Addressing Urban Climate Issues: A Case of Active Youth Participation

by Steve Harison

Nowadays climate change already impacted the living of hundreds of millions peoples around the globe. We are facing the hardest challenge in the history of human civilization. While many peoples enjoying their life with high consumption on natural resources and environmentally-unfriendly things, the rest are suffering a lot because of many catastrophes that caused by climate change in every corner of the planet. Indeed, climate change is a global issue, but the world already agreed that it could be solved totally by local actions, in line with the principle of think globally act locally.

 In relation to that, more than half of the total global population is currently living in urban areas, so does with the Indonesia. We become more aware on the importance of cities in contributing to address climate change through both adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Due to geographical type of archipelago, Indonesian big cities are located in the coastal areas making it very vulnerable to climate change. However, there are also big cities that located in inner part of the islands, mostly in mountainous areas, making it also very vulnerable to climate change but certainly with different challenges and solutions. Bandung is one of it, where the city surrounded by mountains and the climate temperature now becoming more unpredictable because of many mismanagement on land use especially for green protected areas in the mountains.

The map of mountainous area of Bandung

But, the most important thing to be done in addressing urban climate issues is the lifestyle of its inhabitants itself. Active social participation becomes a great solution to settle any global issues in local context everywhere, by anybody and at anytime. Fortunately, in Bandung city, young peoples counted for almost 40% of the city population, generating the huge potential of social participation.

Moreover, the aspect of leadership plays important role in gaining social participation and support from young peoples in the city. Ridwan Kamil, as the mayor of Bandung city has strong commitment on youth and already created a platform of urban policy that incorporating young peoples as ‘a precious resource’ in managing the city. Thanks to his dynamic personality and open-minded attitude that attract young peoples in the city to raise their sense of belonging to the city itself. Many youth-led / youth-based initiatives now emerge to actively involved in the urban waste management and environmental preservation of the city related to addressing urban climate issues.

Urban waste management performed by youth members of GPS, Bandung

First, Gerakan Pungut Sampah (GPS), in English it would be the movement of collecting trash, is good example in describing youth local participation to make the city’s environment cleaner and healthier. Although it is the Mayor’s program for all inhabitants, but more enthusiastically and regularly implemented by young peoples in Bandung. They are also creating the movement of 1000 tumbler to reduce urban trash volume especially mineral water bottled and plastic packaging. At the areas of car free day every Sunday, they collect trashes in the streets and promote cleaner city to the peoples at the same time. They also collaborate intensively with other communities and organizations in the city to altogether making change for a better, more friendly and livable city.

Second, Bank Sampah Bandung, in English it would be the waste bank of Bandung, is remarkable model in empowering urban communities to implement 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) on their waste and get financial incentives as return. Many of peoples joining the team are youth volunteers and they assist to encourage many schools around the city to also involve in that program.

Third, Greeneration Foundation, is a well-known eco-preneurship organization headquartered in Bandung which focusing on inviting peoples to have greener attitude and save the environment. They produce various environmentally-friendly reusable bags in effort to reduce the use of plastic bag.  Also, they have educational program for children and waste management services. Surely, most of peoples who are active in Greeneration are young peoples.

Those initiatives would be nothing without active youth participation. However, the reason that waste becomes main challenge in Bandung at present is because of vagueness on urban waste policy in previous time. Accordingly, talking about urban climate resilience, it will closely relate to waste management. Efficient waste management would reduce significantly the carbon emissions of the city and improve the environmental quality for the peoples at the same time. In Bandung, itself, there is still much homework to be done such enhancing policy coordination, improving social engagement, ensuring legal enforcement, and so on. Yet, at least the social movement led by youth could give more power to the city to be more eco-friendly and addressing its climate issues in more inclusive and participatory ways.


