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  • Writer's pictureHope Yu

Collective Humanity: The UN, BTS, & SDG

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

The UN. In the past, this acronym held very little meaning to me. Aside from a few mock simulations and slides in some powerpoint in history classes, my understanding of the United Nations was limited to a vague assumption that it helped other countries and promoted peace.

However, it was announced a while ago that BTS was going to be speaking and performing at the UN - specifically the UN SDG moment - and I was intrigued. This was not their first time speaking at the UN (it was their 3rd), but the specific session they were chosen for is what really caught my eye. SDG stands for Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals were fully adopted in 2015 as an “an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership,” (1). The SDGs encompass a variety of topics including economic growth, climate change, and nature preservation.

A bit earlier this year, the President of South Korea (Moon Jae-in) had announced BTS as Presidential Envoys for Future Generations. This title means that BTS are to “raise awareness on global agendas, such as sustainable development, to our future generations and to strengthen the nation’s diplomatic power across the world,”(2). Their activities began with a signing ceremony at the Blue House where they were given diplomatic passports.

Closer to the session start date, BTS’s ‘official’ twitter released posts that posed prompts to youth. It asked everyone who wanted to participate to respond to hashtags with written words, pictures, art, and more. The purpose of this activity was to collect moments from people internationally to showcase their lives for the past two years and “about the world they find themselves in today,” (3).

The intention of BTS’s speech was to “share the stories of future generations,” and connect these various experiences to the topic of the session (3). After the necessary introductory phrases shared by their leader Kim Namjoon, they began their speech by sharing some of the stories shared to them through the Twitter hashtag campaign. Jung Jungkook states, “Here I’m the same as I was yesterday, but the world changed. Like we were transported in a flash to a parallel world. I was saddened to hear that entrance and graduation ceremonies had to be canceled. These are moments in life you want to celebrate.” Min Yoongi mentions how the isolation that they and these other young people felt, “was a time for us to mourn for the things that Covid took away from us. A time to discover how precious each and every moment we’d taken for granted were.” Connecting to the topic of the SDG, Jung Hoseok discusses the “encroaching sense of dread that our time on this earth is limited. We just talk about the things we mourn, and I shudder to think about mourning for the earth. Everyone agrees that climate change is an important problem, but talking about what the best solution might be… That’s not easy.” Kim Namjoon then mentions how he “learned while preparing for today that there are many young people who have an interest in environmental issues and choose it as their field of study. The future is unexplored territory. And that’s where we more than anyone will spend our time.”

I’m sure many of us have had those discussions in class about climate change. Those is using metal straws really making a difference? And the is skipping school for a climate march a greater use of your time than staying in school? discussions. They usually aren’t exactly ‘fun’ and I remember some of these discussions ending with students actually yelling at each other. Yet, while I was watching this speech, I was struck by the numerous peers of mine planning on going into environmental studies, just as Namjoon said. I remembered watching friends graduate over pre-recorded Youtube videos in my kitchen and I recalled the way I began to value things as simple as going to the grocery store. The power of these memories is that they are shared experiences for both me and someone else half-way across the globe.

BTS then refers to the way that some have begun to call our generation the “lost generation.” Although no one has said that term to my face, I have seen it written in articles and in the way older people lament for those poor teenagers in the context of Covid. Namjoon states, “I’ve heard that people in their teens and twenties today are being referred to as Covid’s lost generation. That they’ve lost their way at a time when they need the most diverse opportunities. They must try new things. But I think it’s a stretch to say they’re lost just because the paths they tread can be seen by grown-up eyes.” Park Jimin and Kim Seokjin add how in all the pictures and messages they received, it didn’t appear like anyone was truly lost but instead are “trying to learn new things and trying to figure new things out...finding new courage and taking on new challenges.”

To me, there was a time during Covid where many of us felt lost. But, just as BTS stated, it felt like there was some collective agreement that this couldn’t be the - figurative - end to the prospects of our generation. Looking at the people I was friends with before and the people I’m friends with now, it is evident that we found the entrance to our own paths whether we are fully aware of it or not. When this pandemic started, my grade was in 10th grade and taking our very first AP classes all while learning how to drive. Now I see peers filling out their college applications. At the beginning of this year that terrified me, we really had grown up in a blink of an eye. I constantly questioned if we were ready for any of this. But now - a month into school - I've begun to see the potential in our situation however horrible it may be. Although many of us haven’t seen each other for two years, there is this sense of a want for collective success that permeates our interactions. From helping friends edit college supplementals to the small minutes of joy we give ourselves during classes playing Tetris, our generation is truly ready for what is to come.

“I think that’s why instead of the lost generation a more appropriate name would be the welcome generation. Because instead of fearing change, this generation says welcome and keeps forging ahead.” - Kim Seokjin

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