[Image: Mt Solitary, Blue Mountains | Paul Chantler]
I first met Sue Lennox over 10 years ago in what feels like a previous life given I was still in the thick of a corporate career and very much not thinking about having the 2 daughters who have since (recently) arrived.
Fast forward through a decade of intermittent contact around climate change and the environment, and I find myself immersed in a 2-day workshop in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains with Sue, Lena and an intriguing mix of smart, passionate and driven young people intermingled with a few 'oldies' like me.
The workshop is part of OzGreen's award-winning Youth Leading the World program, which is designed to give young people some of the skills they will need to play their part in addressing the very real challenges facing them and the world.
For the 7 young people in the room and 2 from Darwin and the Central Coast taking part online, it's very much the start of what's likely to be a lifelong journey of trying to make a difference. With a very tangible short-term goal for some of them of facilitating a ‘Youth Congress’ in September involving 100–150 other young people from the Blue Mountains. Something that I would find at least a little bit daunting, but this group are taking on with a confidence that belies their years.
I'm always inspired when I meet some of the world's future change makers – and these 2 days have been no different. However, two of the things that have really stood out have been their resilience to the sometimes overwhelming issues facing their future world, coupled with an unrelenting drive to just get on and find some solutions to the mess they've inherited.
This was particularly clear after an hour spent looking at some of the threats facing humanity – from climate change to water shortages to species extinction to overpopulation. I've been exposed to these threats multiple times over the last 2 decades, yet still find myself confronted and at times overwhelmed by the complexity and scale of what we face every time I see the latest data. Yet, thanks to the 9 young people on the programme, I found myself bouncing out of that overwhelmed space in a remarkably short space of time and diving in to what we we can actually do about it. ‘There’s not much we can do about the past’ as one of them so succinctly put it. Their energy and drive was infectious.
And that energy lasted for my 2-hour train trip back into Sydney at the end of the program – and is still with me this morning as I reflect on the last 2 days and start to think about what I can do to help with OzGreen’s growth challenge for the years ahead.
But before I get to that task, I’m holding on to the sense of renewed hope that the 9 young leaders I was privileged to spend some time with have given me. As I’ve written before on this blog, I immerse myself in many of the world’s issues through the work I do – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it does lead to a constant need to be aware of when you need to recharge and rebuild your personal resilience – normally when you start waking up at 3am every night terrified by all the challenges coming the world’s way!
So I’m happy to report I slept through the night last night. Inspired by the intelligence, drive, passion, energy and leadership I witnessed in that room in Katoomba and saw through the screens connecting us to Darwin and the Central Coast. I’m ready to get on with the climate change, homelessness, indigenous disadvantage and sustainable tourism projects I have ahead of me over the coming months. Ready to keep trying to help organisations and people find paths to a world that the young leaders I met reminded me is worth fighting for in every way we can.
And if you give me another night’s sleep like last night, maybe even ready for another 4am alarm call to get me on the train up to Katoomba for what I know is going to be an amazing Youth Congress this September!