School pupils lay out their vision for a greener Vienna

Around 50 school pupils took over the Vienna International Centre (VIC) on World Environment Day to lay out how they would like their city to look in the future.

VIENNA, 5 June 2024 – The children took part in a mock conference focused on urban planning, in line with the World Environment Day theme of ‘Our land, our future’. As if representing twenty-five member states, the children tabled proposals on how to breathe new life into the city, ranging from calls to green roofs with edible fruits to expanding Vienna’s parks.

The winning proposal voted for by the children would revolutionize Vienna’s car parks. Concrete there would be removed and reused as building material, and replaced with permeable grass that allows plants to grow between stones.

“Too much of our land is covered in concrete in our world. Our project is therefore called ‘healthy soil,’ because we children of Steinlechnergasse school want to help preserve our world for a long time to come,” the children announced at the mock event.

The event was led and chaired by Maria Emilie Mayr-Lichem of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with participation by Tamara Mitrofanenko and Matthias Jurek from UNEP’s Vienna Office, as well as Georg Wolkenstein of Austria’s Climate Ministry, who spoke on urban air quality. UNEP will now present the children’s recommendations to the City of Vienna.

Ahead of the conference, the pupils created artworks of how they’d see the city in the future. The artwork was displayed as part of an exhibition at the VIC, which is visited by around 6,000 people every day. At the exhibition, local NGOs such as Natur im Garten also displayed ‘soil helpers’ such as worms.

World Environment Day is the UN’s biggest day of awareness-raising and action for the environment, with millions of people worldwide joining forces in action and raising their voices.

The spotlight of this year’s edition of the Day was on ‘land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience’. Globally, land degradation affects over three billion people. Pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss is turning healthy lands into deserts, and thriving ecosystems into dead zones.

Yet nature is resilient. By restoring nature, we can fight back. Countries have already made commitments to restore one billion hectares of land. 2024 saw a record number of events held for World Environment Day, including youths worldwide showing they are part of #GenerationRestoration.

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