'We Embrace Peace'

We’ve all heard of Slacktivism, right?

You know... Slacktivism. Like, lazy activism.

It’s an infuriating, broadbrush term for whenever people click on an online campaign action and think 'Right, I’ve done my bit, back to normal life.'

In the UK, some MPs have started telling constituents they don’t really respond to mass emails or online petitions. It’s frustrating, when so much of our lives are digital, to think that this brilliant global mode of communication and change making might have run its course.

But that’s just the UK. Others aren't so pesimistic. So let’s take a look at a youth organisation who has totally changed how they use the internet to campaign, and see what happens when people who care deeply enough about something can achieve more than a few mouse clicks.

CREAS is a Christian Aid partner that runs the Emprendemos Paz project. They work with groups of 18-30 year olds all across Latin America and the Caribbean, helping them develop social, cultural and economic proposals which support peace, fairness and sustainability. CREAS give them a four month training course to perfect their ideas and strength-test them. Then, once their proposal is perfect, participants go back to their communities to inspire them to act.

This movement is global. CREAS has developed an app for participants to share ideas across the continent, monitor the progress of other students, and ask for tips from other movement builders. A sort of ‘progressive Facebook’ it’s part of a bigger program of training and mentoring, encouraging entrepreneurial solutions to problems, and other practical ways of making change happen. A bit like the Christian Aid Collective’s recent Holy Hack, but online.

So - where has it worked?

Here’s one example. There’s a national park in Nicaragua called the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve that's so big it covers a tenth of the country. Home to two indigenous peoples, rivers, mountains, 200 thousand species of insects, harpy eagles, jaguars, pumas, macaws and tapirs. It’s also got (unfortunately for all the above) vast reserves of timber and gold. And that puts everything inside the park under threat.

Bosawas should be a haven for wildlife, but it has lost 70% of its biodiversity – mostly because of deforestation due to timber collecting. Understandably worried about this, Darling, Marvin and Gixon (three young people from the area) formed a group to protect the reserve. In 2017, they applied to the Emprendemos Paz project to get help with stopping the destruction.

Recognising that the government wouldn’t do much to stop the logging unless an economic case was made, the team focused on a financially viable solution: ecotourism: with the influence of visitors meaning local officials would have to comply with environmental protection laws. Genius!

Darling, one member of the team, is 22 years old. She said: 'We offer visitors the opportunity to get in touch with nature, understand it better and share in local traditions. We are involving the community that live here. Local families are the ones that know all the paths and the flora and fauna in the reserve anyway! We’ve had to organize our community – that’s how we came to Emprendemos Paz. It was very enriching to develop this project, engaging with people from other countries, with the guidance of tutors who analysed the strengths and weaknesses of our proposals. They helped us to get to grips with the social and economic aspects.'

And their success has led Darling and her friends to face even bigger challenges:

'Saving the planet and thinking about future generations is in our hands. What are we going to leave them? What future are we preparing them for? What will they receive?'

Before you shut down this tab: ask yourself the same thing. Now: what are you going to do about it?