Duchess Sarah Ferguson On Wanting A Better World For Her Grandchildren

Written by The Duchess of York, Sarah 'Fergie' Ferguson.

In an exclusive article for marie claire Australia, the Duchess Of York urges this generation to act so that our grandchildren have a planet to live on.

I HAVE always considered Australia a home away from home. I have been welcomed over many decades as one of your own and I am in awe of your landscapes and wildlife.

This week, I have returned to beautiful Melbourne to participate in two days of vital intergenerational conversations about the future of our planet at the Global Citizen NOW: Melbourne summit.  

My grandchildren’s generation is going to face some serious challenges. Not least of these is climate change, one of the main topics at the summit this week.

I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue. But I do think we should listen to those who are, and they are telling us that our climate is fast approaching a point of no return.

Extreme temperatures, droughts and wildfires, like those you have tragically seen in Australia, have more than doubled in the last 40 years. Our summers and winters are getting warmer across the globe. Sea ice at the poles is in retreat and sea levels are rising at their quickest rates for 3,000 years, meaning that the number of people exposed to the risk of flooding each year is expected to triple by 2030. 

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing the impacts of some of the world’s most pressing issues, writes Sarah Ferguson. Image: Supplied

There is no real scientific debate any more about the fact that human activity over the last century is almost certainly to blame for the changes we are seeing.

We need to use more renewable power like solar and this is an absolute imperative. Plastic pollution of both land and sea is another huge problem. I try to do my bit by recycling and buying environmentally friendly products, and my family was proud to ensure that my daughter, Princess Eugenie’s wedding was plastic-free.

Our generation has to act so that our grandchildren have a planet to live on.

So during my visit, I have been excited to meet, listen to and learn from 32 recipients of the inaugural Global Citizen Youth Leaders Awards, who have attended from across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

I love the energy and enthusiasm of young people and I care deeply about the issues we will be discussing at the summit. 

“Young people have had enough and want change. My generation has failed them thus far, but we can change that.”

These trailblazing leaders are doing frontline, grassroots work to address not only the climate crisis, but the hunger crisis, and girls’ access to education in their communities. They are, in every sense, paving the way toward a brighter future for their region.

To have the opportunity to engage with these young leaders, and to partner with the heads of state, leaders of the public and private sectors, cultural leaders and local representatives Global Citizen has gathered, is an enormous privilege. I hope the event will drive real, concerted action on the issues including extreme poverty and climate change throughout the Asia-Pacific region. 

Personally, I’ve always loved being outside and enjoying nature. My parents always highlighted to me the need to champion the quiet voice of creation. Since becoming a grandmother, I’ve become increasingly aware that I hold a level of responsibility to use whatever platform I have to advocate for change that will improve the state of the world being we are leaving to the next generation.  

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing the impacts of some of the world’s most pressing issues. As well as the droughts and bushfires I have already mentioned, earthquakes and floods are decimating smallholder farming communities throughout the Pacific Island communities. In these small island nations, 80 percent of the population depend on locally produced foods for survival.

Climate change is impacting food security — and we need to act now. Image: Supplied

ASEAN leaders, who gathered in Melbourne this week, have identified food insecurity as a leading issue in the region. Without the ability to farm, grow food and feed their communities, food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty will only continue to increase.

According to the Asian Development Bank in Manila, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed an additional 68 million people into extreme poverty across Asia’s developing countries, bringing the total to over 155 million – a trajectory that needs urgent attention in order to be corrected.  

Resolving these issues requires more than fundraising or aid packages; it requires decisive, systemic change to ensure poverty reduction, and stability in the region. At Global Citizen NOW: Melbourne, these have been the core topics of discussion, and I am genuinely hopeful that we will find fresh inspiration and opportunities to tackle these problems, in order to determine a future where food systems and rural economies are as prepared as they can be for climate change, and where all nations across the region work together and support each other.   

With 50 percent of people living in the Pacific Islands aged 23 and younger, I truly believe now, more than ever, it is time that we do look to the future, and listen to and learn from the young people who are already making the biggest difference, and with the right support, can be the ones who change the future.  

In Melbourne this week, having met with changemakers from across the region and had the opportunity to glean inspiration from their tireless work, I hope to partner with them in shaping a better future for everyone.  

As much as I can, I want to serve as a bridge between generations so we can accelerate our collective actions toward a sustainable future. Young people have had enough and want change. My generation has failed them thus far, but we can change that, and my hope is I can play my small part in driving that change.

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