Are You Ready to Tread Lightly?

TakingITGlobal | by Jennifer Corriero

For more than 10 years, TakingITGlobal (TIG) has continued to inspire, inform and involve youth from around the globe to become actively engaged and connected in shaping a more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable world.  For Katarina Rankovic, TakingITGlobal has achieved just that. Having joined this free online community three years ago, she, like all other TakingITGlobal members, has been a recipient of updates and newsfeeds promoting programs on different global issues, alongside access to resources aimed at engaging and increasing youth participation from around the world. It was here where she first learned about Tread Lightly, and it was in August 2010 when she officially became the Tread Lightly Norwegian Language and Engagement Coordinator that has now become a major part of her life and education. At a mere 16 years of age, Katarina shows an unparallel passion and commitment to social change, working constantly to encourage the collaboration and action of fellow youth within the community in hopes of implementing change.

So what exactly is Tread Lightly? Part of a TakingITGlobal for Educators (TIGed) initiative, Tread Lightly is a free climate change education and engagement program that features online educational tools and resources designed to empower young people to become active global citizens and environmental leaders in the fight against climate change and related environmental challenges. The program provides lesson materials and a safe online teaching platform for educators alongside initiatives encouraging action and collaboration for youth. Tread Lightly strives to inform and engage participants in the hopes of fostering a sense of personal and collective responsibility for the Earth, directing the next generation towards a more sustainable future.  Having recently launched the program in nine different languages, Tread Lightly now looks to the Language and Engagement Coordinators (LEC) to push and promote the program in European countries. Here is a glimpse of Katarina’s inspiring views and visions on how she can help shape the future of the world.

At what age did you develop an interest for climate change?  Why did you want to be involved with Tread Lightly?

Katarina: Climate change has always been an important topic to me.  I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about it along with other important global issues like poverty and women’s rights. Before joining TakingITGlobal, I didn’t realize that youth were participating in projects and after learning about Tread Lightly, I wanted to use my knowledge to contribute to the cause.

Briefly describe your role with Tread Lightly.

Katarina: As the Language and Engagement Coordinator (LEC) of Norway, I have a variety of responsibilities. My main role is to promote the program in Norway. TakingITGlobal is pretty widely spread in America, Asia and Africa but European participation has not been as active. I wanted to change that and in particular, help promote the Tread Lightly program here in Norway. A large part of my role is to speak to teachers and encourage them to use the Tread Lightly resources and teacher’s toolkit. Also, I have been responsible in translating the resources and materials from English into Norwegian to cater to our culture and language.

What are some short-term and long-term goals you want to achieve?

Katarina: I want to establish connections to other organizations with similar goals to Tread Lightly. For example, there is a Youth Council in my town Bergen of about 50 young representatives who determine the issues that are presented to the Official Town Council. Since they have pretty similar goals to TakingITGlobal in general and are young representatives from each of our local schools, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce to them our program. I asked if I could give a presentation to their environmental committee that will be happening in March.

My biggest goal is to eventually spread the program into other towns. I have already made contact with some schools in Oslo and perhaps I can go and speak to them. I would like to give more presentations about Tread Lightly, to promote the program and make this a more serious movement. I want to involve more organizations and gather more support, especially teenagers. I would also like to work with the Sami, the Indigenous people of Norway, for a couple of reasons: firstly, the Sami culture traditionally values nature in particular. Secondly, the Sami-led political demonstrations for an improved environment have traditionally been a fight for preservation of their culture.

Being a secondary student, what are your thoughts on the current school curriculum?  How does it relate to the Tread Lightly program?

Katarina: I’m generally pleased with the school curriculum that is being taught across the country. The education quality is fine but the climate change topics are a bit alienated, and one important thing lacking is the emphasis on youth involvement. The sense of youth involvement is so key in the issues today and I would like to see that improve. For example, environmental sciences taught in class are done so at a superficial level that is not as deepening or engaging. Tread Lightly invites youth to become involved in the climate debate and provides resources that allow students to further investigate the topic. On the Tread Lightly and TakingITGlobal websites, if you click on a link, it connects you to another and another, allowing you to take advantage of the online tools and really question your role as a young person in this crisis.

What do you feel you have contributed to this program and to climate change in general?

Katarina: Global warming is a difficult issue. It’s affecting the whole globe in many ways. My contribution should help in some way, even if it’s small. I feel that I’ve already caught the eye of some people in my community, that I’ve gotten them to think about the issue more and that climate change is a real threat. Bringing a real awareness of climate change is my goal, especially in Norway because of its resources.*

*98% of the country’s power comes from a renewable source, with the majority from water reservoirs.

What gives you motivation? What have you taken from your experience with Tread Lightly?

Katarina: I get motivation from my colleagues and teachers I’ve met to continue being passionate about climate change.  It’s an exciting thing to be working on despite the pessimism that comes with the issue! It’s exciting to be part of something international that affects so many people around the world. It has also allowed me to learn skills that are also useful in school. For example, a part of my job is to research climate change issues and so when we reached this topic in social sciences, I am already more knowledgeable than my classmates because I’ve been keeping informed with current news. Other practical skills like public speaking, meetings with teachers and giving presentations are rapidly becoming comfortable to me from my work experience. These were the personal skills I wanted to develop and was one of the reasons why I got involved in the first place. My main and most important reason though is because I want to be a part of the fight against climate change.

What ultimately is your message?

Katarina: Most importantly, I think more people need to be involved. They need to be a part of a world without an overdependence on the Earth’s resources. Youth are the leaders of the future and will hopefully value the environment because climate change is this generation’s problem. Every generation has a problem that has been inherited from the past and climate change is ours. If young people continue everyday learning but with an awareness of climate change, I think we can perhaps foster sustainable behaviours and attitudes among young people.

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Jennifer Corriero is the co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal, an online learning community for youth interested in global issues and creating positive change. Her extensive experience includes developing and driving youth programs related to technology, collaboration and entrepreneurship, and designing and delivering interactive learning experiences to empower youth and community leaders. She has been a delegate to the World Summit on the Information Society; she’s presented and supported civil society engagement at events including the World Urban Forum, World Summit on Sustainable Development and other global forums. Corriero has been a youth engagement strategy consultant for Microsoft, TD Bank, Ontario Science Centre and the Canadian Government. She earned her BA in Business, Communications, Technology and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. An innovator, leader and engaging public speaker, she has been widely recognized by various conferences, organizations, universities and mainstream magazines for her tireless efforts in motivating the youth of the world. Contact her through TakingITGlobal.

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