Nardos Tilahun is the one who won the Global Eassy Competition organized by the Living Rainforest under its Secondary Schools category. Nardos is 15 years old who is living in New Zealand and her excellently written essay under the title of 'Exploiting Consumerism for our Planet' on sustainable globe exceptionally attracted the judges of the competition (out of 577 essays received) and other global leaders. The prize had helped her to attend the global Earth Summit held in Rio last June (Rio+20 United Nations on Conference Sustainable Development).

In her mission to Rio+20, Nardos had a chance to talk with several global leaders including Head of UNHCR and Head of UNDP who was the Prime Minister of New Zealand in strengthening of young participation in the earth's future. A brief interview made with her follows [Picture: Karl Hansen, Director of the Living Rainforest (UK), Nardos and Helen Clark, Head of UNDP and also former Prime Minister of New Zealand]:

1. What motivated you to participate in the competition?  What were the key strengths of the essay which helped you to win the competition?

My decision to enter the competition was based on my interest in international affairs and politics being where my passion lies. The fact that I could possibly go to an Earth Summit at my age and see world leaders in action and possibly meet them was an opportunity not presented to many. Including the fact that the UN Secretary General would read what I - a 15 year old- has to say about a global crisis. It was also a chance to visit another country and experience a unique culture.

I believed my essay was creative and hopefully showed the passion. This is what one of the judges had to say about the essay: "Nardos’s essay struck the judges as constructive, sophisticated in approach, and well-written. This combination of qualities helped make her essay stand out across a crowded field, attracting consistently high marks which secured her the win." - Karl Hansen, Director of The Living Rainforest, UK.

2. Why did you prefer the tittle to other areas of sustainability?

From the start I wanted a topic that I could be creative with but also realistic and show passionate at the same time. A topic that could relate to everyone. Consumerism is usually, if not, always seen as the biggest cause for our environmental destruction. But the worst thing is that the world economy, businesses and us people have become heavily dependant on it. But if we were to make some modifications through the production system, we could eventually break out of the deadly cycle.

3. How do you define consumerism and link it to food security - in the context of food, consumerism, behavioural change, sustained globe?

Consumerism consists of social and economic elements. It encourages people to constantly purchase commodities and services. The world today has created a culture where we over consume our natural resources, one of which is food. We generate enough food to feed everyone (this might not be the case in the not so far future) but there is a lack of distribution among rural areas and even those who produce the food. With our over production of food, there should also be a better focus on building a more sustainable system of producing and distribution. This includes stability in the availability of food supply as well as economic and social access.

 4. What can be done in involving the young to have a say on this issue?

It is important to have youth involved in this issue, seeing that they are going to be the ones running food production systems in the near future. Same with other causes it’s always best to encourage them in expressing their views when are new government laws or legislations being passed. Even participating in having polices places that would better benefit them and the people.  Educating young people about creating a sustainable food production system, ensuring sustained availability and distribution of food, without of course negatively impacting the environment. For rural areas, it’s probably a good idea to also educate the youth about building a sustainable food system but also giving them the support to build their own profession and business in farming.

 5. Any experience of the essay competition to be shared with others?

We live in a time where people need to be a bit bolder in what they want to achieve. If you have a dream and an opportunity, don't let it go and don't give up. It always better to give something a go and fail rather than wish you had tried, because you don't know when you might succeed.

6. How were your Rio-20, Brazil expectations and experiences?

The city [Rio] didn't fail in amazing me with its beautiful view and culture. I wasn't expecting to meet influential people as I fortunately got to.  I was however disappointed by the vague mentions of the goals and lack of boldness in making sustainable decisions for the future that many of the leaders talked about. Especially the goals, which for me felt like a last minute preparation that was there so that it could please everyone’s preferences; lacking the ambition that was believed to be needed to building the sustainable future we want.

 7. What do you think Rio-20 would bring to the globe?

Although there was a lack of ambition and doubt in the leaders and government systems to produce the needed results, there was however a determination to be more proactive. Throughout the conference there was a great emphasis on the importance of youth involvement. Also the problems we are going to face in the near future. I believe everyone understood how crucial it was to educate and engage youth. Also that it would be our generation, more than any other, who has to carry a greater burden of environmental and social issues that we have to solve. But after the conference I believe that there is stronger drive to build a platform in which youth can hopefully undo the damage that’s been done and achieve the goal for a sustainable planet.

Thank you Nardos.

 Follow the link to read the full text of Nardos' essay: