Environmental sustainability is one of the most pressing challenges facing the world today, with the negative impact of climate change already being seen across the planet. Thanks to its unique capacity to motivate and inspire large numbers of people, sport can play a key role in tackling the climate crisis, with initiatives at both the elite and grassroots levels being used to champion sustainable practices and engage the public in this important issue.
This approach is explored in the latest episode of the “We Have a Goal” podcast series, produced in conjunction with Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Partner Panasonic, and hosted by Paralympian Amy Purdy.
Purdy is joined in this episode by three IOC Young Leaders – Nicolò Di Tullio from Italy, Mayssa Bsaibes from Lebanon and Olushinaola Ewuola from Nigeria – who are each using the power of sport to promote sustainability in their communities.
As a snowboarder, it is an issue that is already close to Purdy’s heart, with the Paralympic medal-winning star having witnessed first-hand how climate change is impacting her beloved sport.
“It makes me think of what more I could be doing as a snowboarder, because we see so much change in our environment and our climate,” she says. “We live way up high in the mountains and we typically get tons of snow, and we know our season. But after you’ve lived there for years – we’ve lived there for almost 10 years now – you dramatically can see the changes that are happening.”
Di Tullio, Bsaibes and Ewuola join Purdy to discuss how they have each been inspired to focus their own projects on environmental sustainability.
For Ewuola, his background as a water systems engineer has motivated his efforts to tackle sport’s reliance on water.
“Water is both a necessity and a luxury in sport,” he says. “Water, as important as it is, is not an infinite resource. In many parts of the world, there is acute water scarcity. There is a need for a more regimented approach to the management of water across the world. The main source of water for drinking, domestics, agriculture, and even sports is groundwater and this is not sustainable.”
To address this issue, Ewuola is working on a project in his native Nigeria to develop a rainfall harvesting system that will be a secondary source of water for a sporting facility in Lagos.
Similarly, for Di Tullio, his love of the ocean and water sports has motivated his efforts to increase awareness about the impact of climate change. Through his IOC Young Leaders project, he aims to enable surfers, kayakers and other water sports participants to become data collectors for environmental scientists and research centres. It is an idea that is drawn from his own experiences of participating in water sports.
“While I was studying at university, I saw how long I stayed in the ocean, compared to what researchers do in their normal research life,” he explains. “And what I would understand is that, actually, it was me staying much more in that environment they were studying, season by season, month by month, or even year by year, to really see and feel the change of the climate change.”
For Bsaibes, meanwhile, her IOC Young Leaders project aims to promote the practice of recycling in her native Lebanon. The initiative will use leftover wood from construction sites to manufacture low-cost table tennis equipment for underprivileged children, enabling them to enjoy the many health and developmental benefits of sport.
“Coming from a little country that does not take into account recycling yet, we are empowering people to reuse and recycle garbage,” she explains. “Why not engage the Lebanese community and the sports organisations to raise awareness about climate change, in order for the youth and the next generation to have more similar values in Lebanon towards a green future.”
“We Have a Goal” is a four-episode podcast series supported by IOC Young Leaders Founding Partner Panasonic, hosted by Paralympian and motivational speaker Amy Purdy, who talks to IOC Young Leaders about their own journeys and how they’re driving change in the areas of gender equality, peace building, inclusion and sustainability.
To hear more about the unique power of sport as a tool for peace and development, you can listen to the latest episode of the “We Have a Goal” podcast on Olympics.com.
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