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Correlation between democracy and climate change: A youth perspective from Indonesia

by Steve Leonard Harison

Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy and one of its largest carbon emitters. These facts make me think whether the two are actually correlated. Some of us might think of deforestation, trans-boundary haze, illegal logging, peat fire and such when we think about Indonesia’s effects on climate change. But as an activist, I could say that my country is progressing towards better ways of protecting the environment – although it still far from what should be expected. Certainly, it needs to be addressed not only by the government as policy-maker, but also the economic sectors, academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations, and last but not least – the youth as supporting stakeholders.

As one of Asia’s democracy powerhouses, Indonesia is recognized as an emerging role model for other ASEAN member countries, and Islamic countries in the Middle East. Though our democracy still far from the perfect one, it still moves dynamically with its challenges and threats. Our policy making is now becoming decentralized, and provincial governments are becoming key-players just as much as the national government. This condition actually has a double meaning: more opportunities to give into pressures and gaining influences about betterment on certain issues, and on the other hand, more power abuse and corruption in implementing policies.


Regarding the implementation of Pancasila (national philosophy)-based democracy, many issues are competing to be prioritized in core policy-making process at all levels (national, provincial, city, and district). Some of it are going to be peripheral which includes climate change, unfortunately. It might be proven by insignificant portion in several provincial budget on climate-related sectors. But once climate-related disasters come, the provincial government ask help from  the national government and international stakeholders to cover recovery and reconstruction and policy support.

The interdependence between democracy and climate change could be found in national policy schemes. Generally, Indonesia’s democracy is at the crossroad between the efficient and the inefficient, and action will depend on the current administration’s strategies and action plans.

Previous administration led by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) were fully concerned in climate change, and made it as one of top national priority issues. The result is quite magnificent based on national and international appraisals. In this regard, leadership is an important factor in the correlation between democracy and climate change. The background of our political leader will determine the direction of our national policy processes including on climate change issues.

Climate change in Indonesia has become a popular issue since 2007 when the country hosted UNFCCC in Bali. Reformation in environmental policy system started and specially prioritized in our national development plans. Thanks to democracy that has been facilitating towards more open, integrative, and participatory climate change policy system. Accordingly, democracy with good leadership also enables Indonesia to set clear goals on emission cuts based on recommendations and inputs from various stakeholders. More specifically, democracy also provides great supports for many stakeholders in organizing climate change-related agendas such as conference, forum, exhibition, training, workshop, etc both domestic and international level. It will reflects that freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of thinking, freedom of expression which included in life of democracy could makes climate change movements more vibrant and influential. Simply, participation is the best element that democracy can gives to climate change which contextually in Indonesia it has been massive and substantial.

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On another hand, countries such as Vietnam and Brunei are having their own policy schemes in addressing climate change without heavily depend on their leaders’ background as happened in democratic countries. They centralize it under one national authority without any compromise with lower level governments in policy making process.

China is also doing the same. Non-democratic countries even looks get better result than the democratic one because it is more efficient and less-time consuming in policy making and implementation. But the weakness is their policy system is typically closed and stagnant without substantive supports and aspirations from their peoples and stakeholders as found in democratic countries. Taking into account Asia’s diverse political systems, the core matter is still how climate change could be addressed effectively and holistically for the sake of the people’s needs and the urgency in the region.


Nowadays, talking about any issue, youth is indispensable from the process and solution. Youth become the most important player in driving the world towards its future. At global level, United Nations (UN) already fully recognizes the importance of youth involvement and participation for development. At regional level, ASEAN, SAARC, and GCC already set their own approaches on youth. The most important one is at national level, how youth are engaged actively and meaningfully in resolving development-related problems including climate change.

In mostly Asian countries youth participation is an ordinary thing to see, but the extraordinary in Indonesia is young peoples are beginning to take their own actions and initiatives independently and influentially. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago. The land is connected by seas and straits, and the culture is also abundant and diverse. The youth awareness of climate change and environmental issues rose up by expansive free flow of information directly or indirectly. It is not easy to encourage young Indonesians to embrace climate change as their concern and priority action because of unjust internet connectivity, and different education and cultural systems throughout the country. But many achievements and solutions already emerged such as production of electric city cars, innovation on bio-methane stove, micro-hydro electric generator, developing handicrafts, cultural products and fashion items which using reusable components, and many more.

