Covering around 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth
The world is celebrating the day of mountains on Wednesday to highlight their importance for the survival of about 2 billion people who are vulnerable to the changing climate. Covering around 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, mountains play a critical role in moving the world towards sustainable economic growth. With the future in mind, the theme for this year’s international day celebrating the world’s peaks and summits on Wednesday is Mountains matter for Youth.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), mountains not only provide sustenance and well-being to 1.1 billion mountain people around the world but also indirectly benefit billions more living downstream. And they provide fresh water, energy, and food – resources that will grow increasingly scarce over the coming decades, says a statement issued by the UN news agency.
The communities living in High Asia’s four major mountain ranges — Himalayas, Jindu Kush, Karakoram, and Pamirs — are facing the brunt of climate change. The region which is also home to the largest number of glaciers is experiencing frequent disasters due to glacier melting, lake outburst floods and landslides, which in turn is changing the socio-economic conditions of the people. People are getting affected as floods destroy the sources of their livelihood, roads, and bridges.
This year, the spotlight shines on the importance of protecting ecosystems around the world’s summits, for future generations.
It is an occasion to educate children about the role that mountains play in supporting billions up and downstream – providing fresh water, clean energy, food, and recreation.
Making education, training, employment, and access to technology readily available can ensure a brighter future for young communities on mountainsides everywhere.
Lack of opportunities
As access to opportunities for youth living in mountains can be scarce, the day offers the chance to demand improvements in order to prevent the drift away to lowland areas, in search of a better life and employment.
Without investment, agricultural land is abandoned and degraded, while cultural values and ancient traditions are forgotten.
Education and training, market access, diverse employment opportunities, and good public services can ensure a brighter future for young mountain dwellers.
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Call to action
To harness the day, FAO suggests that young people raise mountain awareness by organizing youth forums, student debates, photo and art competitions, hikes and events targeted to specific age groups.
And of course, everyone who cares about mountain life is invited to join the conversation by sharing stories of living as a young mountain dweller, or posting a photo of a favourite vista, using the #MountainsMatter hashtag.
It has been observed every year to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world.
#MountainsMatter for Youth as despite the beautiful landscapes, life in the mountains can be tough, particularly for rural youth. Abandoning their villages in search of employment elsewhere has led to an absence of young people and an increasing labour shortage. Migration from mountains leads to an increase in abandoned agricultural, land degradation and often forest fires. At the community level, cultural values and ancient traditions are lost.
#MountainsMatter for Indigenous Peoples as many mountain areas host ancient indigenous communities that possess and maintain precious knowledge, traditions, and languages. Mountain peoples have developed remarkable land-use systems and have a wealth of knowledge and strategies accumulated over generations on how to adapt to climate variability.
#MountainsMatter for Biodiversity as half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are concentrated in mountains and mountains support approximately one-quarter of terrestrial biological diversity. Mountains are home to rare animals such as gorillas, snow leopards, and the majestic tahr as well as strikingly beautiful plants such as orchids and lobelias.