One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore nature. While the European Union is positioning itself as a global champion in this area, it's important to acknowledge that almost half of the political representatives did not support this initiative fully. Amendments that substantially weakened the law were adopted, which falls short of what science tells us is urgently needed.

Recently we celebrated the positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament, which is sending a strong message: restoring nature is an obligation. The European Union has put itself on the path to being a champion and pioneer of nature restoration globally, living up to promises made to citizens and at the global negotiation table.

We thank all the MEPs that listened to our perspective, welcomed our recommendations and voted also for the next generations. We want to particularly show our appreciation towards the work and the words of Rapporteur César Luena, who publicly recognized the efforts made by youth in the advocacy for this law.

However, we cannot ignore that almost half of our political representatives refused to restore nature, cold-shouldered the youth and refused to guarantee us a liveable environment. The law is still far from what science tells us it is urgent to do.
We acknowledge with heavy hearts the adoption of amendments that substantially watered down the law. The amendments, especially those that delay targets and the initiation of actions, significantly shift the responsibility and efforts on us in the future. This is not fair from an intergenerational justice perspective, which the EU has agreed to respect as a guiding principle at COP15. In particular, refusal to accept the principle of non-deterioration means that we will continue to witness the degradation of our habitats, and so will our children and grandchildren.

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“While the unity and the strong, loud voices of young people ahead of the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law once again demonstrated the will and drive for positive change, the very close vote showed that this is not the case for a lot of MEPs deciding on policies that will determine the state of the ecosystems we depend on. This law is not only about Nature Restoration. It is about fighting for the continued existence of a liveable planet, which the law that was adopted on the 12th of July, does not do. This is why our work is not done and we will continue to fight for a law that is just - not only for us, but for the planet and generations to come.“

Sophia Ullrich, Liaison Officer on Biodiversity at Youth and Environment Europe Tweet

“Heeding the calls of scientists, young people and environmental activists, a narrow majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law during the Plenary of the European Parliament, an outcome that was not guaranteed but one that we celebrate as young Europeans. However, the vote’s close margin of victory underscores the significant opposition still facing the Law. It has been compromised in the voting process and the resulting legal amendments the Parliament agreed upon severely weaken the effectiveness of the NRL in combating biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. We need a more ambitious Law to ensure a future where both people and planet can thrive! Our work is not done and we demand that the Commission, Council and Parliament pass a Law that is as strong as possible and does not put the burden of mitigating environmental damages and economic short-sightedness on future generations.“

Noah Stommel & Fenja Kroos, Project Leads on Nature Restoration at Generation Climate Europe Tweet
european young rewilders logo no background

“The positive vote in the Parliament is a bittersweet success. It is great to see many MEPs that listened to science and young people and to see the EU sending out this message, but the journey is still long. However, laws or not, restoration activities and initiatives have been growing exponentially in the past years. And this will never stop: the restoration and rewilding movement is a snowball in a free fall down a slope, getting bigger and bigger. While politicians discuss in rooms, tons of people, of young people, are out there restoring and rewilding. This is the future. The law is not as ambitious as we wanted it? Then we will be ambitious, and we can be it now.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders Tweet

“The vote in favour of nature was a crucial and most needed signal to the world.However, the narrow result, the disinformation campaign including blunt claims against all scientific evidence is very worrying for us. Let us hope, that during the Trialogue process some more common sense prevail and get something more ambitious than just restoring Nature 2000 areas. We all, and youth in particular, depend on a healthy environment - and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure them rather yesterday than tomorrow.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter Tweet

“The NRL is the most crucial legislation for european biodiversity of my lifetime. For environmentalists in every part of society to finally have political will on the environments side should be a celebration. But seeing the Law being so close to get rejected and at the moment being so watered down from it's once clear agenda of saving our nature, is a new way politicians have made me disappointed. However, youth will continue our efforts to restore Europe's biodiversity, and we hope one day the elected few will follow the actual will of the people and join us truly in stopping the biodiversity crisis.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN) Tweet

“The Parliament's vote can be seen as a positive development, acknowledging the efforts made to secure a more promising future for all. The approval of the Nature Restoration Law reflects a significant stance by EU institutions in support of nature, despite the fact that recent negotiations have led to a dilution of its original objectives. Regrettably, at the national level, we, as GYBN Italy, hold the view that the situation is even more unfavorable, and Italian youth have experienced deep disappointment. Italy should ideally take a leading role in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. However, to our dismay, nearly all Italian MEPs voted against this vital legislation. This decision by the current political power has effectively disregarded the expectations of young people on almost every level. As a result, bitterness lingers among the younger generations, as they feel unrepresented, signifying that our endeavors to conserve and restore nature will not come to an end with this setback.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy Tweet

"Even though negotiations for the Nature Restoration Law will see another day, the picture this whole process has painted is bleak, not only for Europe's nature and biodiversity, but for trust into political officials and democratic processes. Are we supposed to celebrate this small majority within Parliament that barely aknowledged science and the nature crisis?"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria Tweet

Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore

Read More

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European

Read More

Join us and over 200 NGOs and ask your decision-makers to adopt a solid and urgent implementation of the law that can

Read More
, ,

One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature

We have a responsibility to leave a clean and sustainable environment behind us

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of YEE.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of YEE.

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Rimaz is a 19-year-old university student from Syria, currently living in Istanbul, Turkey. Rimaz is passionate about environmental issues, particularly the impact of acid rain. She has created a project to educate students on this issue, which involves treating plants with acid rain, sun, and normal rain to demonstrate the effects on plant life. Rimaz believes in the importance of young people being actively engaged in shaping a sustainable future and is motivated by her small efforts contributing to a better future.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who’s Rimaz?

