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Changing climate awareness? A visit to Entlebuch.

"We've planted small fir trees in the fenland so that it doesn't get too wet." Fens? Too wet? Nina Liechti is talking about climate change, the main subject of her innovatively named project "My Clime-Mate".

The quote describes a project that took place at Entlebuch in 2011. More precisely, it was a training and networking project for young people from various European countries. This networking project took place at the Schüpfheim Biosphere Centre.

 

"My Clime-Mate": The contents

What was it all about? It was originally planned as an exchange programme between Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. But Italy dropped out at short notice, leaving just Slovenia and Switzerland. All the participating youngsters are also members of AIDA, the "Alliance in the Alps". This alliance is intended to promote an affinity with nature in the younger generation.

The young people who came to Entlebuch for a week had a full programme. There were four main subject areas within the project. To provide some structure, each day was devoted to a different subject, enabling the youngsters to explore it in a light-hearted way. The four subjects were energy, nature, raising environmental/climate-awareness and the regional economy. The focal point with regard to nature was the fens, which are well-known as nature's most effective CO2 sink. As part of AIDA, the young people designed four projects relating to the subject of fenland. They created photo flyers (to promote the sale of peat-free compost) and helped to increase the water content of a dried-up fen in Brandchnubel near Schüpfheim.

That’s not quite enough yet. The programme was extremely varied, and included watching cows come down from the Alpine pastures for the winter, and tasting traditional specialities. "Entlebuch even produces its own Mozzarella," explains Nina Liechti, the congenial self-assured project manager. "So there's no need to transport this popular Italian cheese all the way from Italy, but instead it can be obtained locally in a much more environmentally friendly manner." The young Slovenes had the pleasure of sampling a local pizza.

The Biosphere Centre places great emphasis on local produce, intending to achieve two benefits from it. First, using local produce saves a lot of energy and is therefore both environmentally and resource friendly. And secondly, selling local goods boosts the regional economy. As the saying goes: "Why look far afield when there's so much close at hand?"

 

The key to success can be found locally

Throughout the entire interview, Nina Liechti smiles as she describes the project, which finished a year ago now. This smile is an indirect measure of its success. It was a week packed with fun and pleasure. During the week, the youngsters from Slovenia were able to experience a diverse, future-oriented Switzerland that places sustainability and efficiency at the top of its agenda. Interactive activities enabled the young people not only to experience, but also learn. They learned that the environment doesn't have to be just an abstract, over-used term, but that every one of us can be involved in changing it and hopefully also improving it. This attitude, which is often voiced, is actively experienced by this type of project. It is local hands-on experience that broadens horizons. After all, watching television reports about dried-up fenland is never really going to touch our hearts.