We Need to Make Environmentally Conscious Choices Every Day

Minka Halasz from Hungary and Anka Sušická from the Czech Republic were among the many participants at the Aspen Future Leaders Climate Summit, which took place in March 2023 in Miami, Florida. In conversation with Robert Schuster they expressed appreciation for the opportunity to confront their ideas with other participants with different backgrounds and gain new perspectives or inspiration for their own climate action.

What was the biggest benefit for you from the Future Leaders Climate Summit in Miami?

Minka Halasz Despite the ever-rising impacts of the global climate crisis, conveying the seriousness of climate change has proven to be the hardest challenge of all time – something I also have first-hand experience with. At the Summit, I finally experienced what it is like to meet other young professionals with like-minded attitudes and similar mindsets. Meeting young leaders from all around the world and making long-lasting friendships is something I will be forever grateful for. I learned a lot from my peers and I am excited to see what each of them will achieve on local and global levels.

Anka Sušická I was very hesitant to go to Miami. I wasn’t sure if the benefits of the conference would outweigh the emissions caused by flying across the ocean. But in the end, I’m very glad I went. It was a huge benefit for me to meet a lot of young people from all over the world who are involved in different ways – looking for sustainable solutions for business, advocating for the rights of minorities who are more vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis, joining activist movements or working in environmental research. They have given me a new perspective on many topics but most importantly a strong kick-start to my future engagement.

What did you take away from it – also for your current profession/social involvement?

Minka Halasz The Summit gave me hope. Connecting and collaborating with people who share the same mindset has empowered me to learn, act and teach others to do the same. Ever since the Summit I have been in touch with other future leaders, exchanging knowledge about opportunities, projects and initiatives and I am eager to learn more about their achievements, innovative ideas and solutions from all across the world.

Anka Sušická In addition to the contacts, I took away a lot of new ideas for the topics of the lectures I organize at my university. Examples include sustainable finance and architecture. Thanks to the panel on green finance and the importance of not investing in fossil fuels, I learned about the situation in America and got information about who is leading the sector in Europe. At a lecture by the architect Michael Green, I was again introduced for the first time to the concept of using as little material as possible through biomimetics and that the most sustainable buildings are those that are already standing.

Did different views on solving global issues, ecology, and climate appear at the conference? If so, how were they discussed there? Did it end with some kind of consensus?

Minka Halasz Many different people with different backgrounds were invited to the Summit. Inevitably, that also meant that everybody had to step out of their comfort zones and we ended up engaging in discussions that have probably never happened before.

Everybody experiences climate change differently, depending on our homes, our socio-economic backgrounds and our own perspectives.

One of my favorite experiences at the Summit was a workshop where all the participants were assigned a different role in a climate crisis related problem and we had to reach common ground together. It was interesting to see various perspectives and different visions, every individual had a strong but very different role to play.

For me, the key takeaway was that change can only be achieved when people listen to each other and act through collaboration – even when it does not seem like the easiest path.

Anka Sušická Most of the panels during the conference were mainly occupied by people from the corporate world. And most of them also had a very similar rhetoric of people from business trying to document how much they are doing for the climate. Thus, there were no major differences of opinion. Personally, I saw this as a shortcoming of the conference. Populating the panels with people coming up with more radical ideas could have led to broadening horizons not only on both sides of the panel, but also for us in the audience. One of the more interesting discussions was a panel on sustainable transportation, where the moderator, while applauding the efforts of the auto companies to electrify auto-transportation, also noted that the solution that doesn’t suck up the supply of precious metals for batteries is to reduce auto-transportation or encourage car-sharing. That would mean less profit for the companies selling the cars, of course, but it would be much more sustainable. These are precisely the points that I think are crucial:

If corporations are invited to a climate conference whose only interest is the expansion of their business, but who are directly involved in greenhouse gas emissions, it is appropriate to remind them of this.

What is your position on climate change?

Minka Halasz My position on climate change is one of urgency, responsibility, and advocacy for sustainable practices. As an individual, I am committed to making environmentally conscious choices every day and raising awareness in my community – something I am truly passionate about in my career choices as well. As we navigate the challenges posed by climate change, I try to stay optimistic that through collective efforts, innovative solutions, and a shared commitment to preserving our planet, we can pave the way for a more sustainable and secure future for all.