My name is Rimaz and I am from Syria, but I’m living in Turkey, Istanbul. I’m 19 years old. I’m a university student. I’m studying biomedical engineering and I’m also working as a teacher in a school for children of foreign people. I teach the Turkish language.

What are the projects you are involved in?

I’m working as a volunteer in Medicorya which is a group for young people who are studying biomedical engineering with the aim of introducing our department to other countries. I’m working there as an academic coordinator, making analyses about the university programs and researching which companies might the students need. We collect this information and present it in high schools with the aim of improving our education system.

I am also in the Yeni Dünya which is a member organisation of Youth and Environment Europe and I’m working there with international students. You can find more than 100 students from different countries. We are trying to organize ourselves into groups depending on our hobbies and our interests and I am a representative for the Syrian students. 

We introduce our countries to people from other countries by holding presentations and sharing our historical heritage and geography. I’m from Syria and we have a war in Syria so I often talk about the Syrian children and try to organise people to get help for these children.

What does your engagement mean to you?

Being part of these organisations, I do not feel like I am alone on this journey. I’m establishing communication with these young people because they have fresh perspectives and innovative ideas and when we get together I feel inspired. They also provide a platform for my voice to be heard.

Why should young people be active in their lives?

Young people have a significant role in shaping a sustainable future for the next generations. Being actively engaged enables you to learn and to organise yourself with other people. If there is something that you care about that is in danger, you can have the support of the group and address it together. Even if they are small efforts, they will have a big positive impact with the potential to create big change.

What are your future plans?

In one of my projects I focus on acid rain, and how it arises due to human activity, because of industry and transport. It can affect our historical places and that means it will affect our economy and our tourist places because it destroys the stone.

I did this project and I showed the other students how we can harm our environment in this way. I will try to find some organizations, and projects that also focus on this issue. And I would like to work with like-minded people to have a common goal on this topic.

How did you start working on this project? 

We had a lesson about pH and our teacher told us about acid rain and how we can know if it’s normal rain or rain with a lower pH. I started to research the environmental impacts of acid rain and its harmful causes. Then I created a project with our teacher about this and now each year they repeat it to the other students and they show it to them in other schools and cities. 

What does this project look like? 

You take four plants and then you treat one of them with acid rain, the second one with sun, and the third one with normal rain. In this way, you can show the students how acid rain affects the plant. This shows everyone the importance of protecting the environment.

Why should people care about the environment according to you?

People should care about it because we have a responsibility to leave a clean and sustainable environment behind us. They can think about their close ones, their sister, their children and their future. With each day it is a bigger challenge to face the impacts of environmental destruction. That is why we should get together to find a solution and be honest about environmental issues. If you are interested in this topic, I advise you to join some organizations to get engaged.

What drives you forward?

My motivation is, I believe, my small efforts that contribute to a better future and knowing this is enough for me to continue my work in this way. With whatever you start, the beginning might feel a bit difficult, but then it gets easier because you will grow and meet new people and gain knowledge about the topics that interest you. It will get easier when you see the results, you will be happy and will get stronger and more motivated to continue. 

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INC-2: a session for nothing?

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

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A new phase of the international treaty to end plastic pollution negotiations took place in Paris, at UNESCO headquarters, from May 29 to June 2, 2023.

Plastic has become one of the most significant sources of water and soil pollution.

According to the latest OECD figures, 460 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year.  This figure has doubled since 2000 and is set to triple by 2060. 

Although several countries have taken measures to deal with plastic waste, such as the European Union with its Directive on single-use plastic in 2019, or Rwanda in 2008, which was the first country in the world to ban plastic bags, 75% of the plastic waste found in the oceans comes from poor waste management. Indeed, most countries do not have the infrastructure to manage their own plastic waste. 

Others, like Japan, export over 90% of their plastic waste to developing countries that have no means of recycling it. Plastic waste is at best burnt, at worst abandoned in the wild, creating huge open-air dumps. China produces 32% of the world’s plastic, a leap of 82% in ten years. What’s more, 10% of the world’s plastic is emitted by soda giants Coca and Pepsi

Finally, the treaty is also part of the drive to move away from fossil fuels, as plastic is a direct derivative of petroleum.

Why is it so difficult to reach an international treaty on plastic pollution?

The Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a landmark resolution in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2022 with a view to negotiating a legally binding global treaty to combat plastic pollution by the end of 2024. It will be based on a comprehensive approach covering the entire life cycle of plastics. To achieve this, five working sessions are planned, the first of which was held in Uruguay in November 2022. This first session laid the groundwork for future discussions by identifying the expectations and ambitions of the main delegations, with France hosting the second negotiating session.

An urgent treaty, yet negotiated at a snail’s pace

The second negotiation session got off to a rocky start, with more than two days lost on protocol issues. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, and India clashed with the presidency over whether or not to resort to voting in the event of a lack of unanimity in the future consideration of a draft treaty. The resolution of the controversy was postponed.

Finally, after a week, the Committee decided that “The International Negotiating Committee [INC] requests its Chairman to prepare, with the assistance of the Secretariat, a draft first version of the legally binding international treaty“. The text will be examined in November at the third meeting of this committee in Nairobi, then in April 2024 in Canada, and in November 2024 in South Korea, with the aim of a definitive treaty by the end of 2024.

Non-governmental observers

The treaty process includes the possibility for non-governmental observers to attend almost all the negotiations. However, at the Paris session, due to the size of the room, only one person per NGO could be present. Despite a statement signed by many associations, the length of the negotiations did not allow many NGOs to make any comments. It is therefore very important to follow the treaty news on the United Nations Environment Programme page, and the CIEL page which is in charge of coordinating the youth NGO accredited to the treaty.

An urgent treaty, yet negotiated at a snail’s pace – that’s how we might sum up this second phase of negotiations. We can only hope that future negotiations in Nairobi will be more prolific. In particular, the 175 countries will have to agree on the definition of plastic waste and the potential creation of a fund to help developing countries manage this waste. 

