Think saving the Arctic has nothing to do with Southeast Asia? Think again! Even better, listen to two teenagers from this region who know that it has everything to do with them.

“If we don’t act now, our generation will suffer later. Our Mother Earth will become very weak, there will be food shortages and pollution and we will have a very sad life,” says Sarah Bartrisyia, from Kuala Lumpur.

Saving the planet is something to which Sarah (13) is deeply committed, and this passion together with her creativity, saw her chosen as the winner of Greenpeace’s Flag for the Future competition this week.

The Malaysian teenager came out tops in the competition - which attracted entries from 54 countries- to create a flag to symbolise the commitment of millions of people who have signed a petition to protect the Arctic. Sarah’s winning design will be produced as a titanium flag to be planted at the North Pole, four kilometres beneath the ice, and put on the seabed in a time capsule containing the signatures of millions of Arctic defenders.

At the moment, no single country owns the international waters around the North Pole, but as climate change causes the sea ice to melt, countries and companies are moving in to exploit the resources including oil and fish in the Arctic Ocean.

“We need to care about the Arctic because it belongs to all of us and is part of our world. Global warming affects us all,” adds Sarah. “World leaders need to work now to save the environment for our future generations.”

Shi Yun Lim (13) of Singapore was a runner-up in the competition, which means her flag will also be going to the Arctic.

“I may live in a hot place, but I know the polar ice is very important because it keeps the whole planet cool. If that ice melts, the earth will heat up even more and small islands like Singapore will suffer because the sea level will rise.”

Shi Yun also knows there are solutions to this problem: “Our world leaders should know that we need to stop using dirty fossil fuel – there are lots of different kinds of energy that we can use, like wind power.”

Both girls are active members of the Girl Guides and are very clear that each individual can make a difference in their own community: “I am really active in doing environmental activities like collecting newspapers, and recycling” says Sarah.

These inspiring young women are part of a new generation that not only make it their business to know about issues affecting their futures, but understand that global problems need global solutions.

“Only when the global community works together in peace can there be any hope for us to save our world,” says Shi Yun.


Nicole Johnston is Communications Director at Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Get updates from her on Twitter via @NicoleJohnston