With the SPARK consortium (the group of 20 European NGOs with whom we have been working for over three years now), a few months ago we met for the annual coordination meeting in Bologna, and it was on that occasion that the idea of bringing together young climate activists from all over Europe and beyond, also involving many young people from the countries of the Global South, was born. 

That’s when the Ticket To The Future activity was born, which has just ended, in which 140 people including staff from organisations and young people travelled by train to Barcelona, where the Fixing To The Future Festival was held.  The purpose of this trip was the ‘slow’ time together in which we recreated a real situation of a meeting between people working to combat the climate crisis and, then specifically, between young people with different experiences, backgrounds, and approaches, building a space for dialogue, exchange, growth. Sharing what we can improve through various skills and attitudes. 

So we split into two different groups, a larger one which met on 10 October evening in Paris, and a smaller group, which left from Madrid. For the day of the 11th, we reserved whole carriages for the Paris-Barcelona and Madrid-Barcelona routes where workshops and social and media activities took place during the hours of travel.

Once we arrived in Barcelona, we attended three days of the Festival that presented the best 25 projects selected from around the world, including our Ticket To The Future with young people:

“Over three packed days, Fixing the Future will bring together the best 25 future-shaping projects from across the world – from adapting AI technologies to farming innovation to drought mitigation to creative recycling. Meet the change-makers over a range of panel discussions, debates, workshops and performances.”

Global South activists spoke on the programme and then there was the climate justice section in which we also actively participated as ICN. 

But now… I leave the floor to Adele and Silvio for a closer account of this intense adventure of activism, confrontation, and growth for all of us!

The voice of Adele Zaini

“Hello dear, I have an indecent proposal for you!” This is how my participation in the SPARK project initiative began. After a quick introduction by Marirosa, I got on the train from Paris to Barcelona with questions and uncertainties about the contribution I could bring to the theme of climate justice, but also charged, very charged, with an enthusiasm amplified by the awareness of having so much to learn and discover from experiences so different from my own.

On the Ticket To The Future train, I had the opportunity to hear the stories of activists Anita and Nakabuye from Kenya and Uganda and Isaa from Niger. There, in that moment I realised the gulf that exists between being aware of a problem and listening to the words and looking into the eyes of the people who suffer it every day of their lives, for whom it is the reality of their lives; the impacts of the climate crisis on Anita’s community, the forms of neo-colonialism in Uganda, the total and violent repression of the right to protest by Isaa. But also, and most importantly, they communicated to me their unstoppable conviction and strength in being able to truly change these situations, each in their own form of action: taking part in politics, leading international activist comrades, founding organisations to counter the climate and social impacts of these crises.

I arrived in Barcelona disoriented by the unexpected emotions I was experiencing, but also charged by the fire of justice I felt. What I had just experienced hearing their voices, and looking into their eyes, is fundamental because we too from Global North are personally shaken and affected, because it is not data that will move people and institutions (which are made up of people…), but emotions. This is the only way to help solve the situations for which we are historically responsible becomes a priority. We must give them space and act as part of a global population, because, like CO2, solutions cannot see borders.

Over the next few days, I attended numerous lectures, talks and workshops at the Fixing the Future Festival. Over the years, I have become increasingly sceptical about the actual effectiveness and substance of these festivals, but this one impressed me. It didn’t stop at the words of the lectures by experts and pundits, but gravitated towards the sharing of 25 concrete initiatives that are already designing change. From Force of Nature with its climate cafés to engage young people in action and the repair cafés that repair damaged objects, to JESAC regenerating African ecosystems by empowering young people and women in Niger and Burkina Faso and ‘the guardians of the planet’, Quechua women restoring life to sacred lakes in the Andes.  All projects that do not appear in the mainstream media, but that exist, live and are revolutionising our systems and societies from within. They may not be enough – as many might criticise – but they are vitally essential. And they work. Because they create communities to co-create change together. People are actively involved in this movement, and it is they who personally care about making an impact. A festival, then, of many few empty words, but of many emotions and empowerment of every single person. Because if all those projects exist, it is because of the initiative of individuals and individuals. Exactly like each and every one of us (including you!).

It is difficult to include all the other reflections here, but what I feel is that in these days the seeds of an intense and living network of people inflamed by the fight for life have been sown. I return home with the knowledge that my way of acting, the activist part of me, will change, enriched by experiences and new perspectives, and with the conviction that climate activism is also made up of small daily successes, because just as the climate crisis is complex, so too must solutions embrace all scales of action. To sum up, I borrow the words of Paul McCartney: ‘think global, act local’. Not just a slogan, but the key to revolution.

The voice of Silvio Mottolese

My country is located in the province of Taranto. In that area there are big polluters – first and foremost Arcelor Mittal (formerly Ilva) – who have moulded our mentality towards environmental and climate issues. People don’t think they can really counteract the situation because these companies are giants: too big and too powerful, too entrenched in society, the economy and the local imagination.

During the Ticket to the Future project and the Fixing the Future festival, I listened to the stories of many people and those stories echoed, somehow, the echo of my country. I touched on the global aspect of the fight for climate justice and came face to face with the real scale of the situation and the urgency for solutions. What we were doing there was necessary: clamouring for climate justice with the Loss & Damage campaign and working together to find new possible solutions. Despite the hundreds of different stories, backgrounds, and points of view, we were all there. Everyone there was one voice. My concern for my land became a single, tiny chapter in a much bigger story.

From my point of view, the Ticket to the Future project can be thought of as a way to reduce the externalisation of all those problems related to the impact of climate change on the so-called ‘Global South’. Listening to people who have witnessed those disasters first-hand means to triggers a spark of critical consciousness in the minds of us guys from the ‘Global North’, which opens the door to choosing an active repositioning in global power dynamics. We do not want to take part in these injustices!

I, for example, was struck by the story of Jakob, a guy from Latvia who is a filmmaker and photographer (and doom-death metal musician!). Jakob went to a rural area of Tanzania inhabited by the Maasai, an area that was disastrously dry because it hadn’t rained for four years. He showed me some chilling scenes from his documentary ‘Water is Life’: completely dry river beds, bridges now useless because there is no water underneath, and many rotting animal carcasses, dead from drought. All this is in stark contrast to the common image one has of Africa as a kind of ecological paradise of biodiversity. All this is real. Jakob’s story has a happy ending because two days after he and his crew left, a big rain fell in the area and the dry river I had seen in the pictures was full and alive again. In any case, being face to face with such a tragic testimony makes me wonder how much to consider this ending ‘happy’ is not hypocritical for a guy from the ‘Global North’. I have the power to live these realities as stories, distant stories that may have an ending, a moral, a meaning, but for the people who live them, they are all everyday life, raw, brutal and meaningless.

Participating in the Ticket to the Future project gave me a strong boost, a confidence that despite all these real difficulties, something can always be done. The conferences, the workshops, the innovative projects, the beautiful friendships… all this buzz was really vital for me. There are so many real examples of people who have done and are doing something to counter the climate crisis and that is why I appreciated the approach of the festival; it was not so much focused on the climate crisis itself, but rather on SOLUTIONS to the crisis. A constructive approach that goes beyond the crisis itself.

I don’t know how much the upper echelons of decision-makers really consider the efforts of all these people, of us, but I now know that raising our voices is our responsibility. We must free our minds from power dynamics and keep the possibility of change open.

Introduction by Marirosa Iannelli, Italian Climate Network Climate and Advocacy Coordinator with contributions by Adele Zaini and Silvio Mottolese

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