“The youth are the future” is a phrase often heard; yet community action responsive to this premise does not necessarily happen, but one rural, southern communities’ public engagement on sustainability did include youths. The City of Sumter, South Carolina, USA held a Spotlight Conversation on Climate Action and Sustainability, one of ten “Spotlight” national conversations and 70 or more other discussions held across America on Earth Day, March 2009. A group of Sumter’s minority youth, members of the Sumter Citizen’s Coalition, were involved in Sumter’s conversation, demonstrated their leadership skills, committed to reducing their carbon footprint, and inspired results aimed at highlighting the necessity of sustainability for environmental, cultural, economic and social reasons. Articles 12 and 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for children’s rights to participate in decisions affecting their lives. There may not be any more impelling issue than how to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Government and policy makers have a role to play, but there is even a more important role for individuals, families, and youths to be involved in public decision making and community action on sustainability. This paper shares how Sumter adults and its youth are accepting their responsibility for environmental and social sustainability, and it provides some insights on deliberative dialogue as a tool for public decision making, youth participation, citizen capacity building, and community action and change.
|Keywords:||Youth Participation, Sustainability, Deliberative Dialogue, Public Decision Making, Community Action|
Senior County Agent, Sumter County Extension Service, Clemson University, Sumter, South Carolina, USA
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