We have spent the last 6 months exploring Cuban youth’s relationship to the environment. Everything from how they relate to climate change debates to how they see their own community and neighborhood in terms of its environmental friendliness. So what did we find out?
One of the most salient observations is that young people with a strong commitment to the environment have one common denominator: they each have their own personal, as if customized, relationship to nature.
It might sound silly, but by spending time in nature and learning to appreciate its value, they no longer needed to lecture themselves about protecting the environment – they just did it. It became an instinct, a moral duty.
Seeing this we have turned to each other and asked ourselves: how do we create moments and spaces where young people can build their own private relationship with the environment?
During our research workshops, we found that people had their ‘aha’moments and clicked with the ‘Why am I here?’on the final day of workshop – the day of the treasure hunt. On this day we sent teams of young people on winding courses across nature, including: a permaculture farm in Havana, an environmental project in Santa Clara, and a remote beach in Santiago.
The clues cleverly challenged them to see just how much they knew about their local ecosystems. More importantly the game brought individuals to rediscover their surroundings like a child would. When we sat together afterwards to talk about the experience, individuals would take turns sharing their little ‘aha’ moments, some revelations more pronounced than others.
One comment that echoed across many people’s experience was the idea that ‘in order to defend something, you need to feel it’. “Brilliant!” we thought. So then, how do we create more opportunities for young people to ‘feel’ the beauty and power of nature?
Following our workshop series in Havana, one of our participants (who also happens to be an incredible artist) decided to launch a series titled ‘Illness of the Young Weather’. Roberto is committed to creating an exposition of 13 paintings to make people ‘feel’ climate change and address the problematic consequences of young people being disengaged from the environment.
The first piece of his series (showcased here) is titled: ‘Putting a good face to the weather’. It reflects his observation that Cubans often simply ‘put a good face on’ despite the growing number of tragic and fatal phenomena caused by climate change.
Side note: He needs $500 to buy material to produce the 13 panting of this series. If you are interested in supporting Roberto’s work, or know someone who might be – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All this to say that: Cuba cannot afford for its future generation to be unplugged and uninterested in protecting its environment. If treasure hunts, and child-like rediscovery of nature is what it takes then let’s hop on the creative engagement train. The climate change debates may be intimidating but that doesn’t mean some of the solutions can’t be simple.