And finally, there remains the thorny question of plastic waste already in the environment: who will be responsible for paying for its management?

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INC-2: a session for nothing?

Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

The coalition of youth organisations released their statements about the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

We, as concerned youth all over Europe, want to reiterate the necessity and urgency to adopt the Nature Restoration Law within the European Parliament. 

What is being negotiated is not only a law: it is our future.

Young people and future generations deserve to grow up and live in healthy nature and functioning ecosystems. This, looking at the gloomy status of European species and habitats, can only be reached with an ambitious law that prescribes effective action now.
A watered-down law means postponing on us, later, the efforts that should be made now – and this is not fair.  

The rejection attempts by conservative and right-wing groups, led by the European People’s Party (EPP), are alarming, are failing youth, and are failing to consider us as stakeholders of the present and the future.

While we appreciate the efforts of other parliamentary groups such as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens, and the Left, who have stood their ground and voted in favor of the Nature Restoration Law, we are disheartened by the disinformation campaign around this law. Spreading falsehoods and withdrawing from negotiations only hinders the progress necessary to address climate change and nature loss, gambling our future.

As the vote on the remaining amendments and the final report approaches on June 27th, we call on all Members of the European Parliament to prioritize the future of our planet and live up to their promises to youth. The Nature Restoration Law is not merely an environmental issue, it is a matter of intergenerational equity. 

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

“Let’s state it clearly: the success of the EU Green Deal depends on the adoption of the Nature Restoration Law. This is not just a political vote, but a matter of justice: the youngest and future generations, who will face the biggest impacts from climate change, need to be supported by strong environmental legislation today to be able to exercise many of their human rights tomorrow. The only fact that the law risks being blocked is a shame, and shows once again that the EU is not taking the climate crisis seriously. For the sake of the EU credibility and climate leadership globally, we urge policy-makers and political parties to align and adopt the law, as we are still on time to avoid the mistake of the century.“

Emma Pagliarusco, Advocacy & Policy Coordinator at Youth and Environment Europe Tweet

“On June 15th, the ENVI committee narrowly avoided a terrible setback for nature, by defeating attempts of right-winged groups to reject the Nature Restoration Law. While young Europeans can breathe a sigh of relief, the race to nature recovery is not over yet. As the voting continues on June 27th, European youth worry about what their future is going to look like.Young people have a right to live on a healthy and habitable planet, and political representatives have a duty to secure their future and the future of our next generations.“

Agata Meysner, Director at Generation Climate Europe Tweet
european young rewilders logo no background

“Despite positive steps at the last voting session, the sharp split in ENVI and the tight votes are worrying youth. In such short time spans, young Europeans have witnessed so much nature degradation, with very little improvement and increasing negative trends despite existing laws. This means that a strong law is not just an ambition, it is a necessity to get out of the business-as-usual framework: we need a game-changer. We urge MEPs to recognize this and vote (also) for the future of those that will have to deal with the consequences of current inaction, for our children and grandchildren. Together we can rally the resilience of nature to ensure functioning and healthy ecosystems, bringing not only food security but also hope to European citizens.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders Tweet

“The Nature Restoration Law is not only a matter of urgent importance for European Nature and critical for the living conditions we as youth will face in the future – it is also a crucial signal we are sending to other countries to live up to the commitments made in Montreal in December last year. Who, if not us, can be the ones going ahead and restoring our degraded landscapes? How can we expect other countries to live up to their promises, if we can’t do it? The European Union now has a chance to secure a better planet for the youth here and elsewhere in the world.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter Tweet

“The EU ratified the Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal this Christmas, promising the world that restoring Nature would be the top priority. The Nature Restoration Law is the fruit of that labor. A great tool to finally reverse the loss of biodiversity. We cannot falter at the finishing line and reject the most crucial biodiversity legislation in Europe of this century. The Nordic youth urge our decision-makers in the EU to do what is right for the existing and future generations and vote YES to this Law.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN) Tweet

“Backed by scientific evidence, the Nature Restoration Law emerges as a transformative force that benefits both nature itself and humanity at large. Youth, as custodians of the future, urgently need this law to secure a thriving planet. It signifies a profound commitment to safeguarding biodiversity's intrinsic value, preserving the web of life that sustains us all. Recognizing that our own survival is intricately linked to the well-being of nature, we implore the Members of the European Parliament to secure a strong, ambitious Nature Restoration Law and forge a path towards a harmonious coexistence with the natural world.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy Tweet

Only with intact ecosystems do we have a chance of overcoming the climate crisis. The proposed legislation would contribute significantly to the implementation of the EU's environmental and climate goals, safeguard the livelihoods of numerous species, and ultimately create a secure future for young and future generations. If the opposition and pushback against this law ought to show us one thing, it shows that the law has the potential to be truly transformative, this is why we see regressional voices spreading false information and doing dirty campaigning – they are afraid of transformative change! This short-sightedness and ignorance towards the ecological crises of our time endanger our future. No matter if on EU, national or regional level: those who block nature conservation and restoration today are jointly responsible for the advancement of the climate crisis and the stability of our future!"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria Tweet

Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

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Our future at stake: European youth urges once again to adopt an ambitious Nature Restoration Law

Our Right to be Heard: how the Aarhus Convention can open its doors to Youth

Why Aarhus State Parties fall short of their obligation to guarantee the right to public participation of young people in environmental decision-making?

Written by

Margarida Martins (EEB), Ruby Silk (EEB) and Emma Pagliarusco (YEE)

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What is the Aarhus Convention and why is it important for young people and future generations?

