Vitor: Planting seeds for young environmentalists in Atalanta, Brazil
To create sustainable change for the environment, changemakers recognize that they must create a mindset shift that affects all generations. Vitor and his classmates share a collective interest in protecting the biodiversity in their region. They decided to take action by focusing on young people’s attitudes and actions towards the environment. Vitor’s story demonstrates the ripple effect of changemaking as the team broadens their environmental impact with each new project and partnership.
Farming is a way of life for the 3,000 residents in Atalanta, a small town located along the Atlantic Forest within the interior of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Most families living in Atalanta make their living from agricultural production through small, family-owned farms.
Vitor, born and raised in this town, appreciated his community’s natural beauty and developed a keen interest in sociobiodiversity. However, Vitor noticed that most farmers are generally unaware of the importance of preserving the forest and natural resources on their properties.
To educate farmers, Vitor thought about educating their children first. He believed that not only would that change their parents’ behavior, but transform their entire community forever. This revelation is how the Plantando o Futuro, or Planting the Future, was born.
In 2016, Vitor and a few of his friends, all between the ages 12 and 15 years, came together to carry out environmental projects in their school, such as planting trees or maintaining local gardens. Their projects attracted more students to join in. With a rise in participation, the venture gained the support of the teachers, the school board, and later an environmental NGO in the municipality, called Apremavi. Together, they have conducted 30 projects to encourage environmental preservation since the Summer 2019.
Projects include lectures in schools, photography contests about nature, planting trees on farms (4,000 to date!), visiting reclaimed areas, conferences on water use, and beautification of public areas with gardens. Vitor and his peers fundraise through local companies while Apremavi donates tree saplings as well as technical assistance and logistical support.
Through partnerships with environmentalists and forestry professionals, students in the organization engage in ongoing training and workshops to further their agricultural knowledge and strengthen their sustainability efforts. At the beginning of each year, a youth-led meeting is held to plan the new cycle of projects and goals are set by the new youth leaders of that year.
Vitor’s team, now encompassing 25 classmates, intends to promote environmental dialogue and changemaking literacy in other schools by setting up Plantando o Futuro youth working groups across the region. They also hope to change local systems of agricultural production by working more closely with farmers, producers, and the government to be more sustainable.
Realistically, Vitor believes that his generation of Brazilians are often unmotivated by all the problems and difficulties that surround them. However, he hopes to show other young people that it is possible to change their reality. “If a person wants to change something in the university, if a person wants to change something in their city, or if a person wants to innovate and invent something completely new, they can do it.