In the run up to this year’s Young Scot Awards, which SEPA is a sponsor of, we’re talking to some of the people who’ll be there representing SEPA – to find out why they’re so keen on getting Scotland’s youth talking about the environment. First up is Olivia-Jayne Taylor.
Olivia didn’t join SEPA through what many would see as a traditional route. Having studied economics at university, her first job was within research in the oil and gas sector. “The company’s main role was to advise huge oil companies on market conditions and investments” she explains.
It was through this job she realised that she enjoyed working with natural resources but discovered a real passion for protecting the environment. That passion not only resulted in her taking up a graduate internship at SEPA, but also joining the Young Leaders Development Program that the Climate 2050 Group runs.
You can tell that getting young people engaged in environmental issues is really important to her. She quotes President Obama, “we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” But surely this is a subject for business and world leaders? Olivia disagrees.
“The future is in the hands of young people. There’s no time to sit around in the hope someone else will solve it. Climate change is happening because of years of taking the environment for granted. It’s time to take charge and make a difference.”
So what do you do if you want to get involved? Olivia’s keen to point out that you don’t need to be a scientist or study geography to help protect our environment. “In SEPA, we have people who studied a whole range of things from accountants to hydrologists.” And of course there are plenty of other routes in through charities, community groups and opportunities like the Climate 2050 Group.
“Don’t wait for opportunities to come along,” she stresses, “go out and find them. People need to stop waiting to be invited and just get involved, I think young people are really good at seeking opportunities.”
One such opportunity is the Young Leaders Development Programme run by the 2050 Climate Group, which she is a member of. The aim of the program is to develop young leaders by enhancing their leadership skills and strengthening their knowledge of climate change and Scotland’s transition to a low carbon society. With more and more companies becoming aware of their environmental footprint the amount of work being done in this field is just growing, and the leaders of tomorrow are starting now.
And the Young Scot Awards? “It’s going to be a great evening,” says Olivia, “and I’m looking forward to meeting all these inspirational nominees and winners. Hopefully our involvement will get even more young people engaged in environmental issues, and realising that they have a crucial role to play in Scotland’s future. Three of us have been given the @SEPAStaff twitter account to look after this month, which is a great opportunity to speak to people, find out what they’re interested in, and share our passion with them.”