Deland Chan, Age 16

New York, NY

NATIVE SPECIES RESTORATION

 


We believe that the traditional definition of 'environment' entails much more: it can be applied to New York City where there is a delicate balance between the natural ecosystems and the man-made 'urban jungle,' where the natural habitations of birds, animals, and insects must co-exist daily with 7 million humans.

This year, the "Roots and Shoots" of the 92nd Street YMCA selected a project that addressed two concerns: the urban restoration of a natural habitat (Inwood Hill Park, the last nine acres of natural forest in Manhattan); and the impact of the environment on New Yorkers, especially the children who have grown up with shades of pavement.

The restoration is not yet complete (future plans include programs within the Parks Ecology Center) but we have achieved the immediate goal of enhancing the habitat for native birds, butterflies, and insects. It defies the face of urbanization: a piece of untamed land that previously screamed NEGLECT to one that now says WE CARE."

 


  Acceptance Speech

 

 "I can still remember how this all began ... on that September afternoon when I stepped into Sharon Goldman's office. To her then, I must have been another random 15-year old teenager -- with a quiet demeanor, a bit inconspicuous, nerdy even -- who was interested in a teen environmental group at the 92nd Street Y. Or so she thought.


Fast forward to 2001 and I still haven't taken over the world, but something did happen to exceed Sharon's and my expectations. I met an incredible human being, Angela, a real funky eclectic group of NYC teenagers, and managed to fly across the country to share my little oasis of greenery with the people of the West Coast. It's quite a list of events in a short period of time, and I'm still processing how I feel about them.


Especially in the past three weeks of uncertainty, I've acknowledged a truth that I would have once happily ignored. We are living in troubled times. Trouble times, not only because humans have always threatened their living space, but because humans are not destroying the living space of others. Trouble times, especially, in having to explain to ourselves why and how this could happen.


So we ask ourselves: why can't we achieve a utopia, why isn't there a positive outcome of human ability? I think both possibilities existed before September. The architect, in a moment of human ingenuity, created the uprising lines of a city. In response, the urban environmentalist returned to the horizontal lines of the earth. Today, the utopia of human capacity is still strong. We still have the ability to shape our living space. Our purpose remains the same. We must build and restore that which has been destroyed.


Unfortunately, this nadir of human achievement has exposed two extremes in our society. One side of the cradle has released the new cynic. There is at least one of you among us tonight, and I give you my due respect because you are absolutely correct: there is no excuse for the misuse of human choice. The other side of the cradle has released the ultra idealist. We find that person waving an American flag, trying to find a unity that otherwise would
not exist.


It is my belief that both types of people have more in common than they realize. The cynic would not feel disappointment without the byproduct of idealism; the idealist is in need of a pragmatic touch. Now is the time is unite and expand the matrix of human support. It is the time to grow stronger, not weaker. Repopulate the garden with philosophers, creators, skeptics. Rebuild.


Most importantly, let the joy of human capacity triumph again. Thank you."


-- DELAND CHAN

 

2ND ANNUAL  P Brower Youth Awards