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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Do you wonder what bioenergy is all about?

“Bioenergy is booming around the world and with the expansion comes exciting opportunities and some disturbing risks. Learning about bioenergy – from technologies, to resources, to policies – is important to the success and sustainability of the advanced bioeconomy.” Kes McCormick and Karin Willquist

What is bionergy all about? Can we create a more sustainable planet with it? Find out what  bioenergy is and get some ideas on its sustainability in It´s the bioeconomy, stupid! an interactive introductory book to the world of bioenergy (access it for free!) You will also find out why the “stupid” in the title!

This e-book is an interactive guide for school students (16-18) and teachers, which opens the door to understand and engage in the transition from the fossil-based economy to a bio-based economy. Through research based content, maps, pictures, charts, graphs, cartoons, news, discussions, experiments, and activities this book takes you through an easy and interesting learning journey.

Find in it experiences with bioenergy in different countries, including Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Australia, China, USA, and Ethiopia.

The authors Kes McCormick and Karin Willquist are researchers at Lund University, Sweden. For those in the YMP, Kes McCormick is a close YMP collaborator and author of the Energy sections in the course material. Find more about the authors in the e-book!

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5 tips to engage yourself in meaningful conversations


Last week I wrote about making the connection between topics that you learn and your daily life, and using that as a conversation topic. Such practice can make any learning received long lasting. Have you tried it?

Today I have 5 tips to engage in richer spoken or written conversations. You can apply these in the YMP and in any other learning context, or social network structure.

1)   DARE to communicate. Dare to be the first one saying something or posting an idea, comment or question. Rich conversations will not just come to you. Someone has to break the ice, to start the conversation. Either you wait, and may wait forever, or you can take the initiative.

Once a Chinese student explained to me that he did not comment on the YMP site because he was afraid of being wrong. He is a great student, but had an unconfident approach! In the worst case your ideas may not fit the conversation if you do not listen or read carefully. Ideas are just ideas, some are useful, some are incomplete, some show a totally different approach, some are out of context, and others are just bad ideas. So what? You are learning! But, how could you know if you don’t dare to share what you think? The person listening will likely tell you with her/his response. We do not need to be right all the time, unless you are writing answers on an exam!  We gain a sense of what can be more adequate or reasonable through engaging in richer conversations.

2)   ASK! Ask for clarification, for examples, for suggestions, ask why, why not. Use all the other “wh” questions (who, what, where, which, when, how).  The key to asking is involvement and curiosity.  Listening and reading carefully will likely result in questions. Many times there is a deeper message behind what people write and say. Sometimes people´s ideas are unclear, or do not make sense to you. You notice that when you pay attention. That gives you opportunity to ask.

3)   MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE MESSAGE. Sometimes we think we understand what someone else wrote or said, but we don´t.  Because we are using our own expectations, beliefs, and our own understanding of the world instead of seeing things through the other person’s perspective and context. A word may mean something different to two different people, even if they share the same culture and background. Always ask what the other means with any specific word if the message is unclear.

It is helpful to confirm whether you understood correctly. For example, ask- “are you saying that … ?” This will also help the other person clarify her/his message and a richer conversation can begin!

4)   GO BEYOND “JUDGING”. There is no conversation invite in comments such as “good work”, “it is not clear”, “there´s lack of effort”. Go beyond; explain why you think that a comment, or assignment if you are in the YMP, is good or poor, in your opinion. Be specific on what is not clear to you, why you think there was no effort.  Identifying strengths and weaknesses, and being able to elaborate on them are valuable skills to develop. Take it even further and suggest how to improve. That is very constructive and trains your creativity!

5)   FOCUS ON THE IDEA NOT ON THE PERSON. There is a distinction between the message and the messenger. Different ideas and comments (messages) help us see different angles of a subject. By focusing on the message and commenting on it we can better understand the suggested angle. Whereas, focusing on the person (messenger) puts the idea in second place and distracts us. So you can tell someone “what you said does not apply to the problem because of … have you thought about … ?” instead of  “you are wrong”. Do you see the difference? The first suggestion focuses on the message and gives place for the idea to evolve. The second one, focuses on the person and can mislead the conversation.

