Long have the sustainably minded called for international collaboration and knowledge exchange on world issues, and the World Resources Forum represented a platform for doing just that. Yet like so many conferences, of its kind, many we’re left wondering at the end, whether it was worth attending at all!

As a young student fortunate enough to take part in a Youth Encounter on Sustainability course this summer in Davos, Switzerland, it seemed like a once in a lifetime experience to attend the conference. Sitting in the midst of some of the worlds greatest minds, Nobel peace prize winners that casually shrugged off the accolade, and undoubtedly some of the young leaders of the future, there was no doubt in my mind that something great could happen. But then the presentations began.

One by one, men and women in sharp suits with well-rehearsed speeches took to the floor and spoke with a level of monotony that took my breath away. For such a pressing matter in the international area, the manor with which they tackled the issues of world resource management did more to infuriate than inspire. Presentation after presentation started with the obligatory first slide that ‘defined’ the issue, yet the rest of the words did nothing to address, challenge or work towards solving it. And so, at the end of the 3-day conference everyone clapped loudly to celebrate quite simply, nothing.

As part of a 32 strong student collective sitting in the audience, representing 25 different countries we did our best to challenge the speakers and bring to the surface those issues that nobody cared to address, to little avail. We held workshops on our work; café style discussions designed to facilitate discussion and even created art as an alternative mechanism of presentation, but nobody took notice.

But what does this mean? We’ll to me this demonstrates a lot. The ‘youth’ are yet to be recognised for the powerful and creative body that they undoubtedly represent. We are the leaders of the future, but we’re unable to strike up a dialogue with those that ought to teach and inform us. Additionally, current leaders seem constrained by their professional image, institutional representations and are quite simply, too unwilling to shake things up. Finally, it is a sign of a missed opportunity. At a stage in our lives where time is so precious, we must discover a way to make these events as great as they can potentially be. But how can we change this? By making more noise, shaking off professional shackles and continually pressing the buttons of those with power?

The answer I think comes down to each and everyone of us, as to use a classic saying, we have to ‘be the change that want to see in the world’.

For more details on how to get involved with the YES and its umbrella body ACTIS (Activating Talent in Sustainability) please go to:http://www.actis-education.ch/ or contact: kj84@st-andrews.ac.uk

Kirsten Jenkins, 4th year Sustainable Development student and YES alumni.