Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 3 -- ICEE

Blog Entry from Christy Rocca, Director, Crissy Field Center, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Monday, November 26, 2007
Ahmedabad, India

Our team has just completed Day Three of the International Conference on Environmental Education, located at the fully self-contained, sustainable campus of the world acclaimed Centre for Environment Education (CEE.) Just 20 years ago this site was a barren sand dune on the outskirts of this mini-metropolis of 5 million people- India’s 7th largest city. Today CEE boasts a lush, mature forest of over 4,000 trees native to this arid climate. Although it’s been 90 degrees, the tree canopy keeps the site comfortable. CEE is made up of an assortment of buildings complete with water catchments systems that provide fresh, pure water for the campus and help to recharge the water table therefore transforming the site into a lush urban habitat where many species of birds including the famed, native peacocks, squirrels, chipmunks, monitor lizards and to our delight, the golden languor make their home. It’s a stunning place where programs focusing on education for sustainable development serve the local, national and international audiences- it is a lesson in sustainability of epic proportions.

I spent my first two days listening to compelling presentations by youth from around the world that demonstrated how these young people are leading the way, with few resources, but armed with passion for their environments, the love of their communities and a clear vision for a more hopeful and sustainable future. We heard how youth in Nepal are working to clean up the mess at the Mt. Everest base camps left by those wealthy enough to make the climb, how Chinese students are working along farmers to understand their agricultural traditions and to assist them in developing sustainable practices while boosting the income of rural poor, how young people in Dehli, India are putting their creative skills to use to raise awareness among their peers about actions they can take to improve access to clean water through dance, poetry, art and performance. It was among this group of peers that Ernesto, Aekta and Jie presented our own “Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders” model where they created strong connections, formed new alliances and made lasting friends. I won’t say much more about this right now because it will be much more powerful for you to hear directly from them about their experience here at ICEE.

Today is a different day. Today I woke up with the Times of India at my hotel door, only to find on page 4 an article entitled “Forever Young, Forever Green: Peter Nazareth catches up with the Gen-X green brigade from around the globe.” And there above the column was a full color picture of the youth delegates from the ICEE conference and right in the middle, Ernesto and Aekta, jubilant, arms waving with huge smiles on their faces. In the article, Ernesto is quoted “This has been an opportunity for me to learn from cultures across the globe. I realize the impact of the wasteful, excessive consumerism in the US, where people line up for hours at stores, yet there are communities there who have access to a packet of chips but not fresh fruit and vegetables.” Pretty thought provoking considering we’re entering the holiday season……..

Like all conferences, much of what is being presented is at the conceptual level. Many academics and scientists are eager to list their credentials and present their latest research. I find myself getting frustrated with all of this rhetoric and want to hear more about implementation, success stories and the tangible outcomes of people united, working together to make positive environmental change. But today was different. Today was one of the most moving days of my career. I witnessed one of my young staff, Aekta Shah, only 24 years old, address the conference audience of 1,500 in a plenary session called “Setting the Tone” (of Education for Sustainable Development.) She was invited to be the youth representative on an international panel comprised of senior UN officials, world-renowned educators, scientists and economists- all of them at least 50 years old and older. After nine presentations, many of them predictable, Aekta took to the podium and respectfully challenged the panel and the audience to listen……to listen to the sounds of nature, to listen to children playing, to listen to each other and to listen to youth and to once again connect to the youth inside all of us to dream up a hopeful vision of a sustainable future.

I’ll leave you with those thoughts. More to come…..Christy

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