Climate change poses real threats to the future of the youngest generations through both extreme and gradually escalating weather events, with manyfold repercussions. This looming threat has even proven to lead to “climate anxiety”, a serious and negative psychological phenomenon affecting the current generation of young people in particular and associated with the “perceived failure by governments to respond to the climate crisis”.

The latest IPCC report echoes these disproportionate threats to the youngest generations and sheds light on the intergenerational dimension of the climate change problem: in order to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of today’s youth and future generations, there is an urgent need for environmental laws which are more ambitious than ever before and implemented in the fastest possible way.

The Aarhus Convention and young people

Since its adoption in 1998, the Aarhus Convention has been hailed as the leading international agreement on environmental democracy. It has brought three key environmental rights to our doorsteps: the right to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. 

The idea underpinning the Convention is no other than participatory democracy: to empower citizens and civil society to participate in environmental matters. For this reason, national authorities of State Parties are legally bound to make Aarhus rights effective. This means that they have to ensure the implementation as well as enforcement of the Aarhus provisions within public processes. Since its enactment, numerous Communications have been brought by NGOs as well as individuals to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee to challenge state practices, with energy and spatial planning being the most common sectors addressed.

Article 3(8) of the Convention also states that Parties shall ensure that persons who exercise their Aarhus rights are not penalised for their involvement. This is critically important since environmental defenders are constantly and increasingly under attack across the globe, facing intimidation, harassment, stigmatisation and criminalisation, assaults and even murder. Among them are a high number of young people and children. Global Witness has recorded that 1,539 environmental defenders were killed between 2012 and 2020 worldwide, and the real figure is likely much higher, given that many murders go unreported. 

Unfortunately, young climate activists systemically face many different challenges when seeking to exercise their rights protected by the Aarhus Convention. The targeting of youth activists is taking place in multiple and different ways across Aarhus State Parties: through brutal repression of climate movements; enacting new laws to limit and criminalise strikes (with the latest example of Italy); and through intimidation against environmental defenders (e.g., through SLAPP strategies; and even violence such as in France). There are increasingly more barriers to youth public participation, access to information and access to justice. In this regard, States constantly fall short of their obligation to guarantee the right of public participation of young people in environmental decision-making. Youth underrepresentation and generational imbalances are incompatible with democratic participation. Besides, the costly nature of going to court – which we call climate litigation – very clearly impairs the right of young people to access justice.

The Aarhus Convention is a vital piece of legislation that can ensure that the principle of intergenerational equity is included in environmental action. Article 1 recognises the role of the Convention’s pillars in contributing to the protection of the rights of every person of present and future generations. The recognition of the rights of future generations in a legal text – and an international treaty at that – is very rare and should be highlighted. It has the potential to bridge the gap left by the lack of youth representation in decision-making at the national level, ensure a level playing field in the protection of youth activists and serve as good practice for other international environmental legal frameworks.

Youth participation in Aarhus processes 

Why should the Convention promote and incorporate young voices?

There are many reasons why young people and youth organisations need to have adequate capacity to exercise their Aarhus Convention rights. Young people have a bigger stake in future problems, as they have lived in an epoch which is also defined by environmental crises

Youth-led movements and actions have taken an active stance on promoting sustainability and protecting the environment, which is unfortunately not reflected in the current environmental legal framework, apart from references in non-binding international documents such as Agenda 21, a plan of action adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which is far from enough. 

Despite its capacity and uniqueness, even the Aarhus Convention is far from being considered a well-functioning instrument for the promotion and protection of procedural rights of the youngest: just speaking about its processes, throughout YEE’s experience in two task forces, one MoP and one WGP,  we noticed a substantive gap left by the lack of youth participation. This representational imbalance presents several hurdles to the effectiveness and legitimacy of the legislative process.

First of all, youth participation is key to the legitimisation of environmental decisions amongst the young public. Considering the disproportionate climate change impacts that the youngest generations will suffer from, and considering that youth represents 30% of the population in the world, excluding youth from environmental law is one step towards climate injustice and systemic suppression of youth voices.

Secondly, the urgency felt by youth with regard to the climate emergency is unique in its kind and, when taken into consideration adequately, leads to the adoption of more ambitious and binding environmental laws.

Thirdly, including youth voices in the Aarhus Convention processes is also in line with adopting a rights-based approach to environmental legislation, therefore contributing to a more holistic consideration of the various impacts of climate change. Considering that climate change is also a human rights crisis, youth voices in the Aarhus Convention processes are needed in order to take into consideration the disproportionate impacts of climate change on all groups, including the marginalised and potentially vulnerable ones.

Last but not least, in line with Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention the principle of intergenerational equity should be given effective meaning and implemented at a national level as well as at the Convention level. This is impossible without including young people in decision-making processes.

Opportunities for youth involvement

How youth can be better involved in processes (what the Secretariat can do)

In light of the previous section, the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention is uniquely positioned to promote intergenerational dialogue and enhance the exercise of procedural rights amongst youth. Here are a few steps it can take to promote intergenerational equity:

  1. Youth should be involved in a systematic way in the Aarhus processes, for example through the establishment of a permanent youth advisory board, (such as UN Youth Advisors, UN Human Rights Youth Advisory Board). Regarding its feasibility, the Secretariat could disseminate the opportunities for youth participation to national youth focal points and NGOs to ensure that the call is open and transparent and that different youth-led groups are represented in all their diversity. The appointment of such youth envoys could follow an election process, or be the result of a competitive application process;
  2. Youth movements and representatives need to be actively supported in the exercise of access to justice. Cost abatement of climate litigation and access to the courts is essential in order to ensure access to justice for everyone (including young people) without any discriminatory obstacles. Promoting access to justice in environmental matters amongst youth also means promoting and offering pro bono legal counselling, as linguistically and culturally appropriate, to climate activists engaging or willing to engage in climate litigation, with a special focus on marginalised and potentially vulnerable groups.

