International Biosphere Stewardship Program Runs First UWC Short Course
In 2018, Biosphere Foundation hosted its 7th International Biosphere Stewardship Program (IBSP) in Bali, Indonesia. This was the Foundation’s first year of running the program as a UWC short course, and the leaders of the Program say it was their “most successful yet”. The aim of the IBSP UWC short course is to encourage young people to take action for a more sustainable future in their own communities - and with students, this year from Egypt, the UK, Brazil, Korea, the USA and Indonesia, the Program can have a global impact.
“We live in a biosphere which is by definition, a system closed to material input and output,” says Sally Silverstone, Course Director. “Therefore, as stewards of the biosphere, we have to really pay attention to what we do with our limited resources and take responsibility for the things we create.” Through workshops, outdoor experiences and other learning activities, the IBSP UWC short course shares this understanding with its participants, seeking to create a healthier planet for all.
September 2016 marked 25 years since three of the Biosphere Foundation’s founders entered the airlock door of the Biosphere 2 Project (BIO2) and remained inside the 3.15-acre domed structure for two years. In BIO2 these individuals experienced, every day, how their actions were interconnected with the health of the biosphere. Today, the Biosphere Foundation believe that hands-on involvement, such as that fostered through the IBSP UWC short course, is the key to stewarding the biosphere, to realise that no action is insignificant and that everyone can make a difference and be part of the solution.
At the end of each IBSP UWC short course, facilitators ask that each participant make a pledge, no matter how small, to do something to protect the biosphere we all share – Planet Earth. This year, they witnessed a wide range of pledges. Many pledged to consume less plastic and to ask their family to do the same. One participant pledged to promote more organic farming practices on her family’s farm, and another to start a tree planting programme in her own country. A participant from Korea said, in an article which she wrote after the course: “after coming back from this trip, I can safely say that I learned everything that the programme promised to teach and beyond: for the first time in my sheltered life, I learned to be properly human.”
One of the aims of the IBSP UWC short course is to teach young people how to live and work together with mutual respect. Much like at UWC schools and colleges, therefore, the IBSP UWC short course has a community focus. Students helped out with trash removal from a mangrove forest, plastic recycling at a local recycling center, planting on one of the Biosphere Foundation’s research farms and cleaning out invasive weeds from the forest. Perhaps one of the most significant impacts of the course, says Sally, was that it “gave our local youngsters in Bali the opportunity to meet others from all over the world and share their experiences, and realise that they are not alone in the challenges they are facing in their community.” Language barriers could be a challenge, they say, “but where there is a will there's a way... Partnering with UWC gives us the ability to reach out to dedicated young environmentalists from all over the world to take part in the course.”
The Biosphere Foundation hopes to attract more international students and to invite some inspirational guest speakers to the short course in 2019. You can find more information about next year’s IBSP UWC short course posted here.