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Young Alps

Moritz Schwarz (centre) and Isabella Hilber present the Youth Parliament’s resolution to Austria’s Minister of the Environment Nikolaus Berlakovich. © Caroline Begle/CIPRA International

Everyone’s talking about the future. But usually without involving those to whom it actually belongs. CIPRA supports young people in articulating their hopes and demands.
The young people are disappointed – not a single minister will be present to see the play they are performing as part of AlpWeek 2012 in Poschiavo, Switzerland. The official explanation is that they will all be at dinner. The attempt to present a ten-point resolution on behalf of the Youth Parliament of the Alpine Convention (YPAC) at the Conference of Ministers on Friday has already been foiled in advance.
“Pseudo-participation!” That is the response of Luzia Felder (23) from Entlebuch in Switzerland, who was intending to perform the play with her friends so as to communicate their ideas to policy makers on this year’s AlpWeek theme, namely Renewable Alps. Isabella Hilber (16) and Moritz Schwarz (20), two Austrian members of YPAC, are worried that the politicians think young people should be seen and not heard. But they have travelled to Poschiavo to lend young people a voice for the first time ever in the history of AlpWeek. One hundred and twenty young adults have come from various countries and projects to hold discussions, create and perform sketches, make films and even hold a concert with their own youth orchestra. This is young@lpweek – sponsored by CIPRA and the Alpine Town of the Year Association.

Federal Councillor at the info stand
Two storeys of a building behind the Church of San Vittore house a market place with information stands representing various projects and groups. Luzia and her friends are presenting the activities of My Clime-mate, a youth project set up by the Alliance in the Alps network of municipalities, in which they participated over the previous year. The results include such practical things as spelt pasta made with local eggs and without the use of any electrical appliances. Only a few visitors find their way to their stand tucked away in a corner on the second floor. Most of them congregate in the foyer, where the Swiss Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard appears in the afternoon and is soon surrounded by half a dozen people, mainly journalists. Luzia who, like all the young people, is wearing a blue T-shirt with the slogan “I’m an Alpine Transformer – and you?”, refuses to be discouraged. Together with her friend Andrea Müller, she blocks the politician’s path and invites her to visit their stand. And the Federal Councillor accepts! Luzia is very pleased, and her mood visibly improves. “She is approachable and likeable,” she says. “And of course she knows that it is good PR to be seen with young people!”
Isabella and Moritz are also into power lobbying. They identify the head of the Austrian delegation and manage to organise a meeting with Nikolaus Berlakovich, the Austrian Minister of the Environment. That actually enables them to present the Youth Parliament’s resolution after all, and they go through it item by item, from YPAC’s call for a tax on the excessive consumption of energy and the introduction of a Green Week to car-free Sundays.
In the evening, the Ministers are having dinner in the Sala delle Sibille in the historic Hotel Albrici on the main square. Together with the other guests, Bruno Stephan Walder, Executive Director of CIPRA International, is present in the adjoining room in his capacity as representative of the observer organisation. He has something up his sleeve. The door to the room reserved for the ministers opens, and their Swiss host Doris Leuthard goes to the window to see where the music is coming from. This is the moment for the agreed signal to the young people to start performing their sketches. The ministers are soon on the balcony. The youngsters are ready for them on the square in front of the church – with a very pertinent sketch. A politician is asked a question by some young people but his response is, literally, “Blah, blah, blah.” But then another politician gives some straight answers, and the young people respond with one loud voice: “That’s the kind of politician we want!” The audience applauds. The youngsters had rehearsed under the guidance of an actress and with the support of CIPRA. The theatre group comprises sixth-formers from Poschiavo, the Clime-mates from Entlebuch and young people from the Aqua Mühle jobless project in Vorarlberg, Austria.

Young people getting together
What is equally important for the young participants is the opportunity to meet other members of their age group who are also interested in the environment in which they live. “We got our programme together in just one day!” says a delighted Alexander Djordewitsch, a 17-year-old in rapper dress, who made his hobby one of the inputs. Isabella Hilber is impressed by the commitment of the young people in the Aqua Mühle group: “I never realised how privileged I am and what opportunities I have as a grammar-school pupil.”
With their blue Transformer T-shirts, the young people draw attention to AlpWeek in every last corner of Poschiavo. The concluding plenary session opens with their video clips on the subject of Renewable Alps, the motto of this year’s event. The youngsters have also designed a complete page of the local newspaper “Il Grigione Italiano”.
The young AlpWeek participants have learnt their media skills in a variety of workshops run by experts throughout the week. “The objective is to give them the tools they need to express themselves,” says Tanja Mähr, CIPRA’s project manager for young@lpweek. “We also want to encourage other organisations to increase their level of youth involvement.” The goal has been achieved – all the speakers in the closing session praise the young people and the valuable contributions they have made to AlpWeek.
But it was young@lpweek itself that had the final word, and a lively one it was too – in the form of a joint concert given by two orchestras, both from Alpine Towns of the Year, namely the Tétras Lyre Orchestra from Chambéry in France and the Miners’ Brass Band from Idrija in Slovenia. What is so special about the Tétras Lyre Orchestra is the fact that the musicians are mentally handicapped. Most of them play the recorder; hardly any can read music. They learnt the pieces on the programme off by heart, from George Bizet’s “Habanera” to Queen’s “Greatest Hits”. And they only had one day to rehearse. Clémence Joueau, the only violinist in the French orchestra, said afterwards, “Plein de joie de vivre” – pure joy in life! And Luiza Felder, Andrea Müller, Moritz Schwarz and Isabella Hilber – finally reconciled with AlpWeek – conclude: “We have seen that we can achieve something!”

Tilman Wörtz
Zeitenspiegel Reportagen

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Source: Annual Report 2012 CIPRA International
www.cipra.org/en/CIPRA/cipra-international