Climate Change and the Youth

Although the nature we live in constantly undergoes changes, those changes become detrimental if the process is not organic. The recent global warming trend is of significant importance because it is not product of natural processes. Human activity across the globe has caused it and today, its effects are evident everywhere, disregarding borders. At this point, only efforts on a global scale can prevent further damage.

Fortunately, many countries have high youth population who are very dedicated to raising awareness on this issue. Through the use of online platforms, the youth from all around the globe have been able to exchange their creative and innovative ideas with an audience much bigger than their immediate communities. Through smaller steps such as distributing reusable water bottles on their campuses in order to reduce the use of plastic ones, to holding conferences and to voting on a policy change, they have been able to educate people at the grassroots level about their environmental responsibilities.

In fact, this is what our world needs the most: education on minimizing their carbon footprint. People need to know the steps and begin to incorporate them into their daily lives. In this sense, the youth have and continue to contribute much to transform their societies into more environmentally conscious spaces.

The main reason to why this movement is mainly youth-driven, is not only due to the youth’s creative ways of tackling this issue but also because of their tolerant and adaptive attitude towards the proposed solutions. The youth are not only willing to sacrifice but are also not afraid of taking risks in order to ensure a better and secure future.

However, the youth alone cannot bring a change. In order to be fully successful in achieving a drastic decline in global emissions, our societies need to invest more in advancing cost-effective and eco-friendly technology and people of all generations have to accept fundamental economic and societal changes in some areas of their traditional lifestyles.

Purchasing energy efficient appliances, installing solar panels and switching to electric cars are some examples but so are planting a tree, reducing waste and using less hot water.

When the topic of “climate change” comes up, most people have a vague idea of what caused that change. In order to alter the direction of the world’s climate in the next decades, we need to change how people view it.

Who Decides the Future of AI?

While machines have not taken over every human task yet, they continue to become more autonomous and human-like in their performance. From Google learning how to translate content into various languages to Facebook identifying people with facial recognition, we can observe the rampant emergence of human-like cognitive functions in artificially intelligent systems.

Although we cannot put a halt to the evolution and rise of artificial intelligence (AI), this is the time to regulate and control where it will be headed in the near future. Technology, especially AI, is only safe when all people have access to the knowledge about how to use it. If it is placed in the hands of a few powerful corporations, then it becomes difficult for common people to use or understand it. Meanwhile, influential companies will continue to prosper and grow their power due to the capabilities of AI, leaving the other groups to be incapable of catching up.

It is crucial to control the power and availability of AI in order to prevent the dominance of powerful companies with large amounts of data and funding. This is especially important for protecting smaller firms and universities.

As for AI itself, it should be regulated in its application to specific problems. For example, while it could help easily find the best-suited treatment method for patients in the medical field, AI can also greatly contribute to global instability. When used in the process of building and utilizing unconventional armaments, AI can contribute to the development of autonomous weapons and killer robots that can further elevate warfare without direct human involvement. These weapons pose a risk because they can be hacked by private citizens, non-state actors, or anybody knowledgeable in AI. To mitigate security risks, they should be banned by international communities from an early stage.

Research into AI itself, however, should not be regulated. The principles in computer science are general across infinite applications, and each application has different regulations to use that knowledge safely and fairly.

In order to ensure that AI has a safe and controllable future, small groups of people should not be allowed to easily access and generate wealth off of it. If AI is not regulated, the future will then depend on the nature of decision-making within those groups.

We can not trust unknown groups to use AI for possibly destructive purposes. We need to ensure that AI is used solely for educational, medical, scientific, and social purposes to ensure that it does not harm broader communities and the security of the world.


Diverse learning and working environments enable people to see beyond their own social, cultural and religious backgrounds and to understand others’. It also exposes them to new perspectives which become a catalyst in altering mindsets and broadening people’s understanding of the world.

The inclusive student admission processes at colleges and universities in U.S., for instance, has facilitated a flourish of multi-cultural and diverse communities. Thanks to Mount Holyoke College, today I have friends in many corners of the world. Living in an environment where we can all celebrate happy moments and mourn sad ones, has brought my friends and I closer than ever. During the last few years especially, we have learned that in order to live in harmony, we have to understand and accept one another. In doing so, we have seen beyond our differences and more into our similarities. We dance to Bollywood beats, dress up for Eid and say Happy New Year more than five times during an academic year.

Before going to U.S., topping school based education was my main focus. Now however I understand the value of life-long learning whose instructors are the people with whom one lives with and the environment which one lives in. What we learn in classrooms may take us a few steps closer to our professional careers and future goals but we learn from each other becomes the mere foundation of who we choose to be as a human being.