Anka Sušická I consider climate change to be the biggest threat of our time because I think it will amplify all the problems we are already facing – social inequalities or the imbalance between the rights of people from the global North and South, as well as the lack of protection of the natural realm. When the effects of the climate crisis start to be felt (as they already are), the first to pay will be those who are on the short end of the stick in the current system. This is why my position on climate is very much linked to the fight against social stratification. I think it is right to boycott companies that do not pay enough attention to the environmental and climate consequences of doing business. I am completely opposed to companies that profit from the extraction of fossil fuels in unsustainable ways or in countries where it is not strictly necessary for the survival of their citizens.


Do you have the impression that politicians sufficiently reflect the views of the young generation, or those who will one day replace them?

Minka Halasz I come from a region where my country’s politics have historically excluded the voices of young people. I firmly believe that giving a voice to young people starts with providing them with proper education thus giving them the power to act. Every child has a right to learn and take part in the decisions affecting their future.

Unfortunately, climate education has faced several challenges in Hungary that have contributed to its limitations leaving little room for comprehensive climate science education.

I, however, have hope that young people’s voices and the growing recognition of the urgency of climate change may pave the way for a greater emphasis on climate education, creating an opportunity for the younger generation to participate in the decisions affecting them.

Anka Sušická I have the impression that politicians do not perceive the climate crisis as fatally as my generation. My perception is that there is an attempt to accommodate the interests of many generations through the electorate, but young people are only a relatively small part of that. Their demands are also usually the most radical, and are therefore also under-represented. This is a pity, because I think radical solutions are necessary for the situation we are in.


The Climate Summit was held in Florida, how do you think the venue affected the course of the event? Was the division of society in the United States today somehow reflected there?

Minka Halasz Florida is known for its vulnerability to climate change impacts, including rising sea levels, hurricanes, and coastal erosion. I believe that holding a climate summit in a location directly affected by these issues served as a tangible reminder of the urgency of addressing climate change. Participating in various excursions, meeting local communities, stakeholders and decision-makers contributed to understanding the social, political and economic implications of the climate crisis in the United States.

Anka Sušická I didn’t notice anything major, but many of the Future Leaders attendees were from Florida and I understood that this conference was one of the few places for them to be with people of a similar worldview. Many people were from Florida universities, where Governor Ron DeSantis had initiated changes in education in the spring – such as banning the teaching of theories that claim racism and oppression are inherent in American institutions, or limiting investments in increasing diversity and inclusivity in universities. This was a big issue, just as local political struggles in Miami city government were being addressed.

How do you perceive the current situation in the USA? And compared to that in Europe?

Anka Sušická In terms of the climate crisis, the US is clearly more technocratic and uncritically believes in green growth – that we can solve the climate crisis through innovation and market incentives, see the Inflation Reduction Act mentioned countless times at the conference. In contrast, it seems to me that in Europe, the idea of no growth and, above all, savings and regulation is much more popular, which I find more sympathetic. At the same time, I was surprised at how much it is taken for granted in activist circles in America that the climate crisis is also a social and human rights crisis. It seems to me that this aspect is not emphasized so much in the Czech Republic, for example.


Which of the speakers appealed to you the most?

Minka Halasz At the Summit, I had the chance to meet hundreds of leaders and climate innovators and I am more than certain that all of them had an impact on who I am today and who I am striving to become. I was excited to listen to speakers whose work I had followed in the previous years and who had served as role models in my personal and professional life. As a young leader, I was equally amazed to meet other young professionals of my age and listen to how they are fighting to reshape our world in all different forms. I could not be more excited to continue working with them!

Anka Sušická In addition to those mentioned above, I was also very impressed by Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief of the UK Guardian, who described the ways in which the Guardian is advocating for a responsible approach to climate change. Aside from providing their articles to all, without paywall, and regular climate reporting, for example, the Guardian is not funded by any mining companies. She also described how hopeful climate reporting motivates people to be active and environmentally responsible themselves, which is why the Guardian wants to publish more positive news.

Robert Schuster

is the managing editor of Aspen Review Central Europe. He was the editor-in-chief of Mezinárodní politika monthly from 2005 to 2015, and a correspondent for the Austrian daily Der Standard in the Czech Republic from 2000 to 2012. He has been a foreign correspondent of Lidové noviny daily since 2015, where he covers news reports from German-speaking countries. He is a regular guest in commentaries broadcast by Český rozhlas Plus.

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