Witnessing the global change of the environment

 

The birth of global changes

When the depletion of the ozone layer was detected in the Polar Regions, back in 1985, the world understood it as a global environmental threat directly resulting from human activity. By 1991, scientific expeditions to assess the extent of the problem and measure its evolution had been launched – the first of which was based in Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, and in Sodankyla and Utsjoki, in Finland. 

Youth as special envoys 

Struck by these developments, an enthusiastic and idealistic young Frenchman, Philippe Saugier, founded the Ozone Project, which sent three youth missions up north to follow, monitor, and report on the work of scientists. This series of field visits and expert interviews attempted to fully understand the ozone issue, and to report it to the widest possible audience in real time. Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Switzerland were the first to send “youth envoys”.

The birth of the Internet

Change was also afoot in the communications industry. Things that are easy today were complex and time-consuming a mere 25 years ago. The Internet and emails already existed, but were unavailable to the wide public, and mostly limited to research centres and universities. In Denmark, the University of Copenhagen quickly became the focal point for the international communication between the youth envoys and the local teams.

Local teams carried out missions and interviews to probe further into how the ‘ozone issue’ was rooted locally, and deeply ingrained in our daily lives.

Merging to Foundation for Environmental Education programme

When the project was experimentally absorbed by what was then the Foundation for the Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) (today only FEE. The last E stood for ”in Europe”, and was dropped once it spread outside Europe), the last step to create what we know today as the Young Reporters for the Environment had finally been taken. In 1994, Luxembourg would become the first country to officially implement the programme. It was no longer an experiment.

Young Reporters for the Environment today

The global coordination of the Young Reporters for the Environment has since moved from the Foundation for Environmental Education's office in Paris to the International Head Office in Copenhagen. 

Today, we have 70,000+ students and 7,500+ teachers in 28 countries (and counting) involved in the Young Reporters for the Environment programme - called YRE. Over 5,000 photos and 2,700 articles have been submitted to national competitions to date, in three categories – articles, photography, and video. Nine international winners are chosen every year.

 

For more information about the origins of the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE), check out this video featuring Philippe Saugier – the YRE creator – and Pedro Marcelino, one of the earliest YRE students (Mission Antarctica, 1996).