Emerging from inspiration, imagination, and reality, solutions are youthful in their nature. Born from the assistance of mentorship and our world’s environments, solutions are part of humanity’s quest in problem solving and its collective passion and desire for life.
Youth are -- right now -- building the future and working for the future. Youth are solutions in themselves -- opportunities with ripening potential. As a population of growing learners and listeners, youth have a vital role in addressing the solutions for today and tomorrow, with ears pricked to the past and eyes open to the future.
I spent the past weekend participating in the Youth Insight Young Leaders Collaboratory, a retreat for youth leadership at the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth. Nestled between coastal hills and the Pacific Ocean, the retreat was held at the Headlands Institute in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco.
The retreat brought together a diverse and eclectic mix of emerging, young, international leaders. As a participant, I was blown away by everyone’s energy and phenomenal passion and drive for their work, life, and the world. Each of us is building and working for the future. Our weekend together created a meaningful community.
The group was comprised of about thirty-five youth ranging in age from fifteen to thirty-one, as well as intergenerational facilitators from the United States and New Zealand. Over half our group was an amazing collective of Kiwis representing their native New Zealand culture, environment, vision, and passion. North American participants came from Canada and the west and east coast of the United States. Special guests included members of Bioneers, WiserEarth, Yes!, and Urth.TV.
The group of Kiwis organized the retreat in collaboration with the US Partnership of Education for Sustainable Development and Bioneers. The Kiwis had also participated in the Digital Earth 2006 Summit on Sustainability in Auckland, New Zealand, and the SoL Forum on Business Innovation for Sustainability.
In fewer than 48 hours, we breached boundaries, braided visions, shared hopes, dreams, cross-cultural contrasts, compelling life stories, and networked on a deep level. We had a fantastic time sharing ourselves, learning, developing questions, celebrating, and even taking the time to explore the Headlands, and fly kites and climb rocks at Stinson Beach.
The 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth, in the Bay Area
As characterized by retreat organizer Billy Matheson, “How do we hospice what is dying? How do we mid-wife what is being born?” These two questions repeatedly arose over our weekend. How might the sustainability movement and the future of humanity as a whole address these questions? What about our world is changing and requires transition and comfort as it leaves us? How might we give new life and form to our tomorrow and also provide transition and contextualization to those things which have yet to be manifested or matured?
An important component of the retreat was to prepare -– intellectually, physically, spiritually –- for participation in the symposium. Matheson’s questions will likely be addressed, in part, throughout the coming week at the International Symposium on Digital Earth, held at UC Berkeley, and commencing tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5.
In fact, the New Zealand youth will be presenting their culture and vision to the conferences’ participants during the opening sessions tomorrow afternoon.
The Digital Earth concept presents a vision for our changing world; an Earth with new virtual and digital landscapes and resources, yet one also positioned within a context of the real, a landscape of ecological consequence and biological livelihood:
“Digital Earth is a visionary concept, popularized by former US Vice President Al Gore, for the virtual and 3-D representation of the Earth that is spatially referenced and interconnected with digital knowledge archives from around the planet with vast amounts of scientific, natural, and cultural information to describe and understand the Earth, its systems, and human activities.
“The Digital Earth vision embraces a philosophy that any citizen of the planet, linked through the Internet, should be able to freely access a virtual world of information and knowledge resources. This philosophy supports the dream of ubiquitous education for the people of the planet. A rich convergence of technological advances, active visionaries, and recognition of the paramount need for humans to better understand the Earth and its systems comprises the history of this dynamic and exciting enterprise.”
This week’s Symposium is the first to be held in the United States (the first was held in China in 1999; subsequent events were held in Canada, Czech Republic, and Japan). Sponsors include Google, Microsoft Virtual Earth, ESRI, NASA, NOAA, United Nations Environment Programme, UNESCO, UC Berkeley, Stanford, the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Bioneers.
“The five day gathering will feature world-class representatives from industry, academia, government, NGOs and the private sector who have come from around the globe to highlight a central theme regarding shared interest in the concept of a digital Earth.
“The ISDE5 Program will spotlight international keynote speakers from Norway, China, Japan, New Zealand, and the European Union. Astronauts, Ambassadors, Governors, and Indian Chiefs will also provide keynotes to provoke inspired insight into the functional needs for Digital Earth Technology. Agency leaders from NOAA, NASA, and the United Nations will define the governance aspects of programs that are helping evolve the Digital Earth Vision. Industry pioneers who represent the “green rush” of 3D Earth visualization software will present their unique corporate philosophies and investments. Together these groups will harmonize viable Digital Earth practices and solutions.”