Youth at the Millennium – Conference Update

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The following is a draft statement prepared by participants in the recent conference Youth at the Millennium: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Youth, Leadership, and Global Society. We welcome your thoughts and opinions regarding this statement. Our goal is to expand the statement, incorporating your feedback and input, as a means to provide interested individuals with clarity on international social justice issues as well as inspiration for action. Please send your comments and questions to [email protected] . Click here for testimonials from the conference.
To Live Simply So that Others May Simply Live:
Draft Statement from the Youth at the Millennium Conference, April 2002

From April 1-4, 2002, in Santa Barbara, California, a group of young men and women met with a group of their elders to discuss the world as it is and the world as it could be. The Institute for World Culture, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara City College, and the University of California at Santa Barbara provided support for this gathering which was a project of Group 21, an international organization dedicated to fostering intergenerational dialogue on issues of global importance. The following statement represents the sense of the meeting and the ability of the group to articulate its four-day dialogue on the final day of meeting and discussion.

Globalization has had a dramatic impact on human society. The forces of globalization have intensified conflict locally as well as globally. People, particularly the young, are left feeling alienated, isolated, and discouraged from free thought. Many among the young have internalized the principles of consumer culture, which are promoted by the media through advertising. However, though the young are targeted as consumers, they are denied a political voice. Decisions are mostly made by older generations. This problems exists on a global level, where the people of the world have little say in the decisions made by international financial institutions on their behalf.

Globalization does allow young people to connect with and learn about each other throughout the world. On the other hand, it also forces youth to face the disparities and inequalities that exist in the world, which are perpetuated by the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. While oppression has resulted from globalization, resistance to it has also resulted. Youth in particular, passionate and curious can and do serve as catalysts in opposition to the oppression caused by globalization.

The powerful influence of globalization has shaken the ethical and spiritual foundations of humankind. Recognition of interdependence is necessary for the co-existence of people and planet. The fragile balance within the human body is analogous to the fragile balance of earth’s ecology. Careful attention to it is crucial to all life on Earth. Recent years have seen a degradation of the environment that is unprecedented. Fueled by globalization, the corporatization of nature is accelerating the mismanagement of the natural world. The resulting problems unjustly affect future generations, denying them the intrinsic value of the wilderness, and irreparably damaging their ability to sustain livelihoods.

We must revere all life, of which humanity is a part. We must embrace diversity, both in the environment and in our brothers and sisters across the face of the earth. Such a global perspective goes beyond the material effects of global processes, and demands an awareness of the intrinsic values of each individual. It is in the best interest of humankind to celebrate the diversity and remain mindful of our actions towards each other and towards the natural world.

There are over six billion people living on Earth, yet a minority benefits from the effects of globalization. Free trade has led to free reign by the few fully industrialized nations over the many which are not. Some nations enjoy robust economies at the expense of the majority of other nations without whose labor, land and resources the rich nations would not prosper. The undeniable gap between the haves and the have nots is exacerbated by such bodies as the World bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

In spite of accelerating inequalities, youth remains optimistic because there is also an accelerating awareness of these inequities. Furthermore, there is a resistance to them. The world must be reclaimed at the local level through collective action and community development. Economic justice can only be attained if it is simultaneously pursued at the local and global levels. Discovering new personal and social models, which involve youth, is essential to the correcting economic imbalance.

The consumption habits of the modern world are destroying the very thing that gives us life, the Earth. The processes that maintain the planet’s equilibrium are in jeopardy. Two main problems have resulted: the degradation of the environment and its ability to sustain future generations. These problems harm the integrity of all life. Emphasis on the right of the individual to act independently as a consumer has hidden the interdependence of all life, which is vital to the sustenance of life on Earth. The interest of one is really the interest of all. Recognition of interdependence leads to reverence for the unity of life. The Earth itself must be held in reverence for it sustains life. The moral imperative of this time is to live simply so that others may simply live.
Draft Statement from the Youth at the Millennium Conference
April 4, 2002
Youth at the Millennium: Testimonials

Student discuss The Political Consequences of Globalization

I loved the speakers, both in that every one of them was so open and intelligent, but also that each had a different perspective and different focus, so that when everyone came together their views were very diverse.
- Anonymous

Youth at the Millennium provided so much – it brought us together and allowed for the networking vital to an effective movement for a positive globalization – to begin at a local level here among the students and groups located in Santa Barbara on one level, and with those outside of Santa Barbara through the wonderful guest speakers. Sharing the experience of experts helps us, the students, to understand what we can do, what to look out for, etc., making us more ready to face it.
- Anonymous

The other thing that was key to making this such a worthwhile event is its emphasis on ethics and morality. It is these discussions that are absent in the current discussions around globalization. The anti-globalization has become predictable, which is a problem. By framing questions about ethics, morality, and self-reflection, we are taking the discussion to another level.
- Anonymous
I have never before participated in an event with my peers that gave me such a strong sense of solidarity, and it gave me hope for my generation and for the future of humanity in general. The devotion Phil and Bob brought to this cause is truly inspiring, and they have engaged in an endeavor of truth and justice that deserves the utmost respectability. I personally want to thank everyone involved for providing me with such an inspiring and wonderful experience.
- Anonymous

This world often leaves me depressed and questioning of the ability to produce positive change; I can easily get consumed by the grim reality of the current state of things. However, this conference has renewed my hope and reinvigorated my spirit… The interaction and conversations that have taken place over the past few days are priceless and will lead to great things in the future.
- Anonymous