When the depletion of the ozone layer was detected in the Polar Regions, back in 1985, the world understood it as a global environmental threat directly resulting from human activity. By 1991, scientific expeditions to assess the extent of the problem and measure its evolution had been launched – the first of which was based in Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost town, and in Sodankyla and Utsjoki, in Finland.
When the project was experimentally absorbed by what was then the Foundation for the Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) (today’s FEE), the last step to create Young Reporters for the Environment had finally been taken. In 1994, Luxembourg would become the first country to officially implement the YRE programme. It was no longer an experiment.
The change was also afoot in the communications industry. Things that are easy today were complex and time-consuming a mere 25 years ago. The Internet and emails already existed, but were unavailable to the wide public, and mostly limited to research centers and universities. In Denmark, the University of Copenhagen quickly became the focal point for the international communication between the youth envoys and the local teams. Local teams carried out missions and interviews to probe further into how the ‘ozone issue’ was rooted locally and deeply ingrained in our daily lives.
Struck by these developments, an enthusiastic and idealistic young Frenchman, Philippe Saugier, founded the Ozone Project, which sent three youth missions up north to follow, monitor, and report on the work of scientists. This series of field visits and expert interviews attempted to fully understand the ozone issue and to report it to the widest possible audience in real time. Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Switzerland were the first to send “youth envoys”.
The international coordination of the Young Reporters for the Environment programme now takes place at the International Head Office in Copenhagen, Denmark.
310,000+ students in 42 countries (and counting) are currently involved in the YRE programme. So far, over 8,000 photos, 4,000 articles, and 700 videos have been submitted to annual national competitions around the world.
In 2018, the YRE programme was awarded the first edition of the Earth Price by the World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC) Network and the city of Luino. This was a huge recognition of the hard work done over the years by students, teachers, National Operators and the international team of YRE.
For more information about the origins of the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE), check out this video featuring Philippe Saugier – the YRE creator – and Pedro Marcelino, one of the earliest YRE students (Mission Antarctica, 1996).