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The Youth Press Agency is an initiative of youth participation through the creative use of new and traditional tools of communication and information. 
Promoted by: Viração Educomunicação (Brazil), Viração&Jangada (Italy), Fundación TierraVida (Argentina) and ClimaLab (Colombia). 
The Youth Press Agency is an initiative of youth partecipation through the creative use of new and traditional tools of communication and information promoted by the association Viração&Jangada in collaboration with the association In Medias Res, associations of youth and schools.
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14/12/2018, 18:49

travel, nature, sustainability, climate change


 Nowadays travelling has become a mainstream activity, almost like a hobby for many people. In a society where quantity is appreciated more that quality, we believe that the more places we visit, the more we know about the world.

We are at the 24th UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) attending the side event "Climate Action in the Travel & Tourism Sector". By walking in, we notice that there is a big audience, and some tension in in the air. After a couple of minutes, Gloria Guevara Manzo, the president of the World Travel and Tourism Council starts to speak.

"We care!" she says. But care about what: the environment or the profits?? Twenty  minutes of "info" and numbers about the Travel Council, followed by: when it was founded, how many members take part in it, and the big impact they have on improving the world of tourism and the world in general. 

The question "How do we engage more people in travelling?" pops up. In a few words, the objective the council has for the future is to make more people travelling, in a more sustainable and safe way -making a lot of profit along the way.  In fact, she underlines how the tourism industry has a great potential, creating more jobs and economic profits (for the big corporations). 

Wow. So idyllic. So impressive! How couldn’t we see that the solution for the global crisis was so simple? And mostly, that is so insanely simple to find sustainable solutions for one of the most impacting sectors, both at the local and global scale?

Everything in the opening speech of Ms. Guevara Manzo is perfectly packaged: the presentation, the exposition, the optimistic tone. But, to be honest, it sounds nothing more than a patchwork of slogans. And for the whole time we just keep thinking: is it about taking action to combat climate change or is it about profits?  

The answer arrives just a few minutes after, as the other participants start to talk. Michael Gill, director of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), starts to talk very nervously about how much his company has invested in green(-washed) solution, about the importance of developing green fuel technologies, and most of all, how airplanes in the futurewill emit 80% less GHG, while repeating that "we are never ambitious enough". 

Yes, you indeed are never ambitious enough. In fact, by looking at the website of the company, the only promise made is to try "to cut off emission by 50% by 2050", while other organizations and businesses participating at COP24 pledge to have zero net emissions instead. Yes, they definitely should be a little more ambitious.  

Daniella Foster is the second speaker of the event. She works as Senior Director, Global Corporate Responsibility at the Hilton hotel chain. She starts her perfectly structured speech underlining the power of collective action, the need of a responsible growth. "This is a journey, and is something that will bring collective action and awareness".

Yes, we totally agree. It’s a very beautiful and effective phrase, but let’s think about who is actually inviting us to develop a consciousness about climate change and to start a collective action. An international hotel chain, which in 2015 had a turnover of  2,83 billions of dollars. An hotel chain that has actually stolen a lot of possible profits to other local hotels owners and that has clients mainly from the upper rich classes. So what is precisely this collective action about? Aren’t all these beautiful words finalized to improve the image of the Hilton chain? 

In the past few years, more and more corporations adopted different environmental friendly marketing strategies. This is because they know that in the medium and upper class being "eco-friendly", at least at words, has become a status symbol. But often, unfortunately, it is just an illusion. One clear example is provided by the famous food chain McDonald’s. 

The well-known brand in the past few years has started proposing more salads, some veggie burgers, hiring famous chefs to represent them...Yet, most notably, it has started decorating the interns of the locals with green or wooden furnitures, just to give the customers the impression of how green and sustainable they are. 

The same strategies are used by other famous corporations, such as Nestlè, or clothing brands like Burberry, Adidas or Puma. Because being green is cool. And also because if you try to make a production or a sector more sustainable, you can also increase the prices and therefore make more profit out of it.

A second question that naturally comes to mind, when corporation like the above start talking about sustainability, is: how can actually a corporation, like a hotel chain, be sustainable? How can inviting people to travel more, or better to go on vacation more (because travelling for real is a concept not included in the whole side event) be sustainable? Is it really necessary? 

