This past year, 2011, our world became a little fuller. According to the official estimate released by the United Nations Population Fund, 7 billion people now compete for air, water, and land – an unprecedented number since the dawn of our kind.
And with such increase come new challenges, as well as new opportunities. This increased competition has meant depletion of natural resources and aggravation of certain societal ills, amongst which are phenomena such as global warming and millions more stomachs going to bed without being fed.
But what is also evident is the opportunity this watershed moment provides; which is, the critical role young people must play in defining this new world. 2011 was a year that shattered stereotypes, brokered new ideas, and ushered in rays of hope for millions of lives in the Arab world. The Arab Spring, as it has come to be known, was only possible through determined, enterprising young adults making hitherto “sacriligious” demands on their governments. Thusly, it was reaffirmed – the biggest resource for social change resides already amongst us.
And in this resource, our world is rich. Overly-rich as a matter of fact. Across the continents, countries are bursting at the seam with the untapped potentials of young adults. In Nigeria, for example, Africa’s most populous nation, 70% of the population is age 35 and under; in Kenya, it’s 85 percent. China, which has the world’s largest population, 750 million of its citizens are age 35 and under – accounting for two-thirds of its population. In India, the world’s second largest population, the pattern holds true– with 74% of all Indians being age 35 and under.
From technological innovations to co-creating new sociopolitical paradigms to combating maternal mortality rates, there are diverse outlets into which brave and willing young adults can plug themselves. While we may not have had a say in what world we were given, now, more than ever, we have an immutable voice in dictating the kind of world we want and the world we wish to bequeath future generations. Civic engagement may have at some point been a luxury, it is now a necessity.