Again, those mentioned will not impact much due to uncertainty on policy and budget support nationally from the central government. To be honest, half-mature democracy like Indonesia still heavily depend on political approval by legislatures, so that the lobbying power is strongly needed to address climate change as top national priority. This phenomenon might be founded in other similar countries where democracy purposed to serve economic development as first priority than environmental protection.

Strategic roles that should be played by youth are through 3P: Participation, Projects, and Policy. The scheme is as follows:

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Despite the difference of democracy maturity in many Asian countries, youth must at the peak of pyramidal process such above graphed. Strong engagement and active involvement would be much very critical in answering the challenges and threats posed by climate change in our own country.  Last but not least, as youth, we have to gain more and more influence both in leadership and in lobby so that we will be able to really understand about the correlation between democracy and climate change.


– Boll Thema, The Magazine of the Heinrich Boll Foundation Number 2, 2009. Climate Change and Justice: On the Road to Copenhagen.

The Future of Democracy in the Face of Climate Change, Paper Five. Halina Ward. January 2012. London: Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

Deliberative Democracy and Global Climate Governance. John Dryzek.

An Inconvenient Democracy: Knowledge and Climate Change. Nico Stehr. Social Science and Public Policy. 2012. New York: Springer.

Climate – The Changing Challenge

By Divya Sharma

Climate change once considered an issue for a distant future has moved firmly into the present. It is a big issue and it is still growing. Collective efforts are required in order to come over this problem. It’s heart-breaking to see many people denying climate change. They act as if nothing is going on; as if there is absolutely no danger to Earth! Really? They are acting as if by closing their eyes the danger will pass by. Climate change denial statements are coming from some so called responsible scientists and politicians which make it more alarming. These people need to know that this is actually happening.

It’s real.

It’s not fake or build-up story for god’s sake!

Denying climate change is not a solution to this giant problem, but working seriously to stop it is the real solution. Our leaders and politicians need to be serious about it and take some very crucial steps against climate change instead of denying the scientific facts-sheets because we don’t have time! We need to act now because we are not having any other option left with us.

In the end of this year, world leaders from all the countries are going to meet on the platform of COP21 and this is the time when they can mark their yes on policies to support environment and the Earth. Millions of people have got hope in their hearts that some sustainable agreements will be made for their future and for the generations to come. We need to send out clear messages to our leaders before COP21 that we want “cleaner & greener future”, so act now!

People have started doing their efforts to save the greens of our planet and to stop climate change in their own little or big ways. Some our using bicycles, some are opting for organic farming, saying no to plastic bags and so on. Though, there is still a long way to go because there is still bigger bunch of people who are not ready to change their lifestyles and are not sensing the danger of climate change and we people need to knock on their doors continuously to let them know that they need to change!

Solar energy and opting for renewable is the solution standing in front of us! India especially can gain a lot from solar energy since it is the country which is a biggest receiver of solar energy but sadly uses not even 40% of it! Our country still has got a larger area suffering without electricity and going solar will help a lot not only socially but economically too for our country and also for world. Opting for solar power & investing in clean energy will not only make the conditions livable for people but also will uplift our economies and will create more jobs which is a much needed factor for any country.

Recently, Delhi has emerged as the city with the most polluted air which is alarming. Bigger and more sustainable steps are required to be taken by not only the government but also by people. They need to think and choose in what type of condition do they want to live? Would they like to breathe clean air or the polluted one which will affect their bodies negatively with every passing second! More use of public transport should be encouraged, opting for a sustainable living, organic farming could be another option and planting trees is the age-old solution for every climate problem. The world is still not over, we can still change the things positively, and we have the solutions right in front of us! We only need to step towards them wisely for we have only one plant to live on and that is Earth. Protect it, before its too late!