In a nutshell, what I am saying is that courage, curiosity, understanding of the other person´s  perspective, going beyond judgement, and focusing on the message can lead you to richer conversations.

What was your last most engaging conversation and what made it so interesting? Share with us!

Practice these tips: If you are in the YMP find a “share and learn” post every Friday on your YMP global classroom, comment on it, use the ideas in this article, engage in rich conversations, and get some credits doing so!

What is coming? Next week we will have a guest YMP teacher blogger. He will tell us about being a YMP teacher in a foreign country.

Do you have a comment to this article? Share with us, just click on “Leave a reply

Written by: Paola Mendoza at YMP Team

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How to engage in richer conversations – Part 1

Whether you are in the YMP or are part of any other learning setting wouldn’t you sometimes like to engage in deeper conversations with your classmates? A conversation topic that I find powerful is how we apply the things we learn in our lives. Why is this powerful?

Communicating and discussing a new topic learned can be interesting, it is an effective way to deepen your understanding, and it may allow you to know the other person better. “What kind of communication is this”, you may wonder? Interestingly in many cases we do not engage in conversations related to what we learn at school, and other learning settings, in part because it is considered “un-cool”.  Perhaps the reason for this is because we are not familiar with connecting what we learn with our daily activities or with what happens around us.

In the YMP discussing the connection between concepts learned in sustainable development and your daily life with other students and teachers around the world is easy and exciting. Imagine, you not only test and experiment new knowledge in your life, but you also see it tested in the life of other young people around the world. You learn globally and locally!

How do you do this?

Make questions. Ask!

When I asked on the learning platform, “Have you tried adopting a more sustainable habit in your life?” I got these answers:

I’m trying to use less washing powder when doing the laundry. Perhaps the pollution caused by chemicals does more harm to the earth (than) the wasting of water … Wang Xiyue (student – China) This answer poses a good sustainability question: What causes more harm, and more environmental and social costs, the chemicals used in our products or the amount of water we use along with those products? Wang Xiyue is making the effort to modify his consumption pattern instead of putting all the cost on the environment. Is that easy? What does it take? How about environment friendly detergent? It is a substitute good. Is it affordable? How would you minimise the use of water and washing substances? Do we always need to use soup, washing powder and detergents? Many questions and creative conversations can derive from this. We just need to ask! If you are in the YMP review your classroom stories, you may find that another student or teacher has already posted a question or comment to you!

India has many sustainable practices. While they are considered primitive by the current generations, with the new focus on sustainability they appear to be the way to go … The practice of eating on a banana leaf. The fresh banana plant leaves are cut, washed and put on the floor in a line and fresh food is served on them. They are discarded after the meal and the discarded leaves may be eaten by the animals perhaps or may get disintegrated as the case may be. In both cases it is good for nature. No plastic / disposal plates menace.Sailaja Chintalagiri (teacher – India) It was interesting to know about this practice and it even gives an idea for a product to develop in my country. Now I ask you: Would eating on a banana leaf plate work in your country? (let me know in the comments section at the end of this article!)

Some questions have conversation power others not. If a question does not work, try another one, or another person, or occasion! Sometimes it can feel scary to ask, but once you do it the fear and doubts are gone!

Talking about what you learn and try is cool, fun and gives credits in the YMP. Making the connections between new concepts, ideas, and your life, while also discussing them with others makes any learning received long lasting. This can make your studies in general more efficient!

Remember that commenting in the YMP gives you credits! Bring value to your communication, you can do it, and the world today needs it!

How often do you talk about what you learn at school or the YMP with friends or family?  Leave your comment!

Try it this week. Choose a topic or a difficult concept that you have learned at school or in the YMP. Discuss it with a friend, family member, or on your YMP classroom. You may find a different way to understand it or realise how it is linked to your daily life. Share your comments and experience below.

Just click on “Leave a reply“!

Written by Paola Mendoza – YMP Team

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