How to include youth in Aarhus rights at the national level

The Aarhus Convention is also a good forum to mainstream youth participation in environmental decision-making at the national level. Through Aarhus-related processes intergenerational and multi-stakeholder dialogue can take place, good practices can be shared and the principle of intergenerational equity can be promoted. In order to include youth in Aarhus rights at the national level, State Parties should take the following steps:

  1. Parties should include youth representatives in the Convention processes with a vision to foster meaningful youth engagement and ensure fair democratic representation in line with the principle of intergenerational equity. 
  2. States should adopt the necessary legislation that reflects their environmental goals, taking into account any international obligations. In this process, it is vital that there is access to justice provisions, which ensure that the public concerned can scrutinise authorities’ decisions which have an impact on the environment (per Article 9(3) of the AC). The process should also be made accessible to youth. 
  3. States should ensure that environmental information is made accessible to the youngest members of the public, including children.
  4. States are urged to decriminalise youth activism and start a process to involve youth activists in decision-making processes as an alternative channel.
  5. Connected with this last point, it is fundamental that States support more systematically the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders and collaborate with youth and non-youth NGOs active on the matter.

The Rapid Response Mechanism, a mechanism under the Aarhus Convention that provides emergency response to environmental defenders in situations of danger, also addresses the many challenges youth climate activists face, including criminalisation and repression following climate action. Young climate activists need protection. In this regard, appointing youth national focal points or hubs in coordination with the RRM would be beneficial as it would allow young people to easily approach them when seeking the enforcement of Aarhus provisions. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur should take into account social and cultural differences and collaborate with national governments to abate any linguistic, cultural, social and political barriers to the enjoyment of Aarhus rights. Likewise, it will be necessary to devote provisions to young people, with special attention to the possibility for underage people to benefit from the RRM. 

Stronger Environmental Rights on the Horizon for the Youth

In conclusion, all people of the present generation should be able to meaningfully and effectively exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention and shape the environmental and climate policies that affect their lives and the lives of future generations. All Parties to the Convention – as well as the Convention itself – have a duty to ensure this is done properly, and swiftly. The latest developments discussed above indicate that there are stronger environmental rights on the horizon for the youth to acquire.

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Our Right to be Heard: how the Aarhus Convention can open its doors to Youth

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I believe that small actions have large importance

Ia is a young activist from Georgia who is passionate about environmental protection and social justice. For Ia, activism means empowering others and making small contributions to bring about positive change. She aims to engage more diverse groups in her activities and encourages everyone to believe in themselves and their ability to become a positive change-maker.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who’s Ia?

I’m Ia from Georgia from a village named Martkopi. I’m a 10th grader and a young activist.

Where did your journey start?

It all started four years ago when I was a sixth grader. I was an active youngster, a part of a school club. I wanted to gain new experience in the beginning. I decided to take part in an eco-club at my school. That is when it all started.

First of all, I was part of planning small activities with my school eco-club members. I got more involved when I found out about the initiative called eco-leaders, which was the turning point. It was an extraordinary activity held by the environmental and education center of Georgia. It was a short-term course about different matters of the environment. The connections I made there, the people and the information were incredible. After that I became a chair of my eco-club.

I started to plan activities in this eco-club by myself. I slowly started reaching out of my school and now I’m doing activities in my whole village. And not only that, I’m working outside of my village too. I’m also trying to take part in international projects.

What kind of projects are you working on? 

I’m planning various projects in my youth center and these projects are about not only environmental problems and environmental protection. We focus on human rights, democracy, tolerance, equality, so on. But what I enjoy most is speaking about environmental matters. I organize clean-ups in my village, different workshops, flea markets focusing on upcycling, and in our youth center, we started a recycling project. What I’m really proud of is the fact that my village is the first village in Georgia where we have recycling infrastructure. There is no recycling culture as in the rest of Europe yet. 

We also host many information projects and meetings, because we feel it is important to raise awareness of our generation and the older generations. For example, I once held a training about ecological human rights with my friend.

What are the communities that you are engaging? 

In the youth center there are mostly people my age, around 14 to 18 years old. But as we try to reach out to all kinds of groups and communities, youth are not the only group we are working with. We are working with the “young parents” as well, people who are around 30 to 40 years old. We are also working with different local businesses in our region, we are also working with the municipality sector, different private and public institutions like schools in our village or different youth clubs. 

What are the most pressing environmental issues of your region or Georgia that you care about?

People have no information. People need information first and then they can recycle and start caring about the wildlife in Georgia. Georgia’s nature is really mysterious and really beautiful. And the people don’t know about the ways they can help to protect it.

We are changing that. In Georgia we need to simply speak more about the environmental problems and help the people to understand it first.

What does activism mean to you?

I really care about empowering other people. In activism, it is sometimes difficult to see that you are making an impact. But with a little patience and time you will be able to see that there is a lot of meaning in the activities that you do. 

I believe that you can become a change-maker in your community with small contributions, through small things like a clean-up in your village. 

It’s a small contribution but it’s a really big step.

“I have this motto: think globally, act locally.”

Remember that any action has an impact and with the right motivation and company you can help the environment on the local level and slowly send a ripple effect elsewhere.

What do you think you would need to engage more people in your movement and in your activities?

We definitely need better mobilisation techniques to engage more diverse groups in our activities. Especially different generations and people with fewer opportunities, should be on our radar. But we also need good strategies to stay motivated and empower each other in our community, so that our work is sustainable.

If you could send a message out to these people that you would like to engage more, what would you tell them? 

Always believe in yourself. Because if you do, you will start to understand that anything is possible. In that way, you will start to bring positive change and be able to become a positive change-maker.

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Advocating for stronger legal protection of rivers in Europe

Why up to 60% of European water bodies are highly polluted?