Divya Sharma is a youth media activist for UNICEF, and a facilitator at the Asia Pacific Youth Network. You can read more of Divya’s work on her blog The original article came from the same blog.

Youth Involvement in Low-Emission Development Strategies: Key Pillar to Global Climate Resilient Development

by Steve Leonard Harison

The most urgent challenge to be addressed in the 21st century is environmental sustainability. The balance between environment and social life is in critical situation because of over-exploitation. Ecology is now is making an urgent call to the economy to recover the global system so that it could reduces the increasing number of natural disasters, and remove threats to the human civilization such hunger, diseases, water scarcity, and many others.[i] Both the developing, and developed countries should collaborate not only to arrange complete solutions, but ensure they are practicable and continuous.

One of the key pillars to achieve sustainable growth is low emissions development strategies (LEDS) which first emerged under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I joined the e-course organized by the E-institute for Development of the World Bank with theme, Policy Instruments for Low Emissions Development: From Design to Implementation on June 2014.[ii] The participants and I from many countries studied about all the processes and components that describe global greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, emission reductions, environmental degradation, and how countries respond to such matters. Actually, LEDS is presented by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and International Energy Agency (IEA) in France (November 2010) in response to a request from the Climate Change Expert Group of the UNFCCC.[iii] In this publication report, OECD and IEA mentioned that LEDS is closely related to climate change mitigation, and provides guidelines and technical things for the climate policy discourse.

Essentially, low emissions development strategies could be implemented for all countries but the readiness level of each country are not same. When the member countries of the group of OECD who most of them are developed economies has been starting the LEDS in 2010, the rest of the world is still struggling in reducing poverty and improving their income as national development priorities. In the figure below, LEDS is a gradual process that needs maximum support in each phase. The continuation would be depend on all phases.

Figure 1. LEDS Flow Chart. Source: E-Institute for Development of the World Bank.

Figure 1. LEDS Flow Chart. Source: E-Institute for Development of the World Bank.

In their publication, OECD and IEA define LEDS as a series of strategies that encompass low-emission, and/or climate-resilient economic growth. Moreover, there is one more publication but with different name called Low Carbon Development Strategies (LCDS) which registered under the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN).[1]

While LEDS is more applicable to the developed world, the LCDS’ purpose is to serve different audience depending on the stakeholders in every country.  LCDS is directed to deal with the countries with ‘climate-first’ approach, ‘development-first’ approach, and ‘climate-development balance’ approach.[2]

In practice, European countries lead the world in the dynamics of LEDS or LCDS, and then emerging countries notably Brazil, South Africa, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea have developed their own integrated national strategies on climate change, and low carbon growth.

Two things that distinguish developed and developing countries are technological capacity and finance capability in climate change mitigation and adaptation. In many international climate change talks, those things are demanded by developing countries from developed countries but end up in feedback that is not very positive.

Furthermore, LEDS and LCDS does not consider the importance of youth involvement as key stakeholders in determining future of the world. In my own opinion, LEDS or LCDS must be completed with specific strategies on youth in order to make them friendlier and more understandable to the young generation.


Figure 2. Youth Involvement in LEDS / LCDS. Originally arranged by the writer.

At present, the youth is a strategic player in global dynamics, and is already fully-recognized by the United Nations. Mostly, LCDS and LEDS only mentioned stakeholders such as government, expert groups, the private sector, practitioners, and academia without targeting social groups such as civil society groups, urban and rural people, and youth.

Youth all over the world are currently active in climate-change, but are not directly viewed as strategic partners in LCDS or LEDS implementation.[3] Ironically, most of the youth are playing the role of supporters, and not considered part of the policy-makers. The youth should be engaged in policy-making process, and not be outsiders. This new role of youth would boost the participation to be more optimal and substantial.

The existing LCDS or LEDS concept should be reviewed and complete with assessment of social and cultural approaches to include youth because it is their rights to access directly the policy-making and policy implementation process.