Millennials everywhere are undoubtedly more tolerant and informed than the generations before them. Their beliefs and attitudes however depend much more on the environments they are brought up and educated in than in their generational ties. Millennials in U.S. are different than the millennials in Afghanistan. In U.S. millennials have rights and agency. They can protest and petition for a change. In Afghanistan where tolerance does not exist, even a slight hint of commitment to equality and inclusiveness can get people harmed and killed. Restriction, censorship and an overarching expectation to be like the older generations and to respect the traditional values, blankets all areas of youths’ lives in Afghanistan.

Those who have seen the beauty of living with people of different backgrounds understand that memorizing an historical event, knowing a piece of poetry or learning about a prominent figure does not measure up to understanding why some individuals choose to cover up. Or why certain musics sound good to certain people. Or why one prays to a Buddha while the other prostrates to a God whom she has not seen or spoken with.

Closer or More Distant?

I remember the first year I came to United States for ninth grade and was able to receive calls from my family only once a week. It was expensive to call home and when my family called, we could only speak for a few minutes. While we had Wi-Fi at our school, it was not customary in Afghanistan to have data on one’s phone or an internet connection at one’s home.

Today, we speak frequently and for long periods. When I feel nostalgic, all I have to do is tap on an icon on my screen and look at my parents’ faces. It is not only easy but also cheap.

Social networking services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, and other platforms where people can stay connected with one another while at a distance, have probably brought our world closer together than ever before. However, these same services have enlarged the gap between people living close together.

I am not an expert on the internet and many may oppose my beliefs but I am a twenty year old who feels an immense pressure to keep up with the constant alteration in the ways a young person must live. To me, the expectation to be aware of updates and newly introduced social networking is draining not to even speak of keeping up with everything that goes on within those networks.

To be in touch with others is one thing but to know what every moment of someone else’s life consists of, is another. Some might say being active and keeping those in one’s social circle updated is a choice, which is right. That choice however, will place a different distance, which I call a “cyber distance” among people. It is like sitting across from each other but feeling disconnected over a conversation about Snapchat videos from a party the night before.

Posting pictures on Instagram or updating status on Facebook is a choice. Yes, I agree but today, those posts are in most cases, determinants of others’ views on how one’s day, week, month or year go. This semester I am studying abroad in Europe and not being much of a social media person, I had not posted pictures of the places I have travelled. Through a conversation, I recently learned that many thought I had not travelled at all since I had not posted any pictures on Facebook.

While it is a choice to keep up with today’s definition of connectivity or not, like anything else that choice has consequences. It affects the circle of one’s real life friends and those on the internet. In many ways, it is a contrast between presenting people with a very uneventful, lonely and miserable life when your life is actually lively and eventful or displaying a very happy and colorful profile when the reality sits far from that. Or on the other hand, it could be just balanced and that, I am afraid will remain a constant struggle for the all of us.

Is knowledge Alone Enough?

To not sound religious, I always avoided using phrases that I thought would indicate me as one to my friends of other faiths. I was taken by surprise, however, when a close friend of mine began to say “insha’Allah” to indicate hope while in doubt about something. “Insha’Allah” is an Islamic phrase and she is Hindu. That moment I realized that for people of my age, humanity comes before any other religion and in order to stand for one another, we are not afraid to identify as the other.

The opportunities to build a network of international friends, to travel across continents, and to share a classroom and even a room with someone of many differences, has enabled the youth to be more tolerant, accepting and understanding of their surroundings.

Either from Afghanistan or New Mexico, Sweden or Nepal, the youth care more about bettering social conditions at grassroots level rather than supporting a top-down approach.

We protest, we vote, we come up with ways to solve issues at their roots. Above all, we want equality and justice to prevail not only on small community levels but also on the governmental and global levels.

While technology has paved the way for such actions, in many ways, it has also contributed to accumulation of passive responses from the youth. It is important to raise awareness about an issue, to inform people of an unjust act and to criticize decision-makers’ choices. However, through social media platforms, this has turned more to merely putting some words together and posting them for a diverse audience without really taking any action towards solving the problem.

Circulation of information on hundreds of news feeds happens in seconds and sharing them in one’s own feed does not necessarily solve anything. Unfortunately, this has become a trend nowadays. While voicing one’s opinions is not wrong, there should be a balance between when to talk and when to act.

As a popular Farsi proverb says, “no difference lies between a bee with no honey and a knowledge that entails no action”.  In order to remain true activists of our time, we, the youth, need to understand that knowledge alone is not enough unless coupled with action.