Rivers - anywhere you are in Europe, there must be a river not far from you. Ancient Greeks would marvel at rivers like Gods. How have we now come to a point in which up to 60% of European water bodies (including rivers) are highly polluted?

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Rivers – anywhere you are in Europe, there must be a river not far from you. Ancient Greeks would marvel at rivers like Gods. How have we now come to a point in which up to 60% of European water bodies (including rivers) are highly polluted?

River Health

The health of water bodies constitutes a major determinant for human food and water quality, which demonstrates how human health is inextricably tied to healthy water body habitats. Rivers, in particular, constitute mobile water bodies which cross vast swathes of Europe while exchanging water, materials, energy and nutrients with their surroundings. Therefore, even though they make up a small percentage of surface freshwater, they have a significant influence on European habitats and their conservation status.

Pollution

Like other surface water bodies, rivers are affected by multiple sources. Point source pollution for example is any identifiable source of pollution, such as wastewater. Its disposal in rivers leads to a high concentration of toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, zinc, lead and copper. Then, diffuse source pollution results from the collective run-off of water used by human activities, particularly in agriculture. It increases the concentration of nitrogen and phosphate in water bodies, which are likely to trigger eutrophication, a situation which adversely threatens biodiversity due to an increased load of nutrients present in the water. Lastly, there are hydromorphological pressures, such as barriers, which may result in habitat alterations which have a series of cascading consequences ranging from higher water temperatures to reduced species’ migration.

Water pollution can have grave consequences for the environment. The safety of drinking water can be jeopardised, entire food chains can be disturbed and there is a likelihood of disease spread (e.g. typhoid, cholera, etc…).

The Water Framework Directive

The European Union, in response to the unfavourable status of water bodies, introduced Directive 2000/60/EC – the Water Framework Directive (WFD) – in 2000.

The purpose of the WFD is “to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater” (Article 1). Through the Directive, the EU, therefore, wishes to promote sustainable water use, enhance the protection of aquatic ecosystems, and ensure the progressive reduction of pollution. Member states are required under Article 4 to issue River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) every 6 years, detailing how they will achieve a good water status. A deadline for publishing RBMPs was originally set for 2015; nevertheless, Article 4(4) provided for the possible extension of the deadline to 2027, which includes two more cycles of RBMPs.

For surface waters – like rivers – good status is dependent on a good ecological and good chemical status. The WFD also specifies that when natural circumstances do not allow a good status to be reached (Article 4(4)), or if the restoration is unfeasible or disproportionately expensive (Article 4(6)), an exception can apply to achieve a good water status. Nevertheless, no deterioration of the status is legally acceptable.

As of 2023, most MS have had difficulty realising the ecological ambitions of the WFD.  Furthermore, according to countries’ RBMPs covering the period up to 2015, good or better ecological status has been achieved for only around 40% of surface waters.  The following section will examine the progress (or regress) of the WFD in more detail.

Challenges to the Water Framework Directive

With only four years left to meet the – extended – WFD deadline, the good status targets seem unlikely to be achieved. A study by the Living Waters Europe Coalition revealed that 90% of river basins studied around the EU will fail to reach the criteria specified in the WFD by 2027. In the same vein, a news headline by WWF revealed that “Europe’s rivers [are] nowhere near healthy by [the] 2027 deadline”. It is also noteworthy that a great deal of the water bodies which presented a good water status in 2015, already had the status before the adoption of the WFD.

Moreover, in September 2021, at least nine MS had still not presented their draft plans for all river basins, and RBMPs studied by WWF and the Living Rivers Europe demonstrated that there has been insufficient funding by MS for the Directive’s implementation. Giakoumis and Voulvoulis (2018)  reveal that although the plan is fit for purpose, socioeconomic contexts and the MS’ institutional settings have restricted the opportunities the WFD has brought to the table. This means that these countries will fail to fulfil legally binding requirements.

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How to Sue a State

In conversation with the youth behind the Aurora climate lawsuit

How to sue a state - article
Many climate lawsuits are started by young people, including an ongoing climate lawsuit in Sweden led by a group called Aurora, led by over 600 youth and children, including Greta Thunberg, are involved. Three young people from Aurora share their experiences.

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What is Aurora
Quote by Anton Foley, Aurora
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Climate litigation is becoming a hot topic, following an upsurge of legal mobilisations globally. In several countries citizens have come together to sue their states for insufficient climate action, and legal mobilisations have opened up new ways to demand climate justice from those in power. A large share of the lawsuits brought forward are driven by young people, who are suing their states for threatening their future human rights. Examples of recent youth driven climate lawsuits include Juliana v. United States, Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and Others and Soubeste et. al v. Austria et. al

We had the opportunity to speak to three young people from the organisation Aurora, who are behind an ongoing climate lawsuit in Sweden. On November 25th 2022, Aurora filed a lawsuit against the Swedish state for insufficient climate policies. More than 600 children and youth are behind the lawsuit, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The youth are condemning Sweden’s climate policies to be illegal, as the targets set by the Swedish state are too slow and insufficient, while the  previously set climate targets remain unachieved. Aurora is thus claiming that Sweden is not treating the climate crisis like a crisis

The district court of Nacka (a town in Sweden where the lawsuit was filed), considered the claims to be clear enough to be tried in court. On the 21st of March 2023 the Nacka District Court issued a summons, upon which the Swedish state will have three months time to respond to the case. The case is treated as a class-action lawsuit, meaning that a large group of people in Aurora will be represented by a few members of the organisation. The Swedish state on the other hand will be represented by the Chancellor of Justice.

We will now hear from three young people from Aurora: Agnes Hjortsberg (21), Anton Foley (20) and Ida Edling (23), who will share their experiences of filing a lawsuit as a group of young people.

