blue buck participants provide inspiration for (young) environmentalists

Submitted by sproutscout on Wed, 2011-08-17 10:10

Following the write-up of themes arising out of the BlueBuck Network Youth Summit, I thought I'd let you know about the young participants involved in the summit and the innovative organisations represented. Some have already been covered in the green youth, my post for youth day, and this post is an interesting addition that will hopefully be useful for any aspiring [young] environmentalists.

About The Bluebuck Network

Recently formed, the BlueBuck Network provides critical links between environmental youth groups around Southern Africa. The idea was initiated by students from Rhodes University societies, the South East African Climate Consortium Student Forum (SEACC SF) and Galela Amanzi, UCT's Green Campus Initiative (GCI) and Stellenbosch's EcoMaties Society, who realised the need for a linking body between young environmentalists.

The network is named after a small cape antelope, which was one of the first large mammals to become extinct in South Africa. The Bluebuck network, then, is a voice for the voiceless environment, and that which has already been lost. Perhaps the animal can live on through this network as a symbol to spur on the environmentally active youth!

The summit saw the increase of the network to include University Societies from NMMU, Walter Sisulu University, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Durban University of Technology (DUT), University of Swaziland, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the University of Fort Hare, as well as youth representing independent environmental projects throughout the country.

Cool Green Initiatives

Trash Back (Uphinda Phindo) is a youth run waste management solution that encourages recycling in Hout Bay. Based loosely on the 'swop shop' model, the co-op encourages people to bring recyclables to a recycling centre by offering rewards such as food and clothing hampers, airtime, travel vouchers, stationary or books in return. They have partnered with Green living Cape Town and the Hout Bay recycling Co-op to ensure the project is sustainable. Look out for the launch of the project on the 20th of August if you’re in the area.

Nick and Andrew presenting on Trash BackNick and Andrew presenting on Trash Back

Simone Carolissen spoke about the Project 90x2030 Youth Forum. This forum will co-ordinate a meeting between young environmentalists and key South African negotiators who will play a role in the COP 17 talks in Durban later this year. About twenty young environmentalists from around the country will represent the youth’s view on environmental issues, from the 22nd to the 25th of August. Watch this space for the interesting solutions and ideas that this group puts together.

Galela Amanzi (Pour the Water)Galela Amanzi (Pour the Water)

Galela Amanzi, a Rhodes Student project, demonstrated the manner in which Rhodes students are getting active about communities who are environmentally vulnerable. The society sets up water tanks in schools and community centres in the area of Grahamstown that do not have access to water. This society demonstrates how youth are already active around one of the key themes of the Summit: environmentalism in Africa needs to recognise and address the social issues facing Africa.

One of the most animated and lively presentations of the Summit was given by Ella Bella of Generation Earth. This network is a UNEP endorsed entity created by the youth to connect and create eco-clubs at schools. It hopes to create “schools environmental councils that are ‘cool’”, that make young people aspire to become “Earth keepers”, and transform the way the youth view environmentalism.

Campus Greening

There were various presentations on the manner in which students from each of the universities are encouraging campuses to become more eco-friendly.

GCIGCIMost common strategies are creating University endorsed green awards for student groups, residences and departments, setting up recycling systems in residences and departments, hosting green events, organising ‘green weeks’ and partnering with administrative staff and academics to initiate environmental projects. One of the valuable points made by SEACC SF’s Olek Kamenski during his presentation was “don’t necessarily follow what you see overseas.” The youth of Africa clearly need to find their own mechanisms to solve environmental problems.

Stellenbosch’s EcoMaties Society host an interesting event: Park[ing] day; where people transform parking lots into temporary public spaces. The Park[ing] day movement was started in 2005 in San Fransisco where “citizens, artists and activists [collaborated] to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places”. Park[ing] day is the 16th of September each year, perhaps this year more youth and urban sprouters will come on board. EcoMaties also hosts a crop mob, where they work on local organic farms, adding extra hands and learning a few handy green tips as they go.

Richard Parker from UCT's GCI wearing the Green 'Police' OverallsRichard Parker from UCT's GCI wearing the Green 'Police' OverallsUCT’s green Campus Initiative have started a Ridelink project, an online platform to co-ordinate lift sharing between students of UCT. They also don green jumpsuits as the Campus Green ‘Police’, encouraging students to start changing their lifestyles and visibly demonstrating how GCI members are changing theirs. NMMU students were so inspired by the action taken through Cape Town’s GCI that they’ve adopted the structure for their University, adding their own quirky touches such as hosting a ‘Barefoot Friday’ for the campus.

The University of Swaziland’s tongue in cheek presentation related how excited Swazilanders are as they await the promised ocean that climate change will bring, before turning to more serious action topics. The University formed the Geography and Environmental Planning Society (UNIGEPS) in 2004 to discuss and exchange sustainable solutions for environmental problems with scientists, researchers, policy makers, environmentalist and all geographers world-wide. Both the University of Swaziland and Rhodes University have United Nations University established Regional Centre of Expertise on their doorsteps. These centres are hubs of local and regional environmental information, innovation and solutions. This demonstrates the great potential that university students have to exploit the academic resources their institutions for their own environmental projects. Days of action and campus greening initiatives are great, but coupled with the use of academic resources; university environmentalists can have a serious impact.

SEACC SF's SEA PledgeSEACC SF's SEA PledgeSEACC SF harnesses this academic clout for their Green Coega campaign, which is aimed at investigating an alternate industrial development model for the Coega Industrial Development Zone near Port Elizabeth. It has brought together students and leading academics from Rhodes University who hope to develop a substantial practical plan, which they can present as an alternative to the current industrial strategy.

With already successful solutions in tow, this network promises to be an effective platform for co-coordinating youth environmentalism. There are many resources already shared on the Bluebuck Network website that provide information about drawing up constitutions for environmental societies, hosting green expo’s, drawing up awareness posters and most other things an environmental group would need to know. Definitely worth a look for any [young] environmentalists out there.