A good example would be the China Youth Project (CYP), a young entrepreneur program in China launched by the Climate Group jointly with group of Chinese businesses and NGOs in 2013. [4] It even gained support from various international organizations. This program aims to produce future leaders who can realize their green business ideas towards low carbon development. It uses the youth’s entrepreneurial skills to enhance both green economy and social development. CYP is one of best sample on how youth can actively be involved in LDCS or LEDS implementation.

In most of developed and fast-growing developing countries, green economy or eco-business competitions are becoming more popular especially inuniversities and colleges to boost innovation, and creativity of young people in making LEDS or LCDS be more practicable and useful. Despite the different circumstances in various countries, LEDS or LCDS should always adopt a youth-based approach in its implementation.

In conclusion, the success of LEDS will depend on how the process would go on, and how the stakeholders would take part in. The youth should be at the forefront in fighting climate change, and in climate mitigation.

Steve Leonard Harison, 26 years old, is from Indonesia. He is an activist on climate change, youth empowerment, and human rights. He is also the country representative of Indonesia for the Asia Youth Climate Network (AYCN). He is the founder of Inspirator Muda Nusantara, a youth-led community organization based in Bandung, Indonesia. He has actively involved in many youth-related events both national and international. He could be reached through Facebook, Twitter, and his blog on

[1] Paving the Way for Low Carbon Development Strategies. Petten: Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Youth in Action on Climate Change: Inspirations from Around the World. Bonn: United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth, and Climate Change. 2013.

[4] Source: , accessed on Dec 6th, 2014.

[i] United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Year Book 2011: Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment. Nairobi: UNEP. 2011.

[ii] Presentation Script, Module 01, Policy Instruments. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Institute. 2014.

[iii] Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS): Technical, Institutional, and Policy Lessons. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and International Energy Agency (IEA). 2010.

Disclaimer: Citations and the article itself are by the author. 

Taking Action on Climate Change for the Youth of the World

By Lachlan Hoyle

The risks created by climate change are well known. Regardless of political views, we have all heard of climate change and we all know that there will be serious consequences if we fail to act on it now. The unfortunate fact is that climate change is real. When the majority of respected and leading science institutions say that climate change is happening, I believe that we have a problem.

From a young person’s perspective, I do not want to inherit a world that is torn apart by an issue that could have been minimized if we all took action. I don’t want a world that is destroyed by inaction and pointless bickering. If we continue to do nothing, or not enough, we will all be living in a world that could have been prevented. Inaction will tear our world apart.

The Pacific region is a perfect place to study both how climate change is affecting us now and which strategies we can employ to fight it. The Small Islands Developing States conference this year, in Samoa, will confront the issues surrounding climate change in the Pacific and discuss strategies that can be used to help Pacific islands cope. The crucial part is taking quick, targeted action.

The Pacific region is a great starting point, but it has to be a global effort. We’ve got to invest in sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy, we need to make our cities more efficient and eco-friendly, we need a price on carbon, and we all need to contribute.

Some strategies are already being implemented, like climate-smart agriculture techniques that can also maximize the potential of each harvest. With more than 9 billion people expected to occupy the planet in 2050, food production will have to increase and we will have to reduce the amount of food wasted and lost. Not every strategy will work universally; separate strategies need to be and have been developed for each region and country to maximize their effectiveness.

Implementing these technologies and practices will carry a cost, but it will be a lot more expensive later if we don’t act now. Without action, people, communities and economies will suffer. The information is staring us in the face. We know the facts, we know the risks, yet many of us continue to do nothing about it. Why? Often, it is because we are still debating whether climate change is happening or reluctant to shoulder the responsibility to do something about it.

Yes, taking action on climate change and changing behaviors to create a more sustainable world means extra responsibility, but it is worth the effort if we can avoid a world where weather is more severe and lives more desperate. The nations in the Pacific islands region have accepted this responsibility and are devising and implementing solutions to save their way of life. It is easy for others to turn deaf ears on our neighbors’ cries and our environment. Why should we care about climate change when we don’t believe it will directly affect us for another 20 years or more?

