Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Young activists: are they enough to save the world? Notes from the 1st Summer School of the Club of Rome



Above, an image that I think summarizes the spirit of the 1st Summer School of the Club of Rome, held this September in Florence. A lot of good will, enthusiastic young (and not so young) people, a stellar cast of speakers, in-depth discussions, and state of the art world modeling. But is it enough?


A week of full immersion in the First Summer School of the Club of Rome. Truly an experience for many reasons. One was the sheer physical fatigue of keeping track of everything. If you are one of the organizers of an event like this one, you can't even think that something could go wrong while many sessions are taking place together and people move from one place to another. I don't think that in my life it ever happened to me that I went to bed and I couldn't sleep because I was too tired. But, this time, yes, it happened.

Was it worth it? As far as I can say, yes. It was something that I would have loved to attend when I was in my 20s; it would have changed my life. Actually, my life changed anyway, as human lives tend to do. But for these young people (some young at heart) it was surely a positive experience. I was only marginally involved in assembling the school's program, but the staff of the Club of Rome did a great job in putting together a number of high level speakers and also organizing plenty of space for seminars and informal discussion. It was also a good idea to break the school in two halves, with the Sunday in between left free for the social program and for participants to relax and enjoy their time together. We offered them a chance to visit places that the ordinary tourist has no time to see. From the "Skeleton Room" of the "La Specola" science museum to the Roman Theater on the Hill of Fiesole and much more, including an "archeological dinner" where they were served the food that the ancient Etruscans ate (or that we believe they ate; the archaeology of cuisine is an iffy matter). Maybe these people won't change the world by themselves alone, but I think they will at least try. For sure, they will have a hard time; much harder than we had at their age. At least, they have been warned on what to expect.

In a series of posts on the Cassandra blog (just scroll down), you'll find descriptions and impressions of some of the talks. In this post, here are a few pictures to give you some idea of the friendly atmosphere of the Academy.


The Rector of the University of Florence, Luigi Dei, inaugurates the academy.




Ice-breaking games with the Secretary General of the Club of Rome, Graeme Maxton 




The discussion was always lively, with plenty of questions and comments during and after the talks. Here, the participants are crowding to ask question to Chandran Nair.




Testing state of the art world models in an interactive session. With Ilaria Perissi (red shirt) and Jordi Solé (standing with gray shirt)




Some participants Trying a "lampredotto" (organ meat) sandwich, a traditional Florentine food.



The skeleton room of the La Specola Museum, with curator Gianna Innocenti.




Visiting the Wax Room of the Specola museum. These ancient wax pieces had an important role in the progress of anatomy a few centuries ago. Now they are mainly a curiosity, but they have historical value and they are surely impressive. 



Some of the participants explore the ruins of the ancient Roman Theater of Fiesole



The Etruscan dinner: it included some plain food such as eggs, that seem to have been an Etruscan favorite dish, to reconstructions of the ancient "garum" fish sauce and something called "scottiglia", which is a curious mix of meat and strange sauces that (maybe) the Etruscans would eat.



And, finally, the traditional group photo in front of the university building of Via Capponi, in Florence

2 comments:

  1. >Young activists: are they enough to save the world?

    Young environmental activism has been around at least since 1970s. Those who were young activists then have surrendered to various extents to the way things are.

    I remember that environmentalism was very much "in" in the 1980s (German Gruenen, for example), but things have not improved a bit since then, even though the "young activists" of yore are in higher management by now.

    Is it not a bit late, say 30-40 years too late, to wonder whether young activism will be enough?

    Of course will it not be.

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  2. As some astute observers have rightly pointed out, until environmental activists are willing to make the changes in their own lives that they are asking the general populace to make, they will be viewed as hypocrites and their cause will fail. A couple of examples: Al Gore and his wife (2 people) living in a mansion (thousands of square meters) in Tennessee running their air-conditioning 24/7. Or hundreds of climate scientists hopping on airplanes and flying halfway around the planet to attend some conference. I would venture that if they were limited to surface transportation such as traveling overland by rail for a week to get from London to Beijing, maybe they wouldn't think that conference was so essential to attend after all. Just saying.

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" to be published by Springer in mid 2017