The tides are rising, and so are we! This year’s ReGeneration Week is over, and although we are once again spread out, we bring new knowledge, inspiration, strategies, hope and community with us to all corners of the Nordic and Baltic Sea region.
ReGeneration Week is an annual event organized by volunteers and workers within the ReGeneration 2030 movement and gathers youth from the Nordic and Baltic Sea region who are concerned about climate change and its effects. The week, held in Mariehamn on the beautiful Åland islands, is a space for many things – learning, reflecting, networking, collaborating, being inspired, sharing sadness and happiness, and maybe most important of all, finding community. The fight against climate change can be a lonely one and finding like-minded people is essential to keep on going!
“ReGeneration Week enables youth to come together, no matter their differences, and share openly.” – Emilia Nygård, incoming Chairperson of the Regeneration 2030 Board
But what do the climate movement and the people driving it need, in order to effectively push for change, successfully put pressure on the people in power, and engage others in the fight? These are the questions inspired the theme of ReGeneration Week 2023: “Rising tides, rising movements”. The program consisted of workshops on strategies as well as tools for building and developing youth climate movements, run by organizations from all around the region with hands-on experience of specific struggles. Two panel discussions with young changemakers from different backgrounds were also held, along with two ReGeneration Week classics – a youth plenary, where the new board of ReGeneration 2030 was elected, and the intergenerational dialogues.
Sharing strategies and tools
The Nordic and Baltic Sea region is very diverse - in climate and nature, but also with regards to culture, politics and history. Even so, we have a lot more than a sea uniting us, and there is great potential to learn from each other. The wide and varied array of workshops during the week really showed this. To name a few, the Swedish group Auroramålet shared their process of suing the state for inadequate action against climate change. The Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association presented a method for evaluating the environmental policies of political parties, and Poland-based WSCHÓD provided a strategy for actually confronting said politicians and other decision-makers. Tools for organizing within youth movements, such as Back-Casting and Relational Meetings, were introduced by Future Minds Sweden and Frida Gustafsson respectively, and Latvian “Protests” helped participants find their unique role in climate activism.
Imagining system change
Aside from practical workshops, the big, philosophical questions many young people grapple with in their activism were also brought to the stage. A central theme running throughout the week was the idea of system change. We know that many aspects of our current economic systems make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to create a society that is ecologically sustainable in the long term, and that change is needed if we are to come out the other side of the climate crisis.
But what does a sustainable future actually look like? What aspects of the current system do we have to sacrifice in order to get there, and how can we make citizens and politicians see the urgency of implementing these changes? In the panel discussion Naming System Change: How Radical is Too Radical for the Youth Climate Movement?, representatives with different geographical and theoretical perspectives discussed the idea of a society which is both ecologically and socially sustainable, and provided perspectives on how communicating system change often has to look different depending on the target group, especially with regards to the political history of regions and peoples. In a second panel, Mass Movements vs Direct Action? Strategy for Youth Climate Movements, strategies for achieving system change were pitted against one another: Should we aim to rally as many people as possible in the fight or are smaller, targeted actions against the biggest polluters more effective?
Ensuring climate justice
During the week, the question of climate justice was also dominant. Many countries in the Global South have been facing severe consequences of climate change for a long time, such as extreme floods and droughts. In comparison, most of the Global North has been much less affected until relatively recently - even though our part of the world bears almost all of the responsibility for the climate crisis.
Jannat Ara Rahman, originally from Bangladesh but studying in Finland at the moment, recognizes the contrast between the crisis in her home country and the widespread apathy in the Nordics. She says ReGeneration Week has inspired her to work on creating bridges between the Global South and North, and made her think about how communication between them can be facilitated.
The so-called “Intergenerational Dialogues” are a ReGeneration Week staple. Here, young changemakers and senior executives sit down together to discuss topics related to sustainability. Intergenerational communication is often overlooked in our region, maybe because we increasingly choose to surround ourselves with people our own age. This is especially true with regard to the climate crisis – there is often a divide between the radical youth pushing for change and the older generation with the power to implement these changes. For this reason, facilitating a friendly dialogue between the generations can be a way of breaking preconceived notions about one another, listening and learning new things, as well as understanding different perspectives.
“The older generation should not be seen as our enemies. But they don’t have all of the answers, so maybe we can make them see certain things.” – Yana Zlatanova, participant at ReGeneration Week 2023
But of course, ReGeneration Week is not all strategic planning and serious discussions – it is also a space to spend time together and make new and meaningful connections! Together with Ålands Natur & Miljö, ReGeneration 2030 organized a climate march through Mariehamn, which created a powerful momentum and a feeling of unity in the fight against climate change. The evenings were dedicated to cultural activities, such as a spectacular Open Mic night and a Nordic-Baltic Music Bingo, and thanks to these lighter moments, a sense of hope and joy lingered throughout the week.
Altogether, over 80 young people participated in the programme of around 45 sessions of different kinds, along with more than 65 executive change-makers. Both younger and older participants left Åland with new knowledge and new allies.
These moments together, big and small, serious and festive, are what we take with us as inspiration for the upcoming year, in our struggles to ensure a livable future for everyone. And as Alva Danielsson, Movement Coordinator of ReGeneration 2030, concluded the week:
“The fight continues. Remember, together we are unstoppable. Another world is possible.”
Author: Matilda Agdler
Photo credit: ReGeneration 2030