16 future leaders in sustainability from 12 countries gathered in YES Costa Rica. The participants got an in-depth insight into systems of land use (climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry), energy systems, and their linkages with economic, political and social challenges. They got to know local and global strategies towards a low-carbon society. As one of the highlights of this encounter, the participants met with Dr. René Castro (Harvard) and Dr. Sarah Cordero Pinchansky (MIT) in a fascinating behind the scenes session on Costa Rica’s pledge to become climate neutral by 2021. René Castro was Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Mining (2011-2014, 1994-1998), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2010-2011) and shared his insider views on the political processes that led to the climate neutrality goal. Dr. Cordero Pinchansky, former dean of the Business School at the Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT) discussed the gap between policy formulations and their concrete implementation.
Apart from lectures and workshops on topics like climate smart territories (Dr. Bastiaan Louman & Dr. John Beer, CATIE), energy transformations (Dr. Stefan Gara, ETA Vienna) or sustainable regional economies (e.g. based on eco-tourism or local supply chains, as presented by Dr. Ludwig Ellenberg, Humboldt University Berlin & Dr. Victor Umaña, CLACDS-INCAE), the participants got inspired by site-visits and excursions to sugar cane or banana production sites, a cattle farm and the campus of EARTH university with its eco-management systems. On a two-day excursion to the Caribbean lowlands, the group explored the coastal national park of Cahuita and visited the organic cocoa cooperative ACOMUITA led by indigenous women. The course was held on the impressive CATIE campus surrounded by tropical rainforest and home to many animal and plant species.
Without the support of dedicated partners, YES Costa Rica 2015 would not have been possible: Many thanks to all the involved course faculty and staff at myclimate and the course locations, Avina Stiftung as the main program partner, CATIE (Research Center for Tropical Agriculture), the United Nations Environmental Programme UNEP, and of course the engaged course participants.
YES (“Youth Encounter on Sustainability”) is designed as an intensive learning experience in a inspiring environment. It is an interactive course where students, graduates and experts develop answers to local and global sustainability challenges. Through exchange, inspiration and practical learning, participants will be able to implement solutions in their environment following the course. Many of the more than 1500 YES alumni are in senior positions at private companies, governmental institutions and NGOs today.