Green Utopia. Reflections Provoked by the Fourth Green Academy

Report

The Green Academy is an annual educational program. During the week, 25 participants from various fields
discuss and reflect on green topics: gender equality, participatory democracy and environmental protection.

Group photo of participants and members of the Green Academy 2021

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What Green Academy 2021 Was About

The Green Academy Summer School is part of the educational program created by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. It is based on a sustainable and just society with green values: social justice and gender equality, environmental sustainability and participatory democracy.

Every year, the Academy is attended by representatives of various sectors: urban development, environmental and feminist movement, cinema, analytical research, journalism, cultural management, human rights and others. During the discussions and debates, the participants reflected on how green values were interconnected and how to implement them in practice in Ukraine.

This year's program consisted of several thematic blocks, which detailed each of the green values. The topics included basic democracy and social justice, what to do about the environmental crisis, how to take care of the environment in the daily life, how to achieve stability and solidarity in activism, how to engage other people in political changes and integrate the gender-sensitive approach into one’s work.

Oleksandr Kravchuk eng

Alexander Kravchuk, member of the Green Academy

“At the Green Academy, I understood how those values are interconnected, how they are impossible without one another, and how important it is to include them in daily work and maintain ties between them,” says Oleksandr Kravchuk, participant of the Academy and editor of Commons.

He adds that the Green Academy helped him see the points of intersection in people from different walks of life: “And that there is room for utopia and a positive project for the future, and that it is impossible without green values.”

Utopia

At the Academy, there were many talks about the perfect world. The participants also talked about ways to engage in global processes and look at one’s own subjects in a different way, through other people’s experiences.

Iryna Nikokaychuk eng

Iryna Nikolaichuk, a member of the Green Academy

     “I really liked the game when we tried our hand at different social roles. This helped us to see clearly how each of us who lives on this planet affects it and also is affected by it. When you see real people and real stories behind all the theory, you get chills. We hold on to the feeling that everything is okay with us, that we will live on, and our future, albeit vague, will definitely be there. And such exercises are an opportunity to see people and problems that are actually much closer than we thought,” says Iryna Nikolaichuk, a literary critic and co-founder of the first women’s publishing house in Ukraine, Creative Women Publishing.

Among the discussions that gave the participants most food for thought was the one about how global problems affect the most vulnerable groups and what one can do (and should one?) to overcome the consequences of these problems.

marta popyk eng

Marta Popyk, member of the Green Academy

     “This experience of empathy made me think a lot,” says Marta Popyk, a lawyer working in the sector of renewables. “Different people have different experiences on this planet. My life, personally, is quite comfortable, nice and pleasant despite numerous problems existing in the contemporary world, because I have privileges. But at the Green Academy, I was able to share the experience of other people who cannot live like I do, and some cannot do it because of climate change and other problems which do not affect me in an equally critical way. We had a lot of exercises that allowed us to live a slightly different life—that of another person with other problems—and feel the power of these green values and the pain of their absence.”

Not all people have the same influence on what happens in society—and this was also one of the topics of discussion during the studies. For example, who is responsible for large-scale emissions—one person who does not sort garbage, or global corporations?

Olha Perekhrest eng

Olga Perekhrest, member of the Green Academy

“I think, sometimes we shift too much responsibility on those who are already doing a lot instead of kicking those who are doing very little, like officials, because we do not really expect anything from them anymore,” says editor and journalist Olha Perekhrest. “We also spoke about engaging people in vulnerable situations, like those who live in poverty or the homeless, in the climate agenda. I still think that sometimes we tend to misplace the responsibility.”

The main achievement of the Green Academy, adds Olha, is that it helped her with her own impostor syndrome. “The opportunity to talk with various people from various sectors as equals while feeling confident in your position—this experience is something I still come back to when I feel uncertain about whether my opinion matters.”

Reflections

One of the Academy’s goals is to provide the participants with some space to think. The training week is an intense program of speaking, listening, and thinking, but what is equally important is what the participants bring back with them after the Academy.

“I have higher expectations of myself and of other people now, because the Green Academy set a very high standard: how you can affect change and what can be done. It really inspires you to act more, to feel strong, to affect others and feel responsible for this influence,” says Marta Popyk.

Учасниці під час роботи в групі

Учасниця Зеленої академії слухає лекцію

Учасниці під час роботи в групі

Учасниці презентують результати роботи в групі

Учасниця лежить і слухає лекцію

Тренер Іван Вербицький і тренерка Анна Довгопол під час сесії

Учасники школи обговорюють завдання

Учасниці школи презентують ре

Учасниці школи презентують результати роботи в групі

Учасниці школи під час виконання завдання

Учасниці школи під час неформального обговорення

The topics covered at the Green Academy have always been part of her daily life, Marta says, but she had never before had an opportunity to think about them in more professional and philosophic terms, together with others.

“After the Academy, I have grown less tolerant to certain things. I used to keep silent when I noticed that people treat nature or other people badly, but I do not anymore. Silence does not change anything, so, perhaps, it makes sense to enter into conversations and even conflicts with people—because conflicts also reveal the truth. Now, I feel responsibility to respond, to share information, experience, values with others,” adds Marta.

Next year, the fifth Green Academy is set to take place. Information about the new selection will be published on the Academy’s official Facebook page, on Instagram, and on the Foundation’s website. However, you can already read there how the selection will take place, try your hand at last year's test assignments and read more about the Academy participants. And to make sure that your wait is not too long, you can read a booklet about green values by Ukrainian experts and activists working in environmental protection, human rights, and urban policies. Among other things, they try to answer the questions whether green values are relevant today, whether sorting trash is enough to avoid climate change, and how to make sure that decision-making accounts for everyone’s needs.