For Chris McLean from Newcastle in Australia, his place in the finals of the Volvo Adventure was a source of immense motivation for continued dedication to the environment. Today, ten years later, he is a qualified environmental engineer and is back in the finals of the Volvo Adventure – this time as a member of the jury.
Back in 2002 Chris McLean competed in the Volvo Adventure together with two school-mates. The aim of their project was to take long-term care of their school's natural surroundings, for instance by planting trees to combat erosion. Even before Chris got involved in the Volvo Adventure, he had a genuine interest in nature and in protecting the environment. He has also been involved in protecting a wetland area outside his home town of Newcastle in Australia.
"At our school there was a teacher who was really enthusiastic about Volvo and he had his own little collection of five or six cars. He'd read about the competition in a Volvo magazine and helped us register for the competition," recalls Chris.
After first winning the national qualifier, Chris and two school-mates got to travel to the finals of the 2002 Volvo Adventure in Göteborg. There the team made it to second place, but the competition whetted Chris's appetite. He returned home with renewed motivation and continued working on a sustainable approach to maintaining the school's local ecosystem. The project branched out in a number of ways that all related to biodiversity, for example spotlighting threatened species.
"By the time we got to the Volvo Adventure finals, we'd already planted 6,000 native shrubs in an area measuring 2000 square metres. Three years later I ended my work in the project - and by then we had planted 16,000 shrubs," he relates.
Chris has every reason to be proud. Today the project lives on through all the greenery that has been planted and that continues to have a positive impact on the local environment.
After finishing school, Chris got a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering at Newcastle University.
"It's a decision that was strongly influenced by my experiences from the Volvo Adventure," he says.
Over the years Chris has carefully monitored every edition of the Volvo Adventure and read about the various projects that made it through to the finals. He has kept in touch with a number of the key people behind the programme, including Kikki Hugestrand who has served as project manager for the Volvo Adventure from the very outset, and has taken every opportunity to motivate and encourage the enthusiasm of other youngsters to join in the competition.
"It's been very educational at many levels. Putting together and presenting a project, thinking through the follow-up and focusing on further development, and of course meeting people from so many different parts of the world - it's all been really stimulating," says Chris.
So when Kikki Hugestrand phoned Chris, who now works at Wollongong University at the centre for preventive environmental protection against forest fires, and asked him if he wanted to join the jury for the 2011 Volvo Adventure, he immediately accepted.
"I was delighted!"
Chris feels that the most important consideration for a project is to reach out with its message to as many people as possible. Effective communication increases the project's chances of living on and developing. He is impressed by the 2011 submissions to the Volvo Adventure:
"Reading through and assessing other people's contributions is an honour, but it is also an immensely difficult task. All the projects are very good, but there are a few that are truly exceptional. It is really impressive to see how all the teams have made such a concerted drive to benefit the environment from so many different starting points," says Chris McLean.
The Volvo Adventure is an educational programme carried out in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme that encourages teenagers to identify local environmental problems and come up with creative solutions. The Internet-based competition is aimed primarily at youngsters aged between 13 and 16 who in teams of 2 to 5 participants can submit their projects to Volvo Adventure. Ten finalists are gathered together every year in Göteborg, where the winning project is announced. (Please check the related press release.)
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