THE EARTH TRAIN
May 5, 1993
JOURNEY TO VIENNA
Nathan Gray’s Earth Train to lobby leaders
By Ashali Varma
The Earth Train, which began last year as an enterprise in environmental education, is now headed for its next destination –Vienna –where organizers hope that global leaders attending the 1993 United Nations World Conference on Human Rights will be attentive to the special messages carried by the train’s “passengers.”
The “passengers” will be 200 youths from 40 countries, and, says Nathan Gray –the brain behind the Earth Train –the youths will emphasize to the Vienna assembly that collective security depends on collective well-being. Peace, economic development, and environmental protection are inextricably linked, the youths will assert, and the assurance of human rights is integral to the cause of sustainable development. These messages will be proclaimed at a Children’s Conference on Human Rights, which will be held in Vienna on June 13-19, at the same time that world leaders gather for the UN-sponsored human rights event.
“The key and essence of the Earth Train is the multiplier effect – training youth to be leaders, to be movers and shakers of the future.” Gray, a California entrepreneur and development strategist, said last week in an interview.
In Zagreb, on June 12, children from refugee camps in Croatia will join the Earth Train ambassadors in singing songs for a world free from violence and environmental destruction.
At one Earth Train youth leader, Antun Husinec from Zagreb, puts it: “I’m thrilled that Earth Train is doing something for Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by calling attention to the very cruel war –and through the eyes of the very generation most in jeopardy. Since our Earth Train is a 10 year global campaign aimed to encourage young people to take action and since Croatia and Bosnia are definitely a part of our planet, I think that it is high time for urgent action to stop violence and aggression.”
From Zagreb, the children will board a train bound for Vienna, to attend the Children’s Human Rights Conference which starts on June 13.
Started by Gray, the Earth Train was primarily a venture to motivate young people from different parts of the world; to strengthen their leadership skills, and learn more about the environment, formulate action plans and get involved in community service. The plan called for youth leaders from different countries to conduct workshops in inner cities and motivate teenagers to work together for their communities and for the environment. It encouraged cross-cultural understanding and racial harmony by teaching teenagers to understand their differences and communicate their problems.
In its inaugural journey last September, the Earth Train took 170 youth from 18 countries from Los Angeles to Washington, with stops in San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and New York. At each stop workshops for more than 600 children were conducted by the youth leaders themselves. The three-week journey ended at the Senate in Washington, where the youth leaders presented 18 senators with a youth agenda dealing with issues on environment, education and the importance of giving children a voice.
It was the voices of three Earth Train youth leaders that really inspired the present project of the Earth Train for Peace.
When Vedrana Alisic, Antun Husinec and Daniela Zunec from Croatia returned to their country last fall, their letters back described the urgent need for action. Antun Husinec wrote, “Dozens of towns and villages have been destroyed – casualties among civilians, even Croats and Moslems, are counted in more than a hundred thousand. Inhabitants of cities besieged by Serbian forces face a slow death by starvation. More than 700,000 refugees and displaced persons have been forced to leave their home, which represent the largest exodus in Europe since World War II.”
Daniela Zunec’s account also told of the unbearable suffering of her people. “Now in Croatia is unhappiness – destroyed houses, destroyed families, many dead young people. There is no fear anymore; people are just sick of it. What worries me most are children. Nobody cares enough about how they are surviving in all this turmoil. You see kids on the street only playing war. They need the Earth Train spirit.”
Bianca Jagger, International Co-Chair of Earth Train’s Advisory Board, returned from a UNHCR tour of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and said: “We are witnessing a devious campaign that is designed to destroy families, communities and entire nations. We must take action to stop the rape, the killing, the genocide. Every day that passes, more innocent lives are destroyed. Effective action must be taken.”
Youth and adult organizers of the Earth Train decided to join Bianca Jagger in an urgent and critical response to the Balkan crisis. The purpose of the Earth Train has been broadened to include the following objectives:
· To establish a long-tem program of youth training in the arts of conflict resolution and team-building for environmental restoration in former Yugoslavia.
· To promote youth leaders from former Yugoslavia – in team with peers from around the world –the opportunity to formulate and promote their Agenda for Action on human rights and the environment as a follow-up to the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, June 1993.
Events planned by the Earth Train for Peace, in collaboration with Peach Child International, Austrian Children’s Summit and The Voice of the Children include a children’s theatrical presentation during the Opening Ceremony of the UN Conference on Human Rights. In addition the young delegates will be welcomed by thousands of school children on their arrival at the train station in Vienna. Joined by Bianca Jagger and Claes Nobel they will carry a “Tree of Promises” with messages from children around the world.
The young delegates are determined to be heard and to make a difference.