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes Hjortsberg

Anton Foley

Anton Foley

Ida Edling

Ida Edling

What breaches are you suing Sweden on?

Ida Edling

Ida

The legal provisions that we say the state has violated is human rights under the European Convention of Human Rights. So we're saying that the Swedish state's lack of sufficient climate measures threatens young people's human rights in the future. We're talking about the human right to life, to health, to dignity, to well-being, to home and to property. And that's Article 2, 3, 8 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights - and it's the first article of the first protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights.

How did you start this process?

Anton Foley​

Anton

A lot of the inspiration to do this came from people who had already done it in other countries. A natural first step, or one of the first steps, was to reach out and make contacts: at the very early stages we had calls and meetings with lawyers and activists who had pursued similar cases in for example Norway, the Netherlands and France. We learned from them both legally how we should approach it, but also how we should approach it organizationally, financially and from a media perspective. And then as we came to terms with what kind of case we wanted to run, or how we should do it, we also had close contact with international climate litigation groups, to sharpen our arguments and learn from their cases. Thus, I'd say there have been two waves of work: The first one is just about figuring out what is going on and how we should do this. And then secondly, once we had it more figured out, on the legal and technical side, we could focus on sharpening the arguments.

What type of competences are needed to file this type of lawsuit?

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

In Aurora as an organisation, almost none of the youth and children had any knowledge of how to do something like this from previous experience. Of course, we have law students who manage a lot of the law stuff, but when it comes to funding, media and social media, or how to run an organisation and how to take care of each other, it's something we learn as we go.

Anton Foley​

Anton

And we've collected a network of professionals and people who know what they're doing in lots of different areas. For example: legal experts, climate scientists and public relations people to help us figure out how to get our message out there. But also a lot of climate activists helped us figure out what our actual aims are. Because there are lots of ways you could structure this legally, but not all would be desirable for what we actually want to achieve. Thus, “where are we going” is the first question we need to answer. Then, “what do we want to achieve? “ and thirdly “how can we use law as a tool to achieve that?”

Ida Edling

Ida

I think that the way we have decided to structure our work within the Aurora case is quite unique. And we've heard that from people who have worked with many different climate cases in other countries too, that our work culture is original because we have a very mixed work culture. We are completely led by youth who have no particular academic background, but who are firmly rooted in what we're actually trying to do. Like Anton was saying, the direction we're actually headed in. And then on the same decision making level or level below even, we have the actual competences. So this democratic way of working together from different age groups and different competence levels is unique I think, and has proven to be very dynamic and successful for us.

What would be your advice to a group of young people wanting to start something similar? What is the first thing to start with?

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

One thing we've begun doing is creating a network of youth doing this all over the world. For example we have contacts in Norway, South Korea, Austria, and the Netherlands. I think one of the first steps is to reach out to one of those groups. We've had meetings with new groups, but we have also been the new group in other meetings. I think using the platforms and networks available is a good tool.

Anton Foley​

Anton

Yeah, and I think in general, if you're young and you want to make a difference in this or any social or environmental cause, the most important thing to do is to start from where you are and use whatever expertise, interest and platform you have available to you. And if you have a big idea, just go for it! We were just a group of people who thought this would be a cool thing to do and then we started talking to people who knew what they were doing. And then it took a while but over time we assembled this sort of group. And I think that, it sounds very cliche, but just do it, go for it and see where you end up. Nobody thinks they're going to start a global movement when for example deciding to school strike. You just do it because it's the right thing to do and then people sort of catch on. So, I think that wherever you are, start affecting change in your community and whatever spaces you are active in, in school, student unions, trade unions, religious groups, and wherever else you are active. Just start making a difference and speaking up in those circles and then see where it takes you.

Ida Edling

Ida

Yeah, educate yourselves, take action and then take inspiration and learn from those who have done similar things before you, because you don't have to reinvent the wheel! The three steps that we advise other youth groups to take, if they also want to sue their states, is to: First find each other and then find competence, find lawyers and scientists, and then find money. Because you will need money. But also remember that all types of legitimate action is vital for sufficient climate action. So, litigation is one way but every other way is also valuable.

How can other young people or youth organisations support Aurora?

Ida Edling

Ida

The first thing is to do what you're doing, continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, continue to push for urgent action in the climate crisis, continue to try to make people in power see that the way we use Earth today is dangerous and won't last. And try to change that in a way that you're already doing, because that will help us all. We're one movement trying to achieve climate justice and everyone needs to do it in their way and every legitimate way is valuable. But then if you concretely want to help our particular cause, we are always in need of money, because holding the state accountable for violations of human rights is very, very expensive in Sweden. And so this would not have been possible without extensive economic support from the public, and here every contribution matters.

Agnes Hjortberg

Agnes

And also if you're a youth in Sweden and you are interested in Aurora, you can also join Aurora! We always need more people!

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How to Sue a State

Liberalisation of the energy sector | Webinar Recap

Overview of the EU’s legislative system and the energy sector liberalisation

European Energy Sector
Learn about the positive and negative outcomes of the liberalisation process, and how energy communities could play a major role in the green transition.

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Liberalisation of the energy sector

The liberalisation of the European energy sector was the continuation of the European Union’s effort to create a European single market.

The underlying idea is that the creation of an economic union would naturally bring European countries closer together leading to further political integration, thus guaranteeing peaceful inter-state relations.

The main purpose of the liberalisation process was to organise the provision of electricity and gas more efficiently by introducing competitive forces where possible and regulation where needed.

Main barrier to the liberalisation of the energy sector

Up until the 90’s the energy sector was structured around national monopolies preventing any kind of competition to emerge.

A major step in this process was thus to break down national monopolies or what is referred to as “unbundling”.

The first “unbundling” obligations appeared with the 1st energy package (1996-98) and required the separation of generation, transmission, distribution, and retail activities.

