Students on Fair Ideas and the future they want

What did university students who attended Fair Ideas think of the conference and of sustainable development?

Guest blog by
10 July 2012

Among the experts and practitioners attending Fair Ideas, a group of highly-engaged students discussed the future of our generation, questioned speakers, filmed short video interviews and brainstormed on what’s next for sustainable development. This group, selected from diverse academic disciplines from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC) and Yale, put Fair Ideas through the “Student-Laugh-Test”. While it wasn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute, we did draw a series of conclusions from our discussions, which were also reflected in many of the conference sessions.

What's the next step towards sustainable development?

While we were enthused to see how local knowledge and community cooperation can drive sustainable development, we thought widespread action needs international cooperation and better connection with small-holders. Similarly, while business can create the launching pad for sustainable practices, this must be taken forward in cooperation with local constituencies, national governments and international decision-makers. While the environment has been dangerously neglected and must be protected, it is people and people’s livelihoods that must be at the heart of sustainable development. And while change must be global and all encompassing, action at the individual level is a starting point.

Here are some individual student perspectives on the event and sustainable development.

Mariana Brunelli, 32, MSc in Management, and Researcher on Sustainable Entrepreneurship, PUC

To me, the main messages from the discussions held at Fair Ideas were that we don’t have more time to discuss concepts; all the scientific information we have shows us that it is time for action. Changes will only happen with a huge alliance and deep collaboration between civil society, government and the business sector. Besides, we don’t need to be afraid of economics and we know that markets are social constructs; that they can and should be governed. But politicians will act only in response to great popular pressure.

Mariana Carvalho, 23, Environmental Law, PUC

I felt inspired after learning at Fair Ideas about local examples with sustainable and social impacts such as the REDD+ Amazon initiative, or the social entrepreneurs of Bangladesh. There, people are making local efforts despite a lack of government financial support or lack of regulation of their activities. Yet, I felt disappointed to hear some panelists talk about environmental development without stressing the need to include social aspects.

Thiago Carnavale, 27, Civil Engineering, PUC

Sustainable development in the Amazon has many different parameters. This weekend, I learned how some businesses work with indigenous people without causing danger to their way of life, respecting their culture and bringing sustainable development to the indigenous community. However, challenges remain given the cultural differences, and wrong economic growth can dramatically change the indigenous peoples’ way of life.

Alexandr Zhemchuzhnikov, 26, Civil Engineering, PUC

The models of the western world cannot be applied everywhere. While developed countries are facing a challenge of overcoming the problems caused by the existing system, traditional knowledge can give us solutions to local problems. But, unfortunately, it is being substituted by the values of the western world imposed by massive propaganda. This process must be reversed, the educational system and mass media must be transformed in order to shape a new paradigm and raise awareness of current ecological situation. Cultural diversity must be respected.

Ana Buarque Ferreira, 38, Urban Environmental Engineering, PUC

At Fair Ideas, someone mentioned the beautiful African proverb ‘I am because we are’. Successful sustainable development is all about connection. Connecting people to each other; (re)-connecting people to nature. Connecting environmental and social issues and knowledge to decisions, policy makers to scientists and civil society. Connecting who has, to who needs. Connecting ideas and best practices. Connecting people for a better future, our common Future, the future we want.

Ricarda Hammer is a consultant with IIED, focusing on Green Economy, and an incoming Sociology PhD student at Brown University. 

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