By Erica Arnold
In August, I had the incredible opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas on sustainability with students from Japan, Poland, and Thailand. At the Toshiba Youth Conference 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand, four other students, two teachers and I had the honor of representing the US at a week-long environmental science seminar sponsored by the Toshiba Corporation.
The seminar theme, “Achieving Harmony with the Earth,” enabled us to understand that even with today’s reliance on technology and consumer goods, it is still possible to live at peace with the environment. Truly immersing ourselves in nature, we slept in tents surrounded by the beauty of Thailand’s tropical forests. We even ate our food wrapped in huge banana leaves and drank from hollowed bamboo shoots. In this inspirational setting, we presented the most pressing environmental problems of our countries and discussed solutions we could work towards in the future.
At the conference, we also focused on breaking our dependence on using finite resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Keeping the many services nature provides for us in mind, we practiced ways to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable manner. At a farm just east of Bangkok we made our own biodiesel fuels from leftover cooking oil, used earthworm urine to create natural fertilizers, and even learned how to calculate the amount of CO2 certain trees absorb from the atmosphere.
Continuing on our adventure, we spent a day at the Royal Nature Conservation Center, a learning center for the development of sustainable agriculture and energy generation. There, we constructed our own waste water purifiers from microorganisms. It was inspiring to see the Thai people teaching others how to live simply off the land.
As inspiring as the hands on activities and magical ambiance of the Thai landscape was the passion of the conference executives. I realized that everyone, even high school students, can help planet Earth.
We all aren’t engineers or scientists with the skill sets to develop new eco-friendly technologies. And we all do not live in environments where we can use leaves as plates. However, if we exchange ideas and learn to work with people across the globe, we can come up with better solutions that move us all towards a greener tomorrow.
About the author: Erica Arnold is a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois and plans to study environmental engineering in college next fall.
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