Article by Ana Alibegova
A week in a sustainable world
It is 7:30 in the morning. Couple of young people go door to door and sing at the doorstep: “Morning has come, night is away, rise with the sun and welcome the day”. Instead of the irritating alarm melody of your self-phone, there is a new method of waking up, alternative, unusual and inspiring. It aims to motive the youth to get up and use the day to the fullest. This kind of a wake-up alarm is only a small contribution in the innovative approaches applied at the Youth Future Conference 2013 that took place in Bonn, in the first week of September. The conference would not be any different than the other youth events if one compares the diversity of the participants, but what definitely connected the people coming from almost 50 different countries is the first-hand experience of creating sustainability. Sleeping in an eco-friendly hostel in the city of Bonn, eating vegetarian and vegan food from the local farmers, drinking organic drinks and daily using exclusively recycled materials, the Youth Future Conference is imagined as a unique event.
United under the slogan “It is time to change the point of view”, the participants discussed the challenges of sustainability and the stumbling stones of development. The solutions were sought among the four dimensions of the sustainability: economy and innovations, ecology and environment, society and politics and culture and philosophy. From social scientists, to engineers, from high school pupils to PhD students, everyone could found its interest among the nine workshops offered: soil, post-growth, water, renewable energies, food, lobbying, photography, education and web of life. How to make the world more sustainable was the main question that the participants tried to answer together with the lecturers, mostly laureates of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. This award is more popular under the name Alternative Nobel Prize and gives credits to the people who find new solutions to the most persistent issues problems of today.
An organization where everyone is a leader
Richard Stiller (23) from Germany found inspiring the concept of the European Youth Project that stands behind the conference and decided to join the team. He did his internship in the Youth Future Project organizing the last year conference. What has started as a very small group of six friends that shared the same values, developed into a platform numbering more than 30 members, totally organized horizontally without presidents or leaders. Richard describes the key moment when the youth and the laureates got connected and as a result, the youth could finally participate actively at the events. “The students basically started the whole idea, one of our team members, Benjamin, invited people that he knew well and that were kind of interested and had the skills and the abilities to do a conference. During that conference and after there were more people getting to know about the idea, the homepage was created, the association was founded and that was the start. Then it just grew really rapidly and three years after that we are over 30 members at the Youth Future Project. There is no selection at all, everyone can join, there are regular meetings or you can just sign up at the newsletter”, explains Richard.
However, most of the participants so far are Germans, and that is due to logistic issues, but Richard has no doubts that the whole concept could be taken to another country and turn into a European or even a global movement. The connections with the laureates, the people, the networks and the experience are already provided by the European Youth Project. “What we can offer is a really broad support for the growing of the platform, and it is basically the main idea behind it. The aim is to make sustainability and right livelihood available for more people, so the concept could be understood by more people and thereby it can change their lives and also the course of the whole world”, says Richard.
Anke Reese (23) together with Till Toenjes (22) were the moderators of the Environmental lobbying workshop. Anke shares her story why she decided for this kind of youth activism: “Every day you ask yourself a question what can I do to make the world a little bit more sustainable. When I heard about this workshop and that they are searching for some host I thought it would be a nice idea because you need education and you need a community to motivate people to do something they would not do without a conference like this or a similar event. I wanted to become closer to people who want the same I want”. Organizing a workshop is not an easy thing at all, agree both Anke and Till. Although the primary topic of their workshop was regarding fracking, the lack of relevant and objective information on this tentative issue made them opt for the lobbying. The preparations started later, the tensions grew when expecting the answers of the guest lecturers, and the challenge was to find the proper way to keep the cohesion among the participants. However, both are satisfied about the positive final outcome and the precious experience they gathered.
The Youth Future Generation
Being inspired and motivated becomes time for a concrete action. The Youth Future Project connects the Youth Future Generation, the youth are taking the moment and become active now and do not wait for the future to come. Till is on the opinion that the youth future generation includes everyone, no matter the age: “I think there are always people who would always do something for better living and it does not matter how old they are. At the end, everyone gets older. It is now important to inform all the people that are growing up, because those are the people that can easily change their lifestyle and those are the people who will form the world in the next 50-60 years, which is going to be an important time. From my point of view, the way how we behave and how this world is managed is not going to go on like this forever.” The small changes of the lifestyle start with the beginning of the conference, and after the end, once you arrive home, start to develop. Erika Klocova (23), a future environmental manager from Slovakia came with a simple idea to get new information but she is coming back home with loads of motivation: “I just wanted to try something new, I signed for that and I had the opportunity to come on the conference. For sure after this conference I will be more active and I will try to join some environmental movement”. Same goes to the Bosnian Meliha Alajbegovic (21) student of biology. She says that sharing the same ideas and visions is very important and therefore wants to be active in the civil society. “I am not included in any non-governmental organization, so the participation in this conference inspired me to become part of some activity. Now I am searching for a NGO which is working on environmental issues”, adds Meliha.
The group hugging the tree of resolutions for the next year was not the only picture to depict the ways of saying goodbye at the end of the conference. Each participant got a hand of seeds to plant and to contribute to a more sustainable future. It will take time to see if the seeds would grow into fruits, but in meanwhile even a small maneuver out of the everyday trajectory is a potential change towards better livelihood.