Youth engagement for Urban Forests

What will the city of tomorrow look like and how can forestry play a role in securing our future? At the First World Forum on Urban Forests (WFUF), an international group of experts and participant came together to debate on this topic.

Hosting organisations were FAO, SISEF, Politecnico di Milano and the municipality of Mantova. They managed to welcome a diverse range of speakers from many disciplines. The wide range of speakers and the setting of impressive venues all over Mantova, awarded as greenest city of Italy, enforced the importance of this event.

Hosting organisations were FAO, SISEF, Politecnico di Milano and the municipality of Mantova. They managed to welcome a diverse range of speakers from many disciplines. The wide range of speakers and the setting of impressive venues all over Mantova, awarded as greenest city of Italy, enforced the importance of this event.

The main event of the youth day was the Dragon’s Den workshop; around 77 young professionals from 25 countries were divided in nine teams to consider urban forestry-based solutions for envisioning what urban forests can stand for in 3 case studies: Moreland, Australia; Bogota, Columbia; Mantova, Italy. By their geographical location, these projects each have to deal with their own specific character and problems.

For each study area one project was selected by a voting in the 3 subgroups, which then presented the project to a group of experts. The judges for this small competition included Eva Müller, Director of FAO Forestry; Dan Lambe, President of Arbor Day Foundation in the United States; and Pedro Mendes Castro, President of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

The work all over the workshop proved the common motivation and determination of the young generation to tackle the difficult tasks that are waiting in the near future. It was nice to see as ELASA representative, that Viktor Indekeu, one of our members was part of the winning team. This and the results of all other projects may be seen as a remarkable achievement, from the limited timeframe to the diversity within the group’s composition.

The awareness to the environment within the organisation of the youth day has to be remarked as well. Where other conferences talk about saving the environment, the youth actually took action.

In general the use of paper was reduced and as lunch the participants got a hands on experience by the dish with shrimps out of the local river; served on recyclable plates and cutlery. Many topic and problems concerning our current life style have come up during this event. More important however were the many solutions and strategies to this that are currently being researched and formulated, for example topics as ‘Green Equity’ by Lorien Nesbitt and ‘The Charter for Trees, Woods and People’ by Niall Williams. Richard Weller expressed his thoughts on the near future as following:

This century will be Rock ‘n Roll”, what should not be seen as negative but a possibility to reinvent ourselves.

The interdisciplinary and international character of this event has proven to be a strong quality and a catalyser of work relations creating bridges between disciplines. This will enhance the quality of life within the cities and world of tomorrow. Nobody will provide an overall solution for what is yet to come, however many individual solutions can make us consider the unusual of today as the normal of tomorrow. As Cecil Konijnendijk concluded: “We have to change our minds and hearts”.

Therefore we, ELASA, would like to call for action towards not only young landscape architects, but as well all disciplines that relate to urban forestry. E.g. Participate in upcoming editions of the WFUF and/or similar events. Meetings like this are a source of new exciting exchange of connections and knowledge, what helps our world forward.

The overall experience of the WFUF, even though it was the first of its kind, was very pleasant, due to the interesting and well organised program, and the overall support during the event.

A well meant ‘thank you’ to the WFUF organisation to put attention to their youth. Special thanks to Simone Borelli, Diego Portugal, Damiano Cilio, Annebel Soer, Valeria Barchiesi and all the others who made the representation of ELASA at this wonderful initiative possible.

We are looking forward to the next editions of this event and the collaborations that will emerge from this initiative.

Links:

https://www.wfuf2018.com
https://treecharter.uk
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lorien_Nesbitt

This article comes from Niels De Couvreur, European Representative IFLA Working Group Emerging Professionals Advocate
Belgian ELASA representative, International Master Landscape Architecture student