I've spent the last two weeks in Vietnam and Laos doing a number of talks about raising public awareness on climate change and I'm happy to report that there is tremendous energy wherever I go. At the moment, I'm in the capitol of Laos, Vientiane. This morning, I spoke with 200 students at the National University of Laos and they're already getting work on solutions to climate change and are ready to join 10/10/10! Take a look at this great photo of everyone forming a 350 after the talk:

 


Laos is a poor country that is already struggling with the impacts of climate change. More than 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and over 80% of the population depends on the natural world, through farming, fishing, and forestry, to provide their livelihoods. Yet, the world is changing all around them. Climate change is leading to more severe storms which cause dangerous flooding. High temperatures are making it more difficult to grow rice. Mining and deforestation threaten to further damage and deplete Laos' rich natural resources.

That's why it's so heartening to solutions everywhere I turn. Students at the University are going to rural areas to educate farmers about how to plant sustainable rice crops. There are regional biogas products, helping people produce gas to cook with so they don't need to cut down trees. International NGOs like WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Village Focus International are playing in active role in educating people about climate change from the cities to rural areas. 

And there are great plans being made for 10/10/10 (you can see from the photo in this post that we've been doing a little advertising). Mr. Bae Pheaxay, a lecturer on environment and wildlife conservation at the National University, told me that he's planning to work with students to host educational events and projects in rural areas across Laos to raise awareness about climate change. Somsanith Keodouangdy, with the Youth Union, is looking to get the entire union involved in promoting environmental activities. I also spoke with the Ministry and Institute of Foreign Affairs who see climate as a key development issue for Laos and are willing to lend a hand. 

Laos has done very little to contribute to climate change, yet people here are ready to get to work on the solutions. It's inspirational to see a country with so few resources show such great leadership and a challenge to more industrialized countries to really step up and do their part, as well. 

As for me, I'm looking forward to talking to a few hundred more students tomorrow and then heading down to Malaysia for a meeting of youth leaders from around the country and Singapore. Southeast Asia is getting ready for 10/10/10 and I hope you all are too! 

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