Ivana – Banja Luka
“We can all be community organizers…we all just need a little push. I want to be that push.”
I study Philosophy at the University of Banja Luka, a subject which is theoretically heavy. Although volunteering had been actively discouraged when I was in high school, I decided to find a local organization in which I could volunteer. I hoped that through volunteering, I might find a way to bridge theory with practice. My search led me to the Centre for the Environment, one of the most active environmental organizations in BiH and part of the World Global Federation of Friends of the Earth. Environmental activism has the potential to bring diverse people together and since the Centre is not politically affiliated, it is inclusive.
Undertaking environmental action is complex in BiH. The policies are not the same in the RS and the Federation, making them all the more challenging to navigate. For example, the RS has stricter rules than the Federation in the import and production of GMO foods. Despite this, it is possible for these foods to come into the RS through the Federation. If policy was shared by the entire country, it would enable the protection of the environment and facilitate cooperation. Ideally, the internal division would not exist at all. There is, after all, no physical border.
The most impactful way to initiate change is through education. By empowering members of local communities through outreach, it is possible for them to be become their own advocates. For example, it would be impossible for a few individuals from our Centre to stop the construction of the nearly 300 planned mini-hydro dams throughout BiH. What we can do, however, is strengthen the grassroots level by meeting with community leaders and enabling them to prevent the degradation of their own local river system. Recognizing the capacity for education to compel societal change is what motivates me to become an educator, but rather than passively transmit knowledge, my goal is to teach students to think critically and provide the tools to impact change within their home communities.