From the #FirstGeneration Global Goals Forum. Alejandra Antón Honorato, Vishal Parekh, Alson Kelen, Maatalii Okalik and Sissa Pagels.

His engagement in sustainability gained momentum when he was studying engineering, specialising in environment and sustainable development. One thing he learned during his studies was the importance of advocacy to change people’s attitude to themselves and to the rest of the world. And it is in advocacy that #FirstGeneration attaché Vishal Parekh sees his future. 

“Public knowledge of and support for a transition is absolutely essential, and political courage to make the transition is also absolutely essential – and the two indisputably influence each other.”

This is Vishal Parekh’s answer when asked what the most important factor is right now in bringing about a transition to a sustainable society. Vishal explains that a large part of the basic problem in human society is our short-termist and non-holistic attitude to the world. He believes the only way forward is for us humans to take responsibility and stop depleting and altering the earth’s ecosystems at the expense of other living things.

With this basic approach, it was an obvious choice for Vishal to engage in action for a more sustainable world. Alongside his studies, he has, for example, been involved in Greenpeace campaigning against various international free trade agreements. He also took part in the Swedish Development Forum (FUF) summer academy for young people who are interested in sustainability. Vishal feels that it is important to participate in initiatives such as #FirstGeneration and the FUF summer academy as an opportunity to see other people’s perspectives on environmental and sustainability issues.

During the #FirstGeneration Global Goals Forum, Vishal acted as attaché to Alson Kelen, Director of Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands). Through his work, Alson strives to promote sustainable sea transport and he is convinced that traditional canoes could be a solution to replace fossil fuel-driven boats. Vishal will take the #FirstGeneration Global Goals Forum and his encounter with Alson with him as he continues his engagement.

“The most important thing I took away from the #FirstGeneration forum is probably having witnessed the potential for influence that individual engagement can have. Having the opportunity to also meet someone as nice as Alson, who has chosen to dedicate his life to sustainability and the survival of a culture, was an important experience for me. I think that as many people as possible need to see that there are people like him – people who show that we can all get involved, and advocate and work for a better, more sustainable world.”

Vishal thinks that a sense of belonging to the world and the global community is important in bringing about a more sustainable world. Exposure to different problems and perspectives is a major factor in beginning to understand the world, but at the same time we must not forget solutions, Vishal says.

“It is important that we see the problems that exist in the world, but it is perhaps even more important that we see solutions to them. Otherwise there is a risk that any engagement and affinity will be countered by a feeling of powerlessness in the face of the enormity of the problems.”

Vishal believes that rallying young people around the Global Goals is a step that brings us closer together, as well as closer to finding solutions.

“The Global Goals are extremely important. They are a democratically and jointly built lighthouse, and the whole world needs to navigate together by its light.”