2018 Youth Leading the World Congress in Bellingen

The top three concerns of students at the 2018 Youth Leading the World Congress in Bellingen were ‘Global Warming’, ‘Not Taking Action’ and ‘Destroying the Biosphere’.

The 75 students from Bellingen High, Bellingen Public, Chrysalis and Orama Public spent Thursday and Friday thinking about global challenges, figuring out what they could do to work towards a more sustainable future, and preparing the action plans they will present at a community forum on November 16 at Stockton Hall, Bellingen High School, from 5pm.

Youth Leading the World (YLTW) is an initiative of Bellingen-based organisation OzGreen that aims to  mobilise the next generation of change makers. Its November congresses, held in multiple countries, bring thousands of young people together to tackle global sustainability challenges like energy, food, climate change, biodiversity and water.

On Thursday, the Bellingen participants learned about the global issues, decided on their main concerns and came up with a vision of what they would like their community to look like by 2030.

On Friday, the focus shifted from vision to action, and to help them understand how to effect change the students played the Game of Knots.

This starts with everyone standing in a circle, linking arms, and then tangling themselves up, which usually involves a great deal of laughter.

Two people who have been standing outside (the “experts”) then enter the room and issue instructions designed to untangle the group, and how long this takes is timed.

Then the game is played again, but this time the tangled group works on the solution together.

The untangling process (fixing the problem) took three minutes when it was left to the outside experts, and eight seconds when everyone involved contributed.

Year 10 student Jarrah Brow said preparing to be one of the eight student facilitators of the congress had helped him learn valuable skills.

“Leadership skills and a lot of communication skills, like how to talk to kids and how to manage large groups,” he said.

Another Bellingen High year 10 student, Sam Gribben, said he’d been involved with OzGreen things before and when he was invited to do the facilitator training, he thought it sounded awesome.

“It’s three days, and we try all the activities so we know what it’s going to be like when we do them here,” he said.

Laylah Thompson, a year 6 participant from Bellingen Public School, said she’d decided to come along because she knew it was about the environment and thought she might learn more about animals and plants.

“But we’ve gone in-depth about all these other things and it’s actually been really fascinating,” she said.

Both Sam and Laylah thought the 2030 vision statement for their community that the group had created was “very impressive”.

Bellingen Congress Vision Statement

It is 2030 and we have listened to the signs and to our scientists, and people globally have taken full responsibility for our actions so that we live within the limits of the Earth and all have a happy footprint.

We now live with an optimum climate (and have had a temperature rise of less than 1.5 degrees). Our climate refugees are being cared for lovingly.

We live in paradise, in harmony with the biosphere. We have more trees, butterflies and insects, clean water free of microplastics, clean air, and healthy rivers full of fish and turtles. We have reversed species loss.

We have learnt to live in a zero waste world.

We have proactive governments that take action on renewable energy, including wind power and solar. We have stopped coal mining and damming.

Sustainable living has become normalised. Many people live off the grid, organically grow their own food, buy local, and use natural materials.

We are working together, freely talking about issues and our young people are educated about environmental sustainability.

There is fair distribution of wealth.