Secondly, to increase cross-border exchanges the EU massively invested in interconnections. The European interconnected grid is now the largest in the world with 400 interconnectors (cross border pipeline and electric cables) linking 600 million citizens.

What are the results of this process?

Positive aspects
Negative aspects

What are Energy Communities (or energy cooperative)?

Legal entities of citizens getting together around an energy transition project.

They run around 7 main principles :

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education, training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for Community

Why are they so relevant to the energy transition?

It is estimated that half of the European citizens could produce their own electricity, covering about 45 % of the overall electricity demand.

89 % of the population could get involved in some energy system activity (for instance with the spreading of electric cars, households could offer energy storage services. Modern appliances like smart metres, remote control thermostats, electric vehicles etc. can offer demand response services*)

Energy cooperatives can get involved in a wide range of activities such as

Production • Supply • Distribution • Flexibility •Storage • Demand response •Energy monitoring •District heating • Transportation – E-car sharing • Energy savings – Collective home retrofits

*demand response: increased flexibility from the demand side to adapt consumption to the available generation.
On top of the technical advantages that the multiplication of energy communities could bring, these structures also fulfil a major social element of the green transition: Citizen engagement. The green transition is not only about switching from dirty to clean energy sources it is rethinking our entire economy and our consumption pattern. By giving the opportunity to our citizens to get directly involved in the energy chain, we create a population more aware of its own consumption and conscient of the behavioral changes needed to achieve our ambitious climate targets.

Major barriers to the creation of energy communities:

  •  • Access to funding
  •  • Lack of upfront investments and specific skills: Volunteer-based & lack financial skills. More risk aversion.
  •  • Lack of knowledge from financing institutions: banks don’t recognize the new and innovative business models of energy communities
  •  • Lack of streamlined/stable Government financing mechanisms: public finance can de-risk and mobilise further community & private capital

Want to learn more?

Watch this video explanation of the virtue of energy communities

 

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Intersectional Ecofeminism

A Paramount Approach In Environmental Activism

Intersectional Ecofeminism
We have all heard activists and seen studies claim that women lead better and are peacemakers as they favour intuition and collaboration, so, could ecofeminism really be the ultimate solution for the environmental debacle we are facing?

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“We are either going to have a future where women lead the way to make peace with the Earth or we are not going to have a human future at all.” – Vandana Shiva.  

Many women have been remarkably stepping into environmental advocacy spaces to make their voices heard, but how important is it to integrate both feminism and climate activism in our advocacy discourse?

We have all heard activists and seen studies claim that women lead better and are peacemakers as they favour intuition and collaboration, so, could ecofeminism really be the ultimate solution for the environmental debacle we are facing?

The birth of ecofeminism

As we all may know, women are one of the main groups that are at the frontline of climate activism since they are particularly affected by the environmental crisis (80% of the people being displaced by climate change are women according to UN Environment), which is why special attention towards women and the climate change effects on them is needed. This is notably explored by ecofeminism.

The term ‘ecofeminism’ was first coined by the renowned French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne, who described it to be a branch of feminism that explores the connections between women and nature. What is also interesting about Ecofeminism is that it digs deeply into how both women and the environment are at risk as a result of the patriarchal rule. As a matter of fact, patriarchy has always been strongly linked with capitalism which explains the simultaneous exploitation of both natural resources and women as a social class.

Some not-so-fun facts worth mentioning are that 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40% of the poorest households are headed by women. Women predominate in the world’s food production (50%-80%), but they own less than 10% of the land.

Ecofeminism is believed to be more respectful of nature and women as it decenters males and abolishes hierarchies, men are then not thought to be superior to women or nature. Although ecofeminism originated in Europe, the actual movement started in the USA during the late 1970s and early 1980s, where it took a more inclusive turn as it coincided with the rise of intersectional feminism. Intersectional ecofeminism holistically plunges into the living conditions of women from different backgrounds and dissects the inequalities they endure through an environmentalist lens. It is then considered to be the ideal activistic paradigm. 

Why intersectionality is a necessity

While addressing the struggles of women in the context of climate change, the term “women” tends to be vague as they are not a homogeneous group, they actually exist on a large spectrum that should be meticulously analysed hence the need for an intersectional approach.

Intersectionality sheds light on different issues faced by various women, such as the different geographical contexts. As a matter of fact, women face different challenges based on where they’re from. For example, in areas that are prone to droughts, women often face different struggles than men. Environmental degradation such as droughts often leads to economic instability, and as a result, women may have to give up on resources such as education in order to support the family.

Ecofeminism recognises how gender roles make us experience our environment and nature differently, and how different gender roles may experience different consequences.  Another example is how women in some contexts are forced to travel long distances to collect fuel, food, and water which subjects them to security risks and gender-based violence. Moreover, in Mexico and Central America between 2016 and 2019, about 1,698 acts of violence were recorded against female human rights defenders.

Different journeys equal different constraints

All struggling communities should then be provided with a platform that allows them to speak up about their experiences and share their stories that are a testament to their resilience. We can never do justice to the representation of the different journeys led by different women in the context of climate change, however, the best we can do is to make their names known, especially the non-white and underrated ones like Isatou Ceesay, Vandana Shiva, Susan Chomba, Sônia Guajajara and many others.

Going back to the initial question, women have the ability to make this world a better place: they are the backbones of their communities and the shapers of the future that we can’t overlook the importance of their role in eradicating the climate crisis, empowering them locally and globally could definitely revolutionise our dystopian foreseeable future.

So, if you were to envision a non-patriarchal world where women were predominantly leaders, don’t you also think that our history and present would have been vastly different? 

Recommendations

If you want to explore this topic more, check out the podcast “Outrage + Optimism”, episode number 191.

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