Miyata Yuji, a UN campaigner, saw a strong interest in environmental issues among Saigon youths when he returned late last month.
The 32-year-old Japanese, who is known for walking through 20 countries the last decade to promote peace and environment messages, provided lectures and planted trees with students at RMIT University last Monday.
It was his fourth visit to Vietnam. The last time, he walked more than 500 miles from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok in 2010.
Yuji said that through the years, he has seen more young people started to become engaged in peace and environment protection activities.
“Young generations have started actions through their great awareness of global responsibility for future generation and their country,” he said in an email.
“It is a great sign.”
He said during his latest visit, many young students groups invited him to join their campaigns calling for the use of eco-friendly bags.
Miyata Yuji by a new tree he plants with students in Ho Chi Minh City on June 29. Photo credit: RMIT University
But on the other hands, he said, the city government has left urban development and its population expansion taking over a lot of green spaces.
“Compared with the old city center, many new areas of Ho Chi Minh City do not have much nature.”
Ho Chi Minh City is one of a few Asian cities that still have huge old trees on its main streets and big green parks, he said, sharing the opinion of many foreign tourists to the city.
But its ongoing urban development including the first metro line and new connections to the new urban area in District 2 has put a heavy toll on many trees, some of which are around a century old.
Yuji said most capital cities and big cities in the world have tried to build green living environment by building green walls, green roofs and natural parks, planting instead of cutting trees, as “people have started to feel the connection with nature again.”
He said this year is the important year for Vietnam to honor nature and peace because it’s the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
It is “a golden year” to educate young generation about making a greener and more peaceful country.
“If all Vietnamese understand more about the importance of nature, how great their environment is, what happened during the war, Vietnam can spread real peace and environment protection messages across the world.”
Yuji said he chose to come back to Vietnam to try to give Vietnamese students an opportunity to deepen their awareness of global responsibility for peace and future generation.
He said he dreamed of being a peace ambassador when he was 6.
He told students at RMIT during the recent lecture that "each person has the power to help make the world a better place and all small acts count.”
The man said people in Vietnam saved his life once during his walking through the country and that’s why he feels the obligation to continue inspiring young Vietnamese.
The visit was part of his annual project called Peace Week, which calls on young students to go talk to people who experienced a war to learn lessons of the past and build a peaceful future.