April 22, 2021

Earth Day Special – Interview with EYP Alumni Jan Krcmar, Eloïse Bodin, Dimitrios Doukas, Darya Savishchava, and Max Feustel

For many young people growing up in a world threatened by the climate crisis and environmental degradation, every day is Earth Day.

The youth in Europe has been one of the Earth’s most passionate and fearless advocates. Through projects such as EYP’s Power Shifts project, supported by the E.ON Foundation, or grassroots initiatives such as Fridays for Future, young people are making their calls for protecting nature and the climate heard.

To celebrate Earth Day and the achievements of our EYP Alumni, we interviewed long-standing EYPers who now work in sectors essential for a sustainable and just transition and who have made it their career’s work to #RespectTheEarth.

  • Jan Krcmar’s (AT) first event was in Nicosia in 1996, and his last Session in Tábor, in 2004. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Czech Solar Association.
  • Eloïse Bodin’s (FR) first event was a Rhone-Alpes Regional Session in 2012, in Grenoble. She presided her last EYP Session, the Tour’s Inter-Regional Session in 2017. She works as a Policy Analyst for the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) in Brussels.
  • Dimitrios Doukas’ (GR) first event was the Thessaloniki National Conference in December 2000, and his last EYP Session was in the same city, as a Jury Member. He is currently the Chief Information Officer and Country Manager (Greece) at NET2GRID, as well as a Future Energy Leader with the World Energy Council.
  • Darya Savishchava’s (BY) first Session was a Regional Session in Vilnius, in 2011, whereas her last Session was the National Session in Mallorca in 2016. She is a Partner Marketing Lead for Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions, at the Rainforest Alliance.
  • Max Feustel’s (DE) first national event was the third ever German National Conference in Hamburg in May 1993. He was active in EYP Germany Sessions afterwards until circa 2000. He is a Lawyer at an offshore wind farm Global Tech, where he is responsible for corporate and finance law.

In your view, what are the most important steps to shift towards more sustainable societies?

Jan – “Firstly, a change in behaviour among all of us. All of us need to act more sustainably. Less driving, less CO2-intensive travel, less mindless consumerism, less CO2-heavy diets. That as a first step is vital because we cannot rely on companies or governments to do everything for us. Secondly, changing to renewables at a faster pace. More research on long-term energy storage, cheaper and more affordable renewables.” 

Eloïse – “We need to embrace radical change! Running after GDP growth won’t solve social, economic, and environmental issues. We are living in an unsustainable world under many aspects. Sustainability is not about giving up on comfort and going back to the Middle Ages. It must bring us to a more just & equal society in which nature is protected and community at the heart of societal thinking. We need more democratic systems in which citizens can effectively voice their concerns to policy-makers. Initiatives like EYP but also other associative and activist movements are extremely helpful in educating and giving the right tools to voice ideas and proposals.”

Dimitrios – “The most important step is to respect our planet and its resources. We need to invest in (and then adopt) more eco-friendly technologies for energy generation and storage. Access to more energy-related data, ideally in real-time, could also unlock more sustainable and data-driven decision making.”

Darya – “Sustainability is such a broad topic, which can be discussed for hours. But these are some of the many steps I find important: education, shared responsibility and collaboration, and action. Education: educating people of all ages about the interconnectedness of us humans and nature and understanding the consequences is crucial. Shared responsibility and collaboration – we need to stop blaming each other and realise that sustainability includes hard work for all (also interconnected) actors of our society: citizens, businesses, governments, and NGOs. Action: every single action counts! If each of us does even a tiny step towards a more sustainable life, it will unleash the collective power.”

Max – “Ensuring that things that are harmful to the environment appropriately reflect that harm in their costs – e.g. by introducing emissions trading schemes. As long as polluting or damaging the environment is less expensive than the alternatives, it will not stop. To get there, an important issue will be overcoming the influence of legacy industries such as the oil and coal industries and politicians and the public recognising that sustainable industries are still industries – there are 300.000 jobs in renewable energy in Germany vs. 25.000 jobs in coal, but the coal industry remains heavily influential in politics, while renewable energy does not have that kind of corporate influence.”

Did taking part in EYP inspire you to pursue a career in a sector related to sustainability?

Jan – “I was active in the local green party at the age of 15, so all the fundaments for my eco-career were there already. But what EYP did show me was how differently each country approached environmentalism, how some countries were ahead of the curve, and how differently people from various countries sometimes perceived their roles within our environment.”

Eloïse – “Of course! As a delegate and then as a chair I joined the ENVI committee and became increasingly aware of the upcoming challenges linked to sustainability. EYP gave me the confidence to pursue more “political“ studies and work in Brussels. I am very grateful for all the people I met and the travels I did! It changed my life for sure.”

Dimitrios – “Definitely. I have been involved with EYP in multiple roles (delegate, journalist, organiser, jury and board member) and over almost 15 years. Topics and discussions around energy efficiency, renewables and policy/regulation actions towards a greener future were always the most inspiring to me. Later on, as a member of the steering group of the Power-Shifts project, together with professionals from different backgrounds, I had the chance to look at this topic from multiple perspectives, something that was an eye-opening experience.”

Darya – “First, I thought that this was totally my decision. But after going through my sessions and old photos I realised that almost all committees I was a part of as a delegate or a chair, or the topics I proposed as a VP or an organiser were actually connected to sustainability! EYP definitely helped me to broaden my horizons, develop my critical thinking, meet talented like-minded people, and supported me in choosing my path.

Max – “Not directly, I took to law without a specific area in mind. Taking part in the EYP, however, had given me a taste of how it felt to “work for the greater good” and that feeling certainly never left me, making it important to me to work in an area where I can claim a part, however small, in making things better. It also showed me that open discussion can lead to solutions even where it initially seemed impossible, which gives me optimism that politics can and will work (albeit slowly) towards solving the serious problems our planet has.”

As Earth Day is now going on, think about how you can have an impact in your own community to foster your personal vision for sustainability and #RespectTheEarth.