Another speaker at the event is the owner of a company that organizes international expedition to the Himalayan mountains. We guess that everyone has, at least once in his life, dreamed of going trekking to the Himalaya. Those mountains that give you the feeling of being so tiny, that make you perceive the power and beauty of nature. But in reality, the increasing tourism is destroying, just as other beautiful places is the world, the cultural and natural equilibriums. It is wonderful that everyone has the opportunity to travel, but people have to accept that not all places are for everyone. The industry of tourism made us think of ourselves as invincible, that we can go everywhere without any kind of preparation because they are working on making everything safer and easier. But, this is not the real spirit of travelling. They transformed travel into a commodity to be consumed and devoured. 

To travel, people need to develop consciousness and humility. To be tourists, or better consumers, they just need money. Being a tourist is more a passive action, in which you want to be transported into another place just to feel far from your ordinary life. But at the same time, your brain keeps living the same negative emotions that you have in your normal routine.  When you travel, instead, you travel with the brain and heart, enjoying the positive and the negative things as an experience. 

What is necessary to be sustainable, is to travel less, but with a higher quality of the experience. It is about travelling for searching for something different from what we are used to, instead of something familiar. It is about supporting locals in improving their business and make their country flourish. It is about going  slow, and slow down our habits and routines. It is about enjoying the single moments. And remember that it is not important to count the kilometers you rode the year before, but instead the people you met and how deep you got to know the place you went to. 

Roberta Pisani and Veronica Wrobel


14/12/2018, 18:10

music, climate change, environment, politics, carlin, COP


 Alex Carlin, a character full of contradictions: rocker and rude, but at the same time ecologist and sensible to the future of our planet. We had the pleasure and luck to talk with this Guiness World Record man about environment, music and politics.

"Songs can have an impact on politics. Mood is so important when you’re part of a movement. People have to be happy, to have spirit and energy". What does it happen when mixing together art, music and environmentalism? Probably, you’ll create a unique person like Alex Carlin.

During the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice (Poland) we were working on our articles in the computer area, when a man caught our attention: he looked totally different to the people who usually participate at the COPs. He was tall, had long grey hair and entered the room with a guitar on his shoulder and a confident walk. 

Later, we discovered he was Alex Carlin, an American guitarist and songwriter. Curious to know more about his story, we had a talk with him, learning many anecdotes of his adventurous life and his activist vision of music and of the power of social media in sensitizing people about the effects of climate change.

To break the ice, he started talking about his early life and how he developed his interest in music. Born in Chicago, where he lived his childhood, he started to play the piano in 1962, when he was five years. To learn the instrument, he used an innovative method which consisted in applying stickers with the name of the musical notes on the fingers that should be used to play the piano keys.

In those years, the United States were "burning of experimentation and creativity" says Alex.  Music, politics, gender issues, the Vietnam war: everything was a matter of discussion and contestations between the American youngsters. "But at that time it was more than just being angry, because there were people teaching. There were people coming in parks and teaching. There were former Vietnam soldiers telling people what was really happening in Vietnam and that people shouldn’t support that kind of things. It was a great lesson to learn: you can totally love your country, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t oppose to what governments." Then, the war ended and everyone felt a deep: "Oh, we ended war! This is a demonstration that people can actually stop things". 

Successively, Alex moved with his family first in New York City and then in Berkeley, where he founded his first rock band in 1966, the "Constipated Orange", a bizarre name at which he now laughs, but that was in line with the psychedelic spirit of the time. 

Since that moment, music has always been a constant presence in his life, representing also a powerful instrument to spread awareness about controversial political issues. In this regards, John Lennon’s "Imagine" exemplifies how an apparently simple and engaging song can bring about still nowadays a strong political and deep message and an encouragement to contrast the horrors and hypocrisy of the contemporary world. 

The musician then invited us to notice how many songs, and even some Ozzy Osbourne’s texts behind their dark superficial layer and punk musical themes, contain meaningful political provocations. They were horrific representations of the Vietnam war and calls for its end. Carlin has then played in several music groups, such as "The Rubinoos", the "Psycotic Pineapple" and, lastly, the "Alex Carlin Band". Since six years, he lives in Russia, travelling around the country to perform in concerts and in TV shows. Surprisingly, he affirms that in this country he feels free to express himself and he finds recognition as musician and the hospitality that he had never found in the United States. In 2009, he entered into the Guiness World Record as the musician who played the longest solo in history, 32 consecutive hours of rock songs in Radomsko, Poland.

