Anna Rosario Oposa: ‘The world’s changemakers are also its troublemakers’

Anna Rosario Oposa, co-founder of Save Philippine Seas and Manila 40 under 40 awardee. Photo by: Devex

It doesn’t take talent or smarts to bring about social change — all it takes is passion, says Anna Rosario Oposa, who’s got plenty of it all.

Not even 30, the co-founder of the Save Philippine Seas movement has been recognized repeatedly for her environmental advocacy work. In 2012, she attended the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, with the distinction of being a young global shaper. In the same year, she became the first Filipino and youngest recipient of the Future for Nature Award in the Netherlands.

Today, Oposa is one the most influential development leaders aged 40 and under in Manila.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives and journalists.

We asked Oposa about leadership and her thoughts on the role of the youth in international development. Here’s what she said:

What drives your passion for environmental advocacy?

Being young and being a Filipino! The Philippines is the center of biodiversity, but also the center of adversity. Our natural environment is incredibly rich with natural resources and consequently, potential to power our economy by providing jobs in tourism and agriculture and providing seafood. If we used ecologically sound fishing methods, no one in the Philippines should go hungry. I’ve seen the best and worst of my country through the work I do. Both aspects are important motivations.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your environmental advocacy? How have you tackled these challenges?

Because of my age and inexperience, my projects/intentions are often questioned. I am met with a lot of doubt. I used to be offended; now it just makes me work harder. Dealing with bureaucracy also gets tiring, but the biggest challenge I face is apathy. The hardest part of my work is getting people to care about their own resources. Everything else, like raising funds, is much easier.

What advice would you give to other young people eager to make their voices heard and effect change?

The youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, but today. The world’s changemakers are also its troublemakers. They’re the kids who may not be the smartest or most talented, but are passionately curious and courageous about initiating change in society. Stop hitting the internal snooze button, because every excuse is already a choice to fail. We have the power not just to clean up coasts, but also to clean up minds. Plant the world with good ideas, hope, and positivity.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in Manila.

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