Meet Declan Clausen. He is a third year student studying a combined Environmental Engineering and Science degree at the University of Newcastle and has achieved more in the past decade than many of us would hope to achieve in a lifetime.
While Declan is only 20 years old, his list of awards and achievements take up an entire page of his CV. On Australia Day this year he was able to add the prestigious title of Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year to this list, which he plans to use as a chance to be a voice for other youth in the region.
“I feel very privileged. Being named Newcastle’s 2013 Young Citizen is an amazing honour and a terrific opportunity to highlight some of the concerns of young people in the Hunter,” said Declan.
His passion for the environment began at a young age which continued to grow through high school after an inspiring teacher encouraged him to become more involved in scientific programs.
Since then Declan hasn’t stopped and is now involved in numerous programs within and outside the University.
As well as being a student ambassador for Engineering and undertaking the Merit Pathway program offered in Science, he is also on the University Committee for Environmental Sustainability (UCES) which is chaired by the Vice Chancellor, currently works with local high schools to assist with the development of their environmental programs and attended the Science Meets Parliament conference held in Canberra last year.
He has also been awarded a scholarship with the Hunter Water Corporation and sees University as an excellent opportunity to learn more about the industry.
“Both the science and engineering programs have significant practical components which enable me to test out theory in real life. I love the hands-on learning opportunities offered which grounds the complex concepts established in the classroom,” he said.
After years of significant hands-on experience, Declan’s biggest environmental concern is focused around climate change.
“While there are many local challenges which concern me greatly, unabated global climate change remains my greatest environmental and moral concern,” he answered.
“One of the constant challenges of our legal system is the fact that those who cannot speak for themselves far too frequently are not given a voice. This is not only sadly true for people with disabilities, but also for the natural world. The environment is often simply not given a voice,” he added.
Declan sees a lot of potential in his generation and field of study to combat this issue.
“Young people in particular are free from competing interests in ways which the older generations are not. Innovation through intelligent science and engineering practices will ultimately provide the biggest opportunities to prevent the looming climate catastrophe” he said.
It may be little surprise that after Declan graduates he is looking to pursue a career that focuses on policy and sustainable resource management and would also like to contribute to post-graduate study at some point.
Declan’s view on science has changed over the years to include the bigger picture.
“Today I see my interest in science through a much broader philosophical view. Through science we are able to gain an understanding of the complex systems which shape our existence and the entire universe around us. Science symbolises hope.”
While we all hope for a better future, Declan is actively involved in making this happen and it is very clear that the young student has a very bright future ahead of him.