Ela Gokcigdem ’24 represented Turkey as a youth delegate at the UN Ocean Conference Youth and Innovation Forum last month in Cascais, Portugal, discussing ways to integrate sustainable economic practices in coastal communities impacted by the climate crisis.
The forum was an opportunity for young leaders to help implement United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14), which states: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
For Gokcigdem, a Presidential Scholar at Babson, the well-being of the ocean hits home, after witnessing the impacts of urbanization on her family’s home island in Avsa, Turkey. Through numerous leadership positions within the climate movement, she has been advocating for residents of marginalized communities such as Avsa.
At the conference, Gokcigdem and other young ecopreneurs and activists had the opportunity to meet world leaders, including Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and even celebrities such as Aquaman actor Jason Momoa, the newly appointed SDG14 advocate. But Gokcigdem said her biggest inspiration was her peers.
“Youth are going to get the job done whether the higher-ups help us or not,” Gokcigdem said. “It’s a simple matter of accelerating our initiatives and giving us the platform to speak our truth at conferences that value intergenerational collaboration.”
She added: “Hope manifests itself in so many ways, and while the hope I gained from this conference stemmed from frustration, I am determined to use my entrepreneurial spirit to persevere and bring my communities’ voices with me to create change that we deserve.”
Gokcigdem, a Babson sustainability intern, is also working hard this summer on Bloom, her new climate tech startup that she is developing through Cleantech Open Northeast—the oldest and largest cleantech startup accelerator program. She is exploring various algal bloom mitigation technologies in hopes of creating a viable solution for Turkey’s Marmara Sea and beyond.
Posted in Babson Briefs