Chile’s first Young Climathon inspires climate leadership

On 28 November 2019, the Young Innovators programme shared its methodologies with the city of Linares, Chile, for the first Young Climathon outside the European continent.

Co-hosted by social innovation platform 2811 and in collaboration with Linares-based Hualo Foundation, the event explored innovative learning tools for educators and students to address the power of activism to create change in their local community.

As a small city with few financial resources, Linares is situated in the world’s most unequal country with an environment severely vulnerable to climate change. It faces high levels of air pollution, desertification, and an agricultural crisis effecting public health, farming and migration patterns.

“Linares is a city that depends a lot on agriculture, so we have to take care, ask for a greater role of the state, but at the same time, as urban activists, build a better city,” commented 2811 Director Waldo Soto, who recently presented at COP25 in Madrid.

The COP was originally going to be held in Santiago, Chile, but was moved to Madrid after widespread anti-government protests broke out highlighting issues around inequality. The last-minute move to Europe restricted access to the annual climate conference for many youth, grassroots and Chilean organisations.

The Young Climathon organizers connected the climate crisis to the fight for social justice the youth are living in Chilean society. The youth of Linares are highly engaged in Chile’s current social movement, calling for dignity and justice in government policy. They are privy to the inequalities of Chilean society and the power of activism to create change.

“These types of activities, I think, are necessary to replicate, because they generate a sense of unity and commitment…and also allow us to understand and value that our young people are able to go beyond their social, political and cultural differences if the purpose is to achieve environmental care,” explained Carolina Torres, environmental coordinator for the education department of the Linares municipality.

The Young Innovators program from Climate-KIC brings to light several aspects of our educational systems that we can change to guide the next generation to take on the climate crisis. At Young Climathon Linares, over 100 students aged 12-19 learned about our human impact on the environment and worked together to find solutions for improving the public spaces of Linares.

“The invitation is for young people to think about everyday locations…and make them more environmentally friendly and community-oriented, to have a positive impact on climate change,” explained Francisco Moya, a member of the Young Climathon Linares coordination team.

Bearing in mind the accessibility of the public space, its impact on the environment, and the ways it is culturally inhabited, 14 teams devised a pilot prototype to pitch. In a democratic election, students judged each other’s solutions based on creativity, impact and collaboration.

Four winning teams were selected to share a cash prize and further mentoring from Hualo Foundation, but all participants were certified Climathonians by EIT Climate-KIC and encouraged to continue their projects.