we currently face numerous unprecedented crises which impact all of our lives.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the global biodiversity and climate crises are consequences of our continuous disrespectful treatment of nature and a winner-takes-all economy. In order to attain a future worth living, far-reaching changes in politics and society are needed to transform our economic and political system. That’s why we, the young, raise our voice and take our demands, concerns and hopes to the public and to you, the decision-makers. It’s important to think globally and act locally.
With this motivation in mind, 30 young people from Europe and Asia took part in the Hoopoe Summit in July 2021.
Organised by Green Steps, the summit’s goal was to empower participating organisations to build bridges of cooperation on sustainable projects within and beyond Europe. Surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel national park, we, the youth from Austria, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania and Spain had the opportunity to reconnect with nature. Moreover, we organised interdisciplinary workshops about nature disconnection, meaningless modernity, climate change apathy, youth unemployment and low productivity of social entrepreneurs. Afterwards, we discussed the workshop topics in working groups. The discussion outcomes are summarized in this declaration: We address challenges and opportunities we are facing and provide an insight into the hearts and minds of young Europeans and Asians.
"We believe there is a disconnection from nature in our society that causes a huge loss of natural knowledge and fuels the ongoing climate crisis and environmental pollution. We can expect that these problems will not decline but increase with every new generation. However, in our discussion, we identified several factors to foster nature connection, such as environmental education from early childhood on, nature-connected digital solutions, green infrastructure, a rewriting of the legal framework, green job opportunities and greener urban areas. This gives us hope for a fairer and more empathetic world WITH nature".
➡ We demand from European policymakers to make nature connection an educational priority
Many people are searching for a meaning in life, yet in our modern world this can be difficult to achieve. The German participants sparked in-depth conversations about factors leading to meaninglessness and meaningfulness. Among the things that have great value to us and contribute to finding a meaning in life, nature connection and working together in communities for society’s well-being were often highlighted. Jonathan (16) recounts: “I enjoy being in peaceful natural surroundings. There, I can reflect upon my meaning of life.” Nature connection contributing to a meaningful life adds up to our stand that nature has to be protected at all costs.
➡ We demand to give easier access to meaningful jobs
Climate Change Apathy
During the Hoopoe Summit we realised that many of us encounter climate change apathy: we refuse to accept the harsh reality and consequences of climate change. In the workshop, we identified several psychological, socio-economic, and political factors that contribute to climate change apathy and discussed individual and collective solutions to it. Those solutions include making knowledge about climate change accessible to everyone (e.g. through education and media) as well as working together with others across generations, genders and borders. “I face climate change apathy in my own life. Climate change apathy has to be taken seriously and I want decision-makers to take immediate actions to tackle the climate crisis!”, says Angelica (23) from Spain.
➡ We demand to policymakers to enact laws which reduce climate change apathy, e.g. through higher taxes on planet and people exploiting corporations or compulsory labels on climate negative products
Youth unemployment is a big issue in Lithuania and all over Europe. At the same time, we identified a need for teachers in outdoor and ecological education. That’s why we came up with the idea to train unemployed youth to become environmental and nature educators.
But how to attract young unemployed people to study in this field? This could be achieved by increasing the reputation of nature education, by having flexible and practical training programmes, by a variety of green job opportunities, and by establishing fair wages. Moreover, the individual and societal benefits of those programmes should be highlighted and promoted.
➡ We demand that European governments make available more financial re-sources for young professional nature educators
Low Productivity of Social Entrepreneurs
Social and environmental entrepreneurs have great visions, but when implementing their business ideas, they face many challenges. Consequently, the current economic system negatively affects the productivity for people working in nature education. In order to get a glimpse of social and environmental entrepreneurship, we did a hands-on activity: Within an afternoon, we developed and presented our own business ideas. We had the privilege to witness the potential of youth dedicated to making a positive impact on our society. “With our activity we wanted to show the youth that they’re able to lead a social enterprise and make a real change”, explains the Georgian group leader Sofio (27). Once again we learnt that we can make this world a better place if we give our youth the possibility to realise their potential to the fullest.
➡ We demand to lower thresholds to set up social businesses and educate more widely about social impact
OUR CALL TO ACTION
We have written this declaration in order to share young people’s thoughts and concerns about social and environmental topics, to give youth a platform for their voices to be heard and to ask you to immediately tackle the issues described.
The ways to get out of the current crises are well-known. It is thus not our task to come up with new solutions but to send out our call to action.
Take us youth seriously, be aware of your responsibility and act now for the well-being of the present and future generations!
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Non-profit organization stimulating and sustaining citizens' active, civic, and responsible participation.
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Youth association of NaturFreunde, committed to the values of freedom, justice and solidarity.
Offers activities to educate, discover, learn, experience and reflect through art and nature.
Organization promoting non-formal education, Erasmus + projects and Youth Exchange programs.
Global network of youth organizations and individuals to prevent loss of Earth's biodiversity and natural resources.
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This Austrian national park is located on the edge of the Alps and of the Little Hungarian Plain.
Non-profit youth organization that advocates the dissemination of nature.
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