Koen Vanmechelen giving the keynote presentation in his surreal studio
Sensational TED - style talks highlight of sustainable tourism learning week
Last week a seminal sustainable tourism summer was held in Belgium's Hasselt University.
The week-long course was the inaugural event for the Strong University Network, and attracted 35 International students and their "teachers" from 16 countries who enthusiastically agreed that new approaches to thinking about Green Growth could be entertaining and mind changing.
A combination of inspiring lectures, animated debates, field trips to Belgium's National Park and the European Parliament stimulated new thinking about the links between tourism, transport, biodiversity conservation and climate resilience. They also heard dozens of concrete success stories and new ideas they can be readily applied by travellers, businesses and communities in the progressive transformation to a cleaner, more caring green economy lifestyle.
Topics included Green Growth 2050 Roadmaps, accessible tourism, aviation responding to climate change, big data
The highlight was a fascinating and innovative evening session - "Maurice Strong Reflections" - to honour the founder of Agenda 21 and his open minded big picture thinking. It brought together 6 great speakers for Ted/Ashoka style 10 minute focussed talks on issues as diverse as using new broadband delivery to reduce poverty in Africa, knowledge sharing to accelerate change, shifting from gas guzzling to electric motorbikes in Asian cities, showing small businesses how to go green profitably and re-connecting people and communities with nature.
That event took place in the incredible studio/exhibition centre of world renowned "hybrid artist" Koen Vanmechelen whose keynote address on projects linking art and conservation surrounded by his surrealistic sculptures and paintings left the audience spellbound. After several glasses of wine and wandering around Koen's lifetime exhibition dominated by chickens, llamas and mushrooms
During an excursion to the Hoge Kempen national park, the group were guided by its Director Ignace Schops a Goldman Award biologist showing in a very practical way how vibrant nature, landscapes, friendly rangers and the underlying theme of biodiversity conservation can create the kind of re- connection model discussed in the lecture. The School ended with a guided tour of the European Parliament and a lunch debate with the MEP Kathleen Van Brempt one of the leaders of action on green growth and development.
The original idea for this kind of "out of the box" learning came some years ago from Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit when he asked a number of friends - including Geoffrey Lipman - to help bring the concept to different socio-economic sectors.
The Strong University Network is a non-profit international University R&D network. It has anchor university partners in Belgium, Australia, China, Peru, Korea, Indonesia, UAE, UK, US, and Zambia, with a dozen more under discussion. Its goal is to create an academic underpinning to the Green Growth & Travelism paradigm - with shared curriculum elements, summer schools, distance learning & entrepreneurship focused programs.
Further information HERE
This week special offer - whole library of current sustainable tourism reports and guides - 93% off HERE