The Youth Encounter on Sustainability (YES) programme was held from January 25 to February 07, 2014 at Interlaken, an alpine town in the middle of snow-capped peaks, and at Zurich, the world's top scientific and economic hubs, in Switzerland. Myclimate, a Switzerland based organisation, working towards a low-carbon sustainable society through implementing voluntary carbon offsetting measures around the world, provides a comprehensive range of sustainability consulting services to its local and international clients and organises climate education projects in different partner countries to educate and raise awareness about climate change and climate protection among people it hosted this two week long interactive course programme. The programme was aimed to introduce sustainable systems, practices and tools among 34 participants from diverse academic and professional disciplines of 25 countries.
The first week's programme at Interlaken started with introducing sustainability challenges of local and global levels and discussed possible solutions to these challenges engaging the participants in the discussion. The other topics included issues and challenges of land use through presenting case studies from Switzerland, Costa Rica, Congo, Zimbabwe and Germany from tourism impacts; smart energy systems focusing on different types of technologies for energy production, buildings and mobility; infrastructure challenges towards energy production; the economic, ecological and structural challenges of Alpine agriculture and the impacts of mining on communities, ecosystems and physical systems following presentations on the impacts of gold mining in Indonesia and Greece, coal mining in Colombia and oil production impacts in the United Arab Emirates. The participants, divided into several groups, developed and presented innovative business ideas for sustainable energy systems such as energy saving model through car sharing, sustainable energy production from organic manures and human waste, set-up of portable solar energy stations, energy efficiency consultancy, etc. The best part was to explore the scientific research station at the top of Europe (Jungfraujoch) involved with climate change and air quality monitoring.
The second week's programme in Zurich was full of lectures, excursions, case studies, workshop and participant's presentation. The lecture on the challenges of the global food system presented by the Director of the World Food Systems Centre, ETH Zurich, provided a clear overview of food production and distribution, nutrition and health, the present approaches and their intended or unintended systemic consequences. The spatial and urban planning session focused on the risks and opportunities of urban development, especially in China and Vietnam. The guided tour in Zurich created an impression among participants on how sustainable urban planning is being implemented in Switzerland.
There was a visit to Technopark, the best location for technology transfer in Switzerland and a key point of contact for innovative start-ups looking to transform knowledge into marketable products and services. Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, conducts cutting-edge materials and technology research; Eawag, the world-leading aquatic research institute, provides the basis for innovative approaches and technologies in the water sector; Migros, a cooperative organization and Switzerland's largest retail company, involved with sustainable business operation from production process to selling of products. All of this was an opportunity for the participants to get practical experience about Swiss innovation and sustainability in the field of science, technology and business.
The diversity night, ice-skating, sledging in the Swiss Alps and creative art session are also memorable occasions. The programme ended with the discussion between climate experts and participants to find out sustainable ways and the challenges involved in the movement towards a post carbon society that we dream of.
The writer was a representative of Bangladesh in the YES course programme and is currently pursuing a Masters in Environmental Science at the University of Stockholm, Sweden Email: [email protected]