The CAI restarts from the Youth for a Sustainable Mountain

The CAI restarts from the Youth for a Sustainable Mountain

Among the peaks of the Dolomites of Corvara (Alta Badia), a buzz of energy and projects arose at the end of April 2023. In the midst of the low season, when silence falls on the ski slopes, the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) gave birth to his second Young Camp CAI. Participants from all Italian regions crowded the Tempesti alpine village - Alpine Troops training base – transforming it into a hotbed of innovation and vitality at the service of the mountains.

The CAI, founded in 1863, is a historic institution dedicated to the love of the mountains and related activities. In recent years, however, it has made itself a renewal process is needed, especially through a greater involvement of young people. This process was the fulcrum of the CAI young camp, organized with the aim of developing a strong sense of responsibility towards the mountains and their sustainability.

As an outside observer, I had the opportunity to participate in this intense program of activities. During the two main days of the camp, I was able to closely observe the conferences and meetings between the young people of the CAI, confront myself with the delegates and members, get to know the President of the CAI, as well as various guests invited to discuss the theme of the mountain and sustainability.

Day 1 – Meeting and Debates

first day camp

The first day began with the arrival and check-in of the participants, over 100 young climbers and mountain enthusiasts, ready to face this important event with an open and proactive spirit.

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Greeted with a welcome kit, they settled in a room, anticipating the start of CAI Youth camp 2023. The atmosphere was electric, a mix of expectation and impatience, a shared desire to start this important path of growth and awareness.

Contrary to classic conventions, the ordinary arrangement of chairs and tables has given way to a more informal and participatory arrangement. Young people sat on the ground, creating an atmosphere of openness and sharing. This arrangement, which has become a standard throughout the camp, was a clear sign of the strong sense of participation and dynamism.

The objective of the camp, as illustrated in the introduction, was to bring young people closer to the CAI and to give them a central role in the club's activities, with a view to renewal and openness towards the new generations. The ambition is to renew the CAI activities and make it more sensitive to the needs of young people, instilling new dynamism and freshness in a historic organization.

The importance of involving external expertise has been emphasised, with the intention of enriching and strengthening the club's activities thanks to the contribution of professionals in the sector. In particular, the collaboration with the writer Marco Albino Ferrari and blogger Pietro Lacasella marked an important step forward in the modernization of the editorial structure of the CAI journal, "The Boot". Thanks to their experience and expertise, the magazine is destined to become a place for in-depth study and reflection on the theme of the mountains and sustainability.

During dinner, which was served in the Alpine troops' canteen, the comparisons and discussions between the young participants did not stop. Different ideas, opinions and visions on the mountain intertwined between the tables, giving life to a lively debate on the future of the mountain and its protection.

After dinner, everyone's attention turned to the conference room, where the Professor Morazzoni and Professor of Naples ofIULM University were preparing to reveal the details of the university research dedicated to the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympics.

This meeting offered an overview of the infrastructural interventions planned for the Olympics and of the studies carried out on the related environmental impact. The crucial aspect addressed during the presentation was the complex question of the balance between the infrastructural development necessary for an event of this magnitude and the preservation of the uniqueness and sustainability of the mountain areas involved.

The debate focused on investigating a crucial question: Do big events like the Olympics bring real benefits to mountain territories or risk distorting them? The need for a greater inclusion of the local population in decisions concerning the development of the territory has emerged, a need to involve Alpine communities more actively in issues that will directly affect their lives and their environment.

Thoughts raised during the presentation they ignited the passion of the young people of the CAI. Their questions and observations enriched the debate, demonstrating a profound awareness of the delicate balance between development and conservation, between progress and sustainability.

This discussion, far from being a simple exchange of ideas, has become a real comparison between different visions on the future of the mountain and on the best strategies to ensure its protection. This intense debate, which lasted until midnight, triggered an open dialogue on challenges and opportunities related to the sustainable management of mountain areas.

Second day – Work Tables

communication table cai

The enthusiasm generated by the debate on the first day of the CAI youth camp left an indelible mark that defined the spirit of the second day: a day characterized by operational work, which came to life in the work tables.

The organizers, after a brief introduction, kicked off the activities by dividing the participants among the various work tables. These tables, which covered a wide range of topics, such as environment, activities, culture, socialization, schools, section life, communication and computerisation, provided a unique opportunity for CAI youth to discuss, exchange ideas and define a programmatic plan that would support their respective CAI activities.

In an act of foresight, the organizers allowed the participants to rotate between the work tables, creating an invisible thread between common needs, a positive contagion of knowledge that connected the various work areas.

The eight working tables, taking up the subdivision of the first edition, allowed a deep immersion in each theme, allowing a active and constructive discussion among CAI youth, each with their own unique perspective based on their own experience in the various sections of the CAI.

Each table worked to define guidelines, an action plan, which could support and improve the future activities of the CAI. This collaborative process not only made it possible to refine and develop ideas, but also favored a greater sense of belonging and responsibility in CAI youth.

