time in a rural community in Sarawak, Malaysia, examining the socio-economic and climate impacts of converting natural forests to oil palm plantations.

This experience led to a particular curiosity in the topic of green landscape investments, because I think it directly addresses one of the most vexing challenges facing natural resource management in SE Asia: the need to balance forest conservation with the ever growing global demand for fuel, fiber and agricultural products.

Agricultural expansion is a primary driver of deforestation in the region, and it has become quite clear that any effective effort to conserve forests will require significant changes to the current business-as-usual practices used in commodity production.

Positive signals indicating significant change have crested the horizon in SE Asia, as an increasing number of private companies have made commitments to reach zero deforestation commodity production over the next decade and are engaging in active dialogue in pursuing this goal.

While action will require input from all stakeholders, young people from SE Asia not only deserve to be at the forefront of these discussions, but their involvement is a necessity for solutions to be long-lasting and effective in promoting a stable climate and green environment while developing a prosperous economy.

Youth are the demographic which will be most affected by natural resource management and the resulting impacts on global climate change and consequently they are the most invested in acting to realize pathways to lower emission development.  Developing a cadre of motivated and involved youth will have the greatest impact not only today, but also tomorrow.

Despite the fact youth have the most invested in addressing the greatest environmental challenge in generations, their input related to forests and climate change has long been received with indifference.  I first experienced this ambivalence in Copenhagen in 2009 at the 15th Conference of the Parties, where an organized and vocal group of youth delegates urged policy makers to take urgent and ambitious action on the climate change that would affect their future.

To the protest of on-looking youth, including myself, the world stood idle as COP 15 concluded in an accord that lacked legal teeth or meaningful action.  It was there I saw the youth voice stifled, something that continues far too often in climate change discussions today.

That is why I am excited to see the voice of youth in this region elevated during this special youth session at Forests Asia Summit.

The youth sessions will elicit thoughtful discussion, foster new ideas and enthusiasm, and encourage action to improve management of natural resources from across SE Asia. I am hopeful the sessions will also result in concrete actions to elevate the involvement of youth in climate change and forestry throughout the region.

Stay tuned for more!

Based in Boulder, Colorado, Luke Pritchard grew an affinity for getting lost in the forest at a young age. This unique talent has taken him deep into tropical forests around the world, where he has developed a keen interest in the connection between science and policy. When not getting lost in the forest, Luke is usually planning his next culinary adventure. He currently works as Program Manager for the Governors’ Climate and Forests Fund, which has a portfolio of projects related to forests and climate change, including two projects in Indonesia.


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