How is your history or philosophy class related to sustainable development?

Over 2500 years ago, the philosopher Plato complained that humans had disturbed the hills in Greece. What would he say today?

It is well known that in order to understand our world today we have to look back in time and observe the collection of events that lead to the current landscape of the world. A question that intrigues us at the YMP is: How was humanity able to create the big sustainability challenges that we face today?

It seems that since long ago some people were able to observe and express detrimental causes of certain human activities. But it also seems that people have not been able to listen or do things differently. Why? Very likely people are not always prepared to listen, people not always understand the importance of an observation or fact. In some cases, there is something limiting us to do something. It can be our societal context. The aim of education for sustainable development is to equip us with tools and skills that help us listen, understand, and act. At the YMP we focus on helping youth find out by themselves what is needed and what it takes to make things happen.

A short story of the connection between society and nature, the subtle disregard to a keen observation, and its consequences reflected today 

All organisms have an effect on their environment. As a species, humans have had a large and widespread impact on the natural environment. Environmental disturbance by humans is nothing new. Over 2500 years ago, the famous philosopher Plato complained that humans had disturbed the hills in Greece. The forests had been chopped down and when it rained the soil was washed away by rainwater, which drained into the rivers. It became very difficult to grow things in the ground. What is new is the rapid increase of impacts as population grows and the accumulated effects.

Humans have changed the environment to suit our “improved” lifestyles. While adapting nature to our needs, we have damaged our natural environment in many different ways. Of course our ancestors did not mean to damage their surroundings and we did not know about many of the problems we have been causing until a few decades ago.

Today we know more! And we are aware of the resulting challenges we are facing. Namely climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, the steep transition to low-carbon energy sources, socio-economic inequalities including poverty, lack of health care, and issues of human rights among other challenges.

What is the next step?

Keep reading about sustainable development challenges on the YMP Programme.

Can you find an example from your history lessons in which a single event had detrimental social and environmental effects? Share here

Join a smarter world and discover what YOUth are doing about it.

In the YMP youth learn and discuss globally about sustainable development, and they create local solutions.

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Youth making change. Engaging organisations and people in a sustainability project_vermicomposting

It is surprising that worms, being so small, can transform organic waste and have a huge positive impact in the environment. The amount of money that one can benefit from using those worms can be about millions in a year in Turkish Lira…” Utku, Hande, Cagla, Burgra, and Dicle

The above is what 5 students (16-18 years old) in Istanbul, Turkey found with their YMP project. They created an organic waste collection system based on vermicomposting.  They managed to engage two local municipalities, 5 schools, local markets, and other organisations. Read about the project here.

Below is their interview with the YMP Team. They told us how the project started, about reaching people, and the change they are making!

YMP Team “Hello, I am sitting at the YMP. I am Paola Mendoza. 

Q. Can you tell us your names?

Hello, I am Bugra, I am Utku, I am Hande, and I am Cagla.”

YMP Team  “Just Dicle is missing. But, Thank you for being here.”

Q. What is the name of your project?

“Using vermicompost to recycle organic waste in Turkey”

Q. Tell us about your project. How did you get started?

Bugra – We went first to Meltepé Municipality to get in contact with the people there and talked with them about using vermicoposting in the area of the municipality. With this we could identify more people who would like to do the vermicomposting.

We also went to the organic bazaar, because we wanted to learn about people´s reaction, and also if they knew about vermicomposting or not. We found that there are not a lot of people who know about vermicomposting. So we started to introduce our project,  vermicomposting, because we wanted to teach people about it.

Utku – “They didn´t have a lot of information about vermicomposting, they started to get some information from us. The municipality assigned an area for vermicompositing, and we helped them to improve this area. We gave them some worms that we obtained from a vermicompost company. The municipality keeps promoting this. They are also helping us to contact people.“

So, the first step was education, the second step was applying vermicomposting.

Q. How was it to contact people? Were they open to listen? Was it easy to get them interested (engage them) in your project?

Hande – “It was not easy(laughter)

YMP Team – “Tell us about it!

Utku –Ah, actually, there are a lot of people who don´t like worms. When we showed them the worms they started shouting”.


Q. And the Municipalities?

Bugra –  “The Municipality was engaged. They realised that they could get a lot of advantage, like the money, they can save a lot of money by recycling organic waste. Today, they have to use some trucks to collect the organic waste, if every household used vermicomposting, the Municipality would’t need to collect these waste. So expenses would decrease.”

Q. Here in your report you I see that you are continuing. You continue having informative presentations. With who are you having these?

Bugra- “In our neighbourhoods. Each of our group members presents the project to their neighbours or organisations around where they live.”

YMP Team-Its fantastic. Making the time and the space to work with people around shows leadership. Also the fact that you are reaching people of different ages is wonderful. That is actually a key aspect in attaining more sustainable societies.”

Q. So, how do you think that your project contributed in making a change toward sustainable development? Or did it? Has there been change?

Bugra – “Well, since we were able to reach two Municipalities, Kartal and Meltepé, with a total of 800 inhabitants, we believe that we made a real change in those districts. To be honest it is not a big deal since it is not nationally implemented. However, we have just received news from Kartal Municipality that they will start vermicomposting. So we believe that our project is in a small area, but affects the whole nation. Therefore, we can consider it as a real change. Also since this area is expanding everyday. We are really happy to see the news from Kartal Municipality, which is very far from Istanbul. So, we think that we have made a real change. Or a move to a real change.”

YMP Team – “Yes, we think so too. You reached and engaged so many people.”


To get a better idea about the project read the report in the YMP News.

This is just an example of what Youth can do!

Do you feel inspired? Do you want to learn more about Sustainable development and make a change in the world?  Join a Smarter World! Join the YMP for free.

In our next post at the YMP blog: A conversation with Belgin Arusoglu, the teacher behind this project, the one leading these students. Belgin is currently teaching at high school level at School Ozel Fen Bilimleri Anadolu Lisesi. Istanbul, Turkey. She will tell us why she is in the YMP and what it has brought to her.