We made the problem, so we have a duty to be part of the solution. We have a duty to our future generations, so they can enjoy the same privileges, food and water security, and fresh air that we have. Action to mitigate climate change has taken place both in the Pacific and around the world, but there is not enough. Inaction will be our biggest killer. It’s your choice. It’s everyone’s future.

Youth engagement and climate justice in Indonesia: Strengthening civil society participation

by Steve Harison

Climate change in Indonesia has been an important issue since the country hosted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties COP13 in Bali last 2007. We become fully aware and acknowledge the issue which previously known global warming and now popular as climate change because the problem is not only about the increasing global temperature in any part of the world but also extreme weather, natural disaster, human lifestyle, and all civilization aspects.

Recently, the development of climate change issues become one of the biggest non-conventional concerns in our country where more Indonesians have been engaging in climate change-related agenda in their own region either organized by government or civil society organizations. Indonesia, as one of emerging global economic powerhouses depend on climate conditions such as electricity, logistics and transportation, agriculture and fishery, forestry, tourism and more. High records of economic growth in the past ten years under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency (2004-2014) impressed the rest of the world with its development progress.

Meanwhile, one of big problems that is the country’s increasing carbon emission although it is still low based on per-capita calculation. On one hand, the government responds very well with making international partnerships by establishing National Council on Climate Change, advancing the functionality of Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Meteorology and Climatology Bureau to be more attention in addressing climate change issues, also socializing the climate change impacts in all region in the country. On the other, an alliance of civil society organizations concerned on climate change named the Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice has been very vocal about the importance of climate justice through climate debt and carbon footprint. The issue of climate justice emerged because there is dissidence between developed countries and developing countries on how to solve the issues, by not pointing and blaming others.

Developed countries have their huge carbon emission in 1700s-1900s due to massive industrialization while developing countries have their increasing carbon emission recently due to big share in global population and development progress. But based on international scientific calculation of carbon emission, developed countries are much more responsible for the global climate change than the developing ones.This is the main reason why developing countries such Indonesia and other Asia-Africa countries should take firm stances on climate change negotiation and diplomacy without being ‘commanded’ by the developed countries.

The climate justice concept is applicable for Indonesia’s case. Even at present, our forests provides huge shares of global oxygen especially for Southeast Asia and Pacific region – yet when incidents such as forest fires happen, neighboring countries and others nations blame us. This is just one of the many situations that we have experienced.

We should know that climate justice will become reality once related parties agree to collaborate and cooperate in equally. They should determine point out who is “right” or “wrong.” Rather, they should define the problem clearly, and solve it comprehensively. Global negotiations through many forums and conferences depend on the attitude of each country’s diplomacy. Global climate change negotiations are difficult to address until there is sharing on technology transfers and climate funding. Developed countries should give full access, or be more open, to developing countries in both.

As part of the youth activism on climate justice, I’m proud to have an experience as a volunteer for the Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice in in 2010 to 2011. The first time I joined, I and other ten other volunteers were trained on comprehensive sessions from the senior activists to build a deeper understanding on climate change and climate justice issues by analysis of documentary videos, participating on focus group discussion, storming sessions, debates, simulations on socialization and more.

With the said unforgettable experience, I learned about the complexities of the climate change issues. One program that we were very impressed is “One Million Petition Postcard about Climate Justice” of which we have to collect aspiration and opinion from wide society in all regions around Indonesia by signing the petition postcard declaring agree to speak out about climate justice and take photo on it.

The said program was arranged for giving pressure to theparties on UNFCCC COP16 parties (held in Cancun, Mexico) due to the unfairness in reducing carbon emission based on each country’s voluntary target due to the limits of Kyoto Protocol. From schools, offices, sport halls, shopping malls, hotels, urban city parks, and on the road, we did collected signed postcards, shared the importance of climate justice and relayed Indonesia’s stances. We got some criticism and apathy from the people, but there were more positive responses than negative ones as we were doing the job. This is only one of the many youth engagement programs and events in Indonesia to address climate issues.

