Drawing from European Forest Fire Information System data, Coldiretti’s findings show that, compared to the historical average 2008–2020, heat and arson were behind the phenomenal wildfires ravaging across Italy. Immense wildfires have in fact increased by 256% versus the previous year, escalating to such an extent that no single Italian region was immune. A flaming tour of Italy that has cost the country about a billion euros in fire-fighting, clean-up and reconstruction.
Setting the country on a new course
In this very same summer, however, the Minister for Youth Policies, with a mandate for civic service, Fabiana Dadone signed a memorandum of understanding with the Minister for Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, to launch the Environmental Civic Service for Sustainable Development.
Fabiana Dadone, Minister for Youth Policies, with a mandate for civic service
“Civic service was originally conceived as an alternative to compulsory detention: instead of waging war, they learn to build our future. Today, our future is built and protected with environmental skills; today knowing, studying and putting one’s knowledge into practice means defending not only one’s homeland but the entire planet. Today, responsibility, respect, honour and discipline are all values projected towards the environment. The wildfires were clearly triggered by climate change and a lack of public awareness. It’s time to change course”, explained Minister Dadone.
“Thanks to the memorandum of understanding”, Dadone continues, “we can give young people the opportunities and tools to become an active part of this green revolution: by incorporating within the institution of Universal Civic Service programmes and projects aimed at the green revolution and ecological transition, preparing young people to face the challenges and seize the opportunities of the green revolution and ecological transition, transforming young people’s knowledge of environmental issues into ‘green skills’ useful for improving their employability in the new areas of economic recovery related to these issues”.
Teaching young people a new civic ethic
The Minister entrusted with civic service also believes that “this type of programme and project should be harnessed to support training for young people, starting with young women, in the scientific and technological disciplines necessary for innovation in society (particularly concerning STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; and also STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)”.
It is also necessary to employ “young people in environmental education and sustainable development education activities aimed at the general public and schools, and in paths for disseminating knowledge and good ecological practices aimed at stimulating virtuous behaviour and sustainable lifestyles”, and also “activities capable of contributing to the green revolution and ecological transition”.
Today, our future is built and protected with environmental skills; today knowing, studying and putting one’s knowledge into practice means defending not only one’s homeland but the entire planet.
The agreement with the Ministry for Ecological Transition also aims at enhancing “the experiential value of the skills of volunteer operators in relation to green economy issues, also with reference to the new professionalism required in sectors such as: biodiversity protection and enhancement, food waste prevention, renewable energy promotion, development of new environmental technologies, digitalisation, circular economy, bio-economy, safeguarding the marine-coastal heritage, fight against marine litter, Green Public Procurement and Minimum Environmental Criteria, environmental education and sustainable development” and therefore to certify “the skills acquired as part of an educational project that involves young people in building their future, their quality of life and that of the next generations”.
Not only the environment: the challenge of urban regeneration
The environment is not presently one of the most active areas in universal civic service. In the last call for volunteers for over 55,000 posts, those in the ‘Environmental heritage and urban regeneration’ sector accounted for only 4.6% of the total, while those in the ‘Mountain area agriculture, social agriculture and biodiversity’ sector accounted for just 0.2%.
However, it is certainly one of the highest issues on the agenda of young people. A survey conducted by the Salesian University Institute in Venice on a sample of 3,300 young people found that 69.3% of adolescents say they pay “enough” attention to respecting the environment, while 23.6% say they pay “a lot” of attention to environmental protection in their everyday behaviour, starting with small but healthy habits. In addition, roughly 9 out of 10 young people say they are careful about proper waste separation and avoid wasting water.
The aim is therefore to significantly increase the environmental engagement segment of civil service volunteers, but also to meet the ambitions of young people.
The Ministry of Ecological Transition will allocate ten million euros for this purpose in 2022 and the Department of Youth Policy will allocate another ten million euros in 2021. While no official call for applications has yet been published, it is expected that volunteers in the Environmental Civic Service will be paid the same monthly salary as universal volunteers, i.e. roughly 440 euros.
The Ministry for Ecological Transition, assisted by ministerial structures and supervised research bodies, will seek “to activate training activities for volunteer operators, which will also be supported by Italy’s top environmental protection and research institute (ISPRA) and its Environmental Protection System (SNPA). Public research centres, universities and legally recognised environmental protection associations will also collaborate on green projects”, the Minister explained.