But, coming to the main reason why Alex is here at the COP24 as part of the press, we discovered he is a blogger for the Center of Media and Democracy. He has been involved in reporting the state of the negotiations about climate change since the COP15 in Copenhagen, discovered while touring across Northern Europe with his girlfriend. Since then, he has become more and more eager to contribute in raising awareness and informing young people about the dangers of environmental shocks and the need to act as soon as possible.

In this merit, he has talked in front of thousands of teenagers gathered at the COY (Conference of the Youth) here in Katowice during the days preceding the COP, stressing in particular the need to preserve and care about our oceans, our "blue planet". According to him, most of the time oceans are neglected in the discussions about the environment and the need to remove CO2. 

Actually, oceans are important because they constitute, together with the huge rainforests such as the Amazon, the lung that purifies the air we breath constantly to survive. "Study oceans! It’s important obviously to study the soil, but study also the oceans. Thinking just about the soil isn’t enough. [...] When ocean are healthy they remove CO2 naturally and repurpose CO2 via photosynthesis into plankton. Oceans represent 20 Amazon forests. And oceans are easier to manage with a lower amount of resources." 

At the end of our talk, Alex felt the need to tell us something about MAC (Monthly Actions for Climate). "Did you ever had the impression or felt depressed because you weren’t doing enough for this world?", he asks us. "MCAs are a wonderful proposal to start acting concretely. Every month some practical goals are set to help the Planet, they are then shared on Facebook or on any social media in order to spread awareness about climate change among your contact friends", he explains. "So, every month people do the same thing until we have worldwide actions. At the end we have one billion people all doing the same thing at the same time, such as a general strike to demand something big like stopping extracting fossil fuels."

According to his opinion, this could be a way through which we can have an impact on world politics and raise our voice on environmental issues. In carrying out actions we can show how big our impact might be. The important things is to stay together and support each other. "We want to have a future. But not this ridiculous future. We need people saying: That’s what we want!"

Roberta Pisani and Marta Benigni


14/12/2018, 17:54

emissions, carbon tax, environment, climate change, cop


 The Emissions Gap Report presented by UN Environment in currently one of the most important scientific reports on climate change. An alarming fact emerges for the 2017 which has seen the greenhouse gasses emissions to reach an historical record.

The Emissions Gap Report presented by UN Environment analyzes studies on the current and future greenhouse gasses emissions and compares them with the emission levels needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The so-called "emission gap" can be defined as the difference between the "where likely we will be" and the "where we need to be" in terms of global greenhouse gasses emissions. The IX edition of this report stands with the IPCC special report. Both documents show that, now more than ever, each country is required to act urgently and immediately. The current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are far from enough to cover the emission gap before 2030. The message is clear: it’s technically possible to meet Paris’ goals, but without more ambitious NDCs, it won’t be possible to control global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The global emissions don’t seem to peak. After three years of stabilization, in 2017 the CO2 emissions raised and reached the record level of 53.5 GtCO2. This data led to evaluate the necessity of tripling the current efforts on NDCs in order to contain global warming within 2°C, while these efforts will have to raise 5 or 6 times to fix the limit to 1.5°C. Though, in case the states would demonstrate too lazy in reducing their greenhouse gasses emissions, the report evaluates that global temperature will raise up to 3°C by the end of the century. Moreover, the maximum amount of CO2 that we can emit to limit global warming to 2°C - the so-called "carbon budget", will end by 2030. Currently, the carbon budget for lowering the bar to 1.5°C is finished yet. A further reason that increased the emission gap is the worsening of the previsions about adopting innovations of the carbon removal technologies in the medium-long term.

The report is not only giving us an outline of the situation, put it also provides possible solutions to implement in order to reduce the emission gap. Firstly, states are required to strengthen their ambitions about mitigation and to raise their national policies efficiency.  Moreover, a central role could be played by fiscal policy reforms and with the introduction of the carbon tax, through which it would be possible to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels. On this matter, we already find examples in Switzerland, Sweden and Canada. One last possibility pointed out by the report as a possible key to bridge the emission gap is to accelerate technological innovation since it can deeply modify societies and consequently their emissions. 

In conclusion, the report’s authors are sending a clear message to governments: the fact that the gap is seriously big is incontrovertible. However, the chances to bridge the gap are bigger. When choices related to the climate sector have to be made, we are not allowed to take risks because it is exactly by the solutions here adopted that the future livability of the planet depends.

Tommaso Orlandi

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