Disconnecting and Reconnecting. You might think the two actions could not occur simultaneously – but that`s what happened to me when I arrived in Cuba last week to join Recrear in its project `Youth Consulting on Climate Change`.
A flurry of errands, days without any particular rhythm led up to my arrival in Cuba and then all of a sudden – stillness. Plugging into the present moment in Cuba meant stepping away from a world of virtual interactions and seemingly larger than life responsibilities. In its place I leaped into a world of profound conversations (none of which leave room for small talk), cozy communities and a fondness for the environment.
Almost immediately following my arrival to Havana we launched into our first set of participatory workshops with Havana youth. Our youth researchers in Havana, (MariaSilvia, Marisol, Roydes and Liliet) recruited a group of 22 young people with varying degrees of interest and involvement in environmental issues. Some of them belong to various faculties of the University of Havana, while others were linked to a permaculture farm in a more marginalized community of the city.
As for me, I have interacted with only some of the environmental debates, participated in a symbolic amount of clean-up projects and felt a personal responsibility to be mindful of minimizing my personal ecological footprint wherever possible. Yet even as climate change talk is urgently discussed in most of the occidental world, the moments in which I most connect with these debates is not in the conference halls but immersed in the environment.
Many of the young people in our first workshop would tell you the same.
In our 4 days together we divided our time between the university and the permaculture farm to explore the stories of these young people and how they relate to the environment. The first two days of workshops in the University of Havana facilitated discussions about values and the different inter-generational relationships with the environment. Our debates also brought us to discuss the tension between economic development and environmental care.
Even so, our last two days in the permaculture farm were the most powerful. According to the participants, nothing facilitates your connection to the environment better than being in nature.
So while virtual newsfeeds promoting a greater environmental consciousness scarcely reach me here, I have felt more connected to my relationship to the environment simply from being in nature.
Sounds silly? I invite you to observe how you feel the next time you are walking in the woods, swimming in a lake, diving under the waves, or running in a park. Why do you go to these places? What do they make you feel?
For me it feels like disconnecting and reconnecting.