Finally, I want to conclude that global climate justice is not solely dependent on the developed world, nor the developing world. It will largely depend on the willingness of all countries to cooperate and collaborate very well in basis of equality, respect, and mutual benefits. A fair and high quality global climate change negotiation is not only depending on diplomacy and lobbies, but also civil society participation from youth as the future leaders of the generation. Maybe climate justice is ‘only’ small part of the very broad issue of climate change, but the impact is significant enough to solve the deadlock of the COP19 in Poznan, Poland last year. That’s why we, AYCN, as part of international civil society, must show the world our cooperation within Asia and beyond.

Steve is the founder of Inspirator Muda Nusantara. He is also an active in various advocacies which include environment, climate change and youth. You can check out his blog to read his experiences, as well as follow him on Twitter to get updates from him.

Building climate-resilient bottle classrooms in the Philippines

by Earvin Delgado

A growing population of school children, yet a lack of classrooms

The lack of classrooms in the Philippines would always part of the TV news show headlines every time the opening of classes draws near. This is not something new. One doesn’t need to go far away to see the real situation itself. In some schools in Metro Manila alone, it wouldn’t be strange to see 70 students cramped up in one tiny room, or two classes being held simultaneously in one classroom. Not only are the students and teachers uncomfortable with the set-up, but it also affects their education and the quality of the time they spend in school.

According to the Department of Education, the country needs more than 60,000 classrooms to accommodate all these kids. It has been speculated that it would hypothetically need to build one classroom a day to accommodate the growing need as the number of school-children continue to rise. In 2012, the government was looking forward to building an additional 50,000 classrooms more two years from then through partnerships with the private sector, and the help of local government units (LGUs).

Transforming one problem into a solution for the other

Climate Resilient Classrooms

To help solve the issue of the severe need for more classrooms in the country is the emergence of an alternative way to build them: bottle classrooms. Bottle classrooms are an innovative way not only to build more classrooms, but also to reduce the amount of plastic and reusable waste that goes into the environment. In a way, it’s a higher level of recycling waste, reducing garbage and reusing them for the better. In a country where a lot of garbage is thrown away every day, and where basic education is of utmost priority – building classrooms from plastic bottles might not be such a bad idea after all.

Bottle classrooms are not only cost-effective, but are also designed to withstand the effects of climate change. The Philippines is one of the top countries most affected by if effects. For most of the time, school classrooms are used as evacuation centers whenever strong storms hit the country. It’s important that they are strong and spacious to accommodate people in the event of natural calamities. Rebuilding classrooms that are destroyed in events of natural calamities can also be expensive, and can interrupt classes. Bottle classrooms, on the other hand, are resistant to episodes such as strong typhoon winds and earthquakes thanks to its primary building block, the plastic bottle.

The making of a bottle classroom in a nutshell

climate architecture

Bottle classrooms use plastic bottles as substitutes to bricks. The bottles, mostly 1.5 to 2 liter ones, would be filled with liquefied adobe, and would be left to dry 12 hours prior to use. Similar to bricks, the bottled would be stacked together using cement, wires and steel bars to hold them in place. These would be the walls and foundation of the classroom. Using this technique is cheaper than purchasing bricks. Hollow blocks would have a tendency to crack during earthquakes, but not plastic bottles. One bottle classroom would typically use 5,000 plastic bottles.

Unlike the regular classroom, bottle classrooms are bigger for a fraction of the cost. For ventilation, there are holes in the sides of the classroom to take out the need to use electric fans. The windows are also big enough to let wind and natural light in the classroom. Other recycled materials are also used for other parts of the structure.

In the Philippines, the project is initiated by MyShelter Foundation which is headed by social entrepreneur Illac Diaz. The first bottle classroom in the country was constructed in San Pablo, Laguna with the help of the private sector, the local government officials and most especially, the community. Community members themselves, and a number of volunteers, constructed the classrooms. The community’s participation in constructing the school helps for a sense of ownership and responsibility. It empowers them to work together.