In this context, the common sentiment that emerged was the desire to make the CAI a more dynamic and inclusive environment. On the one hand, young people want a CAI that is a point of reference for those approaching the mountains, a welcoming and educational environment. On the other hand, they see the CAI as a place that must stay alive and active for all members, with a program of activities involving all ages, creating an intergenerational bridge for a new mountain culture.

The working table dedicated to the environment stood out for the complexity and importance of the issues dealt with. The young participants showed great preparation and environmental sensitivity, underlining the importance of a sustainable approach in mountain management and in the organization of CAI activities.

One of the main aspects addressed during the discussions was the ecological responsibility of the association. Since the CAI is a central institution in the promotion and management of mountain activities in Italy, the young people highlighted the importance of a more sustainable and aware approach. This includes the promotion of responsible tourism practices, sustainable practices during section activities, and internal CAI training on topics such as mitigation of human impact in the mountains.

The result of the work of each table has brought to light the future activities of the CAI youth camp, helping to define the trajectory of the club. The day continued with the reorganization of the regional groups and the election of representatives from each region, key figures in bridging the future activities of the CAI.

This model will help respect and enhance the local specificities, creating a more equitable and representative organization of the demands of all territories.

After the important appointment with the working tables, two meetings followed on two topics of fundamental importance for the mountains. The first concerned the question of large carnivores, a topic that has recently re-entered the public debate. The meeting stressed the need to find a balance between the protection of the presence of these animals and the needs of mountain life and the tourism sector. The challenge is to find a new way to coexist with nature, a way that respects the rebirth of bears and wolves in the Italian mountains.

The second intervention, held by essayist Nardelli, addressed the issue of the "end of the ski industry" due to climate change.

Starting from his latest book, “Liquid Winter”, Nardelli brought to light the challenges ski resorts face in an age of rapid and often unpredictable climate change. He explained how the once thriving ski industry characteristic of the Italian mountain regions is facing a crisis due to the decrease in the amount of snow available, affected by climate change.

Nardelli described a picture of "ski monoculture" in which many mountain resorts have staked everything on skiing as the main source of income, without considering enough the possible evolution of the climate and the consequent reduction in snowfall. He raised critical questions about the long-term sustainability of this model and suggested the need for a radical rethinking of mountain tourism.

This meeting highlighted the need to have a careful and respectful gaze towards the mountains, which is not only oriented towards exploitation, but which is centered on a vision of sustainability and respect for the environment. An invitation to look for alternative models that are both economically sustainable and respectful of the mountain environment.

In both meetings, the interest and participation of CAI youth was palpable. Their questions and constructive observations enriched the debate, demonstrating their awareness that these issues are of fundamental importance for those who care about the future of the mountains.

A convivial moment before returning

The second day of Camp CAI Giovani 2023 followed a frenetic pace, punctuated by intense discussions, laborious round tables and moments of training. However, like any well-structured day, it ended in an atmosphere of tranquility and conviviality. The evening provided some space for attendees to relax and reflect on the day's events.

After dinner, despite the insistent rain, part of the group decided to go on a night excursion. The rain did nothing but add a sense of adventure to the trip, stimulating the spirit of aggregation of young people and their love for nature in all its many manifestations.

Another group of boys chose to stay, preferring an sera of friendship with the Alpini of the Tempesti Base. This informal meeting provided yet another opportunity to bond, not only around technical issues or organized activities seen during the day, but also through the simple fun and relaxation that an evening with friends can offer.

For me, the next day marked the end of my Camp experience. With a certain nostalgia, but also with a sense of gratitude, I returned to Val di Fiemme. I had been lucky enough to participate in this vibrant gathering of young mountain lovers, an experience that has increased my admiration for the many young people determined to give a new future to the mountains.

However, for the CAI boys, the Camp was far from over. In the following days, they continued their activities, taking the time to reflect on their accumulated experiences and to establish a balance sheet of the activities carried out.

They also took advantage of the unique location of Corvara, indulging in excursions among the magnificent Dolomites that had hosted them.

A new future for the CAI

Climate change and the mass tourism exploded after the pandemic, are today fundamental issues for the development of mountain of the future. Seeing so many young people enthusiastic about tackling these difficult issues has certainly aroused great hope for the future.

It was extremely interesting to observe how one of the main historical institutions of the Italian mountain had the courage to step out of its comfort zone and take proactive action to redefine the course of the association, with a particular focus on young people.

For a historical reality, large and complex like the CAI it won't be easy but it is an important start to sensitize the new generations and intercept a revived passion for the mountain world.

From this meeting, the will to become the national point of reference in the development processes of the mountains and Farsi shines through bearers of an alternative vision to the tourist development seen up to now.

In this the young people and the CAI will have to overcome many obstacles, from the dialogue with the local realities to the active participation of the sections and the comparison with the realities that see mountain development in a different way.

After attending this camp however the feeling is that something has really changed, it triggered a positive and irreversible process where the new lymph (the young) will be able to determine a movement capable of affecting the future of our beloved mountains.

We just have to thank Stephen Morcelli for the invitation and the work done, all the delegates and organizers of the CAI met, the members with whom heated but respectful and constructive discussions were born, and the President Antonio Montani for supporting this new course.

Davide Rigon –

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