Leonardo, the (young) voice of Prealpi Giulie – EU Youth Week 2019

Leonardo Cerno, Prealpi Giulie Nature Park, Italy © Luca Deganutti

Published on:

Between the 29th April to 5th May, hundreds of young Europeans are gathered in Brussels, enjoying the European Youth Week. Every two years, the European Commission (DG EAC with the cooperation of other DGs), organises a week full of conferences, workshops, and networking activities specially dedicated to youth. This year, with the theme “Democracy and me”, participants will be challenged to think and commit to new ways to influence decisions and be active in society.

What nature does for you – What you can do for nature

Nature and biodiversity were among the main topics discussed by the young participants over the past days. To spark engagement for nature among participants, DG Environment organised a participatory workshop, on the 30th April. The almost 50 participants were challenged to consider “What nature does for you” and commit on their own future actions for nature. To inspire them, young volunteers with experiences in nature conservation projects were invited to share their experience – and Leonardo Cerno was one of the guests. This is his story.

Leonardo, the (young) voice of the Prealpi Giulie Nature Park

Leonardo has witnessed almost twenty-five springs in the Julian Alps. Since his childhood, he was only to be found outdoors… a tendency that obviously grew after he joined the Junior Ranger programme in his park. The Prealpi Giulie mountains seeded him a wish to work for nature and to have a positive impact in the development of his region, of is so-called home.

Junior Rangers in the Prealpi Giulie Nature Park © Leonardo Cerno

The last years of Leonardo´s life were shared between classrooms, exams (he is studying natural sciences), and projects in the Park. After he reached the 18-year limit of the Junior Ranger programme, he kept engaged with the Park´s activities and, together with other colleagues from across Europe, formed the first generation of the Youth+ programme

Currently, Leonardo organises workcamps and several activities for schools and volunteers in the Park, and is also a member of the local civil protection. Not to mention Leonardo is also an excellent guide… those that know the mountains by heart.

Leonardo Cerno, Prealpi Giulie Nature Park, Italy © Luca Deganutti

Youth, committed for the Future

Meanwhile, Leonardo and some of his young mates who shared the same passion for the mountains established the first Youth Advisory Board in the region. Young people the local municipalities are now connected and organised to start playing a proactive role in the regional activities, local governance structures, and in the work of the Park.

Participants of the Workshop “What nature does for you – What you can do for nature”, at EU Youth Week 2019, European Parliament, Brussels

Well, but let´s go back to Brussels, during the workshop Leonardo shared his experienced and introduced the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto project, – which has precipitated a series of interesting questions in the ongoing activities, told us Leo:

It was a great experience and I had a lot of questions from participatins about the Junior Ranger and Youth projects, but many more about the Youth Manifesto! So I am convinced the interest is raising, and we should continue our work!

What needs to be done to address the biodiversity crisis to save the planet?

In the afternoon, a second session organised by DG Environment took place. This time the focus was on understanding what is being done – and what needs to be done – to halt biodiversity loss.

Leonardo joined this session too, this time to share the Nat2Care Project, an INTERREG project between Italy and Slovenia with the aim to improve the conservation status of 3 protected areas across borders. Interesting is the focus given to citizen engagement initiatives envisaged in the project to promote awareness raising and personal involvement.

Micheal O’Briain, Deputy Head of Unit, Nature Protection Unit in DG Environment, and moderator of this session, closed with an important remark to the European Union, and the importance of networking and cooperating – as problems are similar all across Europe, we need to connect and share our experiences.

We want to hear from you too. Tell us how you are engaged in the activities of your Park, how your park is giving opportunities to young people. Share them with #EUROPARCyouthmanifesto or send them to youth @ europarc.org.

The EU Youth Week is still running! You can follow live some of the events and check the full programme here.