On the other side of the planet and into the future

Aside from the Philippines, bottle schools are also being built in another side of the world. A non-government organization in South America, Hug It Forward, also builds bottled classrooms in Guatemala. The technique is slightly different from the one used in the Philippines, but they still operate in the same principles. The organization has put together a Bottle School Manual for those who would be interested in building a bottle classroom in his or her place.

Perhaps a few years from now, more technological advancements, innovations and creative ideas will emerge in order to make solutions out of existing problems. The bottle classroom is a good example of such. It’s very possible that we’ll be seeing houses and other community infrastructures made of bottles and other recycled materials – not only in developing countries like the Philippines, but also in developed countries as well. The possibilities are endless as long as we think of creative solutions to the challenges we face as a nation, and as part of a global community.

This article originally appeared in the Universities and Councils Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia.

Raising awareness on green issues in Indonesia’s presidential elections

by Steve Harison


Indonesia is in euphoria for this year’s presidential elections. We are celebrating the political enthusiasm brought about by the change in administration, hoping that it will bring to the brighter future to our country in the next five years. In a democratic country, the election is a golden opportunity for citizens to execute their right to vote. That in doing so, they are also submitting their voices, aspirations, and inputs to the political system.Besides the issue of democratic progress, the most important challenge is Indonesia right now is solving green issues such as sustainable development and climate change.

According to various reports, Indonesia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitter because of unprecedented rate of deforestation and land degradation. We need a new state administration which could implement comprehensive and applicable strategies to tackle the issue. In the corridors of democracy, green issues are one of the most important problems to be discussed by our political candidates.


Last July 5th, Greenpeace Indonesia, part of the world’s most influential NGOs on green issues – Greenpeace International, was organized a public discussion to criticize the debate and campaigns of the candidates for president and vice president. This was done to see who among them are environmental-friendly and are strongly committed in solving critical green issues such as food security, energy security, and environmental protection. The public discussion itself was held inside of the ballroom of the presidential debate to symbolize that NGOs will always be ‘watchdog’ for the government and their policies. The debate were ran well, but the answers from the candidates were normative and lacking explanations about urgently-applicable and quality strategies.

In the past three months in Jakarta, Greenpeace Indonesia has been strongly campaigning about the urgency for Indonesian people to vote the candidates who are willing to protect our country’s environment, as well as those who have 100% full commitment for it. The campaign is focused online through their website, and most especially social media to engage a wider audience especially the fast-growing Indonesian middle class who are becoming more aware and interested in green issues.


This brings us to a powerful demographic: The youth, the key players of change. In Indonesia alone, the youth is the largest age demographic. As part of this large and powerful demographic, it is our great chance to make breakthrough in our policy-making process. The Indonesian government should include the youth as stakeholders in implementing sustainable development and mitigating climate change. Indonesian youth become more aware about the green issues, but unfortunately our involvement still heavily relies on NGO efforts, not on the government’s. It is like ‘blessing in disguise’ when NGOs are more active than the government in promoting the importance of environmental protection, preservation, climate change and sustainable development.

Indonesian children and youth are now joining environmental NGOs activities such as forest visits, volunteering, fundraising, organizing exhibitions or seminars, and even assisting and creating partnership with various schools. Despite our country covering a wide area as the world’s largest archipelago , more Indonesian youth are now do travelling intensively to the remote areas throughout the country as proof their awareness, growing sense of environment and genuine appreciation of the hidden beauty of the Indonesia.

As youth, we know we are the primary agents of change, but beyond that we have to be an agent of betterment. We should be more involved and active in the political process – a prime example of this is exercising our right to vote during elections. Some countries in Asia may not be enjoying liberal-democracy in the same way as Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and India do, but we must believe that wherever one comes from, a nation’s youth is very essential to their country leaders.

Steve is the founder of Inspirator Muda Nusantara. He is also an active in various advocacies which include environment, climate change and youth. You can check out his blog to read his experiences, as well as follow him on Twitter to get updates from him.