This week, we are highlighting girl-led environmental initiatives around the world.
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16 August 2018 | Volume 1, Issue 4
  A note from our editor:
We created Assembly as a space for girls to discuss the issues you care about. And since we launched, our readers have brought up one topic again and again: the environment.

Around the world, girls are fighting to create a sustainable future for our planet. This week, we are highlighting a few of these incredible girl-led environmental initiatives.

In this issue, you will meet Balinese teens Melati and Isabel Wijsen who are advocating to ban plastic bags on their island. Louise Mabulo tells us about using cacao seedlings (think chocolate plants) to support small-scale sustainable farming in the Philippines. Chinese teen Ada Li Yan-tung explains how her panda-shaped solar farms are making clean energy accessible and adorable. 12-year-old Edelsin Linette Mendez describes the devastating effects of climate change on her Nicaraguan community. And we highlight the surprising link between girls’ education and the environment.

We need your help spreading the word about these incredible young leaders so please forward Assembly to a friend or share your favourite piece on social media.

Go green!
Will Bali be plastic bag free by 2018?

Teen sisters, Melati and Isabel, are fighting for an answer
Bali sisters
  By McKinley Tretler
Known by locals as the island of the gods, Bali is a topical paradise — and two Balinese teens are fighting to keep it that way. Meet Melati and Isabel “Bel” Wijsen, two of the island’s fiercest environmental activists.

Fuelled by a love of their home and a determination to protect its natural resources, 17-year-old Melati and 15-year-old Bel are advocating to rid the island of single-use plastic bags. Plastic pollution now plagues the famed tourist destination — garbage covers beaches and surrounds offshore divers. This is a problem across all of Indonesia, the second largest plastic polluting country in the world.

To preserve Bali’s landscape and reduce waste, Melati and Bel launched Bye Bye Plastic Bags in October 2013 to secure a ban on the use, sale and production of single-use plastic bags from retailers. Only 5% of plastic bags in Bali are recycled — and plastic bags take years to decompose, leaving chemicals and toxic particles behind.

Melati and Bel’s initial efforts focused on distributing alternative non-plastic bags to local shops and teaching locals about the pollution problem. Bel remembers one of their early school visits: “We went into a primary class one day and asked a simple question, ‘Are plastic bags good or bad?’ The kids said, ‘Plastic bags are good — I go to the store, I get my plastic bag and it’s free. I go home, I burn it and it’s gone. Not my problem anymore.’ It made us realize that education is really the key to change.”

In order to educate the entire island on the dangerous effects of single-use plastic consumption, the girls realised government policies needed to change. To try and get officials’ attention, Melati and Bel started a petition to ban plastic bags and collected 100,000 signatures. Their efforts resulted in opportunities to speak at the United Nations and to give a TED Talk, but received no response from Bali’s leadership.

Instead it took a Gandhi-inspired, nutritionist-approved hunger strike to get the attention of the Governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika. He heard their pitch and signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to work toward a plastic bag free Bali by the end of 2018.

Read more.
  After the Typhoon Nock-ten devastated her Filipino community in 2016, 19-year-old Louise Mabulo decided
to help farmers build a more sustainable livelihood by growing cacao. We sat down with Louise to discuss her initiative, The Cacao Project, why she’s passionate about cacao farming (did you know there is a chocolate deficit??) and her advice for working in a
male-dominated field.

Read more.
Did You Know?
The Brookings Institution calls secondary schooling for girls the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change.
Sound Off
“The future belongs to us. And the environment ultimately belongs to us... When the government officials are making decisions in the meeting rooms, I think that there should be a platform and a way for us teenagers to have our voices heard.”

— Ada Li Yan-tung, age 19, China
Ada is creating panda-shaped solar farms across China to engage her peers in renewable energy.
Read more.
As climate change destroys her family’s coffee crop in Nicaragua, a 12-year-old turns on her camera

  By Luzelena Escamilla
In Edelsin Linette Mendez’s rural Nicaraguan community, coffee is king. For generations, the rich volcanic soil has provided farmers with flavourful coffee beans — and a steady income.

Much of 12-year-old Edelsin’s world is centred around the crop. She learned to pick coffee cherries (the berries that hold coffee beans) soon after she learned to walk and talk. Every year her school closes during the harvest so students can help their families with the labour intensive process of gathering, sorting and washing the coffee cherries.

But climate change is disrupting life as Edelsin knows it. High temperatures and poor rainfalls are robbing the land of its fertility, devastating coffee plants and plunging families like Edelsin’s into poverty. A new fungus called la roya (the rust) is growing in these conditions and destroying the crop. La roya infects plants’ leaves, preventing them from reaching maturity and yielding coffee cherries.

Edelsin couldn’t just sit back and witness the destruction of her family’s coffee farm and income, so she decided to take action. With the help of BYkids — an organisation that helps teenagers tell their stories through film — Edelsin created a documentary, “My Beautiful Nicaragua,” to raise awareness about the crippling effects of climate change in her home country.

Read more.
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  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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