A seminar in the alps to discover sustainable development


Institutional Communication Service

15 October 2021

Two days immersed in the alpine landscape, at the foot of St. Gotthard, to introduce the themes related to the concept of sustainable development. This is the proposal of the Alpine Seminar, intended for students of the first year of the Master in Economics and International Policies. For the occasion we have collected some testimonies of the participants.

On October 1 and 2, some fifteen USI students participated in the Alpine Seminar on Sustainable Development. After an introductory lecture at USI, the course took place in Airolo, combining moments of reflection and study with visits and experiences in the surrounding area.

For the first part of the programme, which included a discussion in small groups on three significant challenges for a zero-impact life, the participants were hosted inside the premises of the new FEDRO Infocenter. A hands-on experience followed this in the beautiful setting of the Alps to explore two important topics: the first was energy supply, with a visit to the Parco Eolico del San Gottardo (PSG) (Windfarm) and the Lucendro dam in the company of the Director of PSG Edy Losa, and of a presentation by Claudio Caccia, General Secretary of SwissSolar for Southern Switzerland. The second focus was on biodiversity preservation with a walk in the beautiful area of Piora, followed by a visit to the Alpine Biology Centre of Cadagno accompanied by Samuele Roman, an active researcher at the centre.

We collected the impressions and comments of some of the participants:

"It was a very interesting experience - Syria tells us - initially I didn't think I would participate in the seminar, so much so that I decided to sign up at the last minute, a choice I would make again. Airolo is a magical place that has so much to offer and that has put in place a series of operations to protect the magnificent environment in which we live. Preserve and safeguard. These are the two words that come to mind when I think of what this place does every day for the environment and to fight climate change, a problem that affects us all and that is also the central topic of this seminar, where three main points were discussed: sustainable living, sustainable transport and sustainable food. This experience taught me many things: the most important is that each of us has the power (and the duty) to do something, because only with the help of everyone we can think of preserving as much as possible our earth."

For Laura, too, the seminar "was a beautiful and interesting experience. Besides allowing us to create bonds with our new companions, it allowed us to learn and store some important concepts. Thanks to the direct contact with nature we were able to metabolise the importance of the change that is happening and learn what the possible solutions could be. I've always been fascinated by nature and thanks to this seminar I was able to further enrich my knowledge: from the particularity of the Ritom lake to the engineering masterpiece of the wind turbines. The most valuable lesson came from the landscape itself: we were able to understand, unfortunately, how soon we might not be so lucky anymore... The natural world has changed and continues to change. I highly recommend proposing similar seminars in the future as well, in order to be as transparent as possible with people and, I hope, that they fully understand the increasingly serious problem we are facing."

Matteo says: "I am proud to be part of an academic community that places the right importance on the theme of sustainable development. Therefore, I am very pleased with the opening of USI's "house of sustainability" in Airolo, as well as with the fact that a seminar similar to the one held by our master's group will be made compulsory for any degree programme and faculty. As a student of the Master in Economics and International Policies, the topic of sustainable development is definitely central. Therefore, I believe that the experience of the Alpine Seminar on Sustainable Development not only hit the target, but above all the modalities. The integration between the three parts: the preparatory academic part in the classroom, the group work part and the field study part, turned out to be a complete and stimulating formula. In particular, I really appreciated the deepening of my knowledge about renewable energies, in the context of the Swiss Energy Plan 2050. The visit to the two dams, the St. Gotthard wind center served to give me a more practical picture with respect to renewable energy production."

The seminar, now in its second round, also serves as a pilot course for developing the joint project between USI and the Municipality of Airolo to open a House of Sustainability in the former Post Office building in Airolo, for which a feasibility study is underway.

The primary vocation of this USI alpine branch will be to raise awareness among all bachelor students on sustainable development issues in an innovative way. The St. Gotthard region is, in fact, particularly suitable for the observation and study of some of the major challenges such as climate change and glacier melting, the production of renewable energy, the protection of biodiversity, etc... A few steps away from USI's headquarters is a place where it is possible to combine moments of reflection and study with practical experiences on the field, thus re-establishing direct contact with nature.