September 19-20, the Georgian Young Greens (GeYG) held Green Fest for the first time, an event with the aim to take the political discussions to the public space, to reach out to new groups and to give everyone the possibility to express themselves publicly.
The fest was held in the newly created Rikhe Park in central Tbilisi at its amphibian theater in its core. A cool thing was that many people that just passed by stayed to listening and participate. It really felt like people were very eager to chare their opinions, mainly because of the rarity of inclusive public discussion in the Georgian society. That’s why this kind of event is such important to have, to reach out in an inclusive and open way and to make peoples voices heard. Eka from GeYG says:
-Aside from the practical shortcomings that we had in the preparation, the event was successful, and don´t forget that we regularly should continue to include and bring the political discussions into the public space.
A lot of other organizations and individual activists participated in the discussions, and we see this as a good model for future events. Organizations who participated were, among others, the Students self-organizing network, Green Agenda, Green Fists and Radarami. Discussions were held about topics as education, urbanization, food industry, gender, drug policy, the environment and sustainable development. Other activities at the fest were also held, including a sculpturing workshop of waste to art, food served by the vegan coffee shop Kiwi, and in the night, some electronic musicians performed. Below are some extracts from the discussions.
Discussion about the meat industry
Among others, Ira silantevam, Oleg Ozorovma and Luke Bagrationi had a discussion about the food industry, its climate impact, veganism, animal’s rights and the media covering about it. Ira, who represent GeYG talked about the meet consumption in Georgia, that Georgians in general consume a lot of imported meat from industrialized production, and that the demand has to decrease to make the destructive production to decrease as well. Ira says:
-It´s only a construction that humans always has eaten a lot of meat, and that focus should be on information about alternatives.
The discussion also revolved around if the fight against the meat industry should be made on the basis of the fight against capitalism, or if the focus should be on social change. One of the speakers argue that there is a lack of knowledge about veganism in the society, that people don´t know about what vegans eats, about alternative protein sources etc. This lack of knowledge was said to be widespread, with prejudices in the media and even among doctors.
Discussion about waste management
Radarami, which is an organization in Georgia that translate politically significant books into Georgian and spread them throughout the regions, translated the book “Gone tomorrow: Hidden life of garbage”, which is a book about waste production in the US and its consequences. The book was presented ad discussed during one of the session and was handed out afterwards to spread the knowledge. One of the main topics in the discussion was about if the capitalistic system is the main problem or if and how sustainable changes could be made within the existing capitalistic model?
In the discussion about the educational system, mainly representatives from organizations as Green Fists and Students self-organizing network were discussing the topic about problems in the higher education in Georgia. Some main problems that were stated was the bureaucracy, lack of pedagogic skills and lack of books translated into Georgian.
In the discussion on urbanization, a research on the urbanization movement were presented and a discussion that revolved around centralization and regional activism were held.
In the discussion on gender, Nino Khaindrava and Gvanca Khonelidze, members of the Students self-organizing network, mainly discussed the importance of strengthening of working rights for women
The main theme in the discussion about drug policies revolved around the drug policy as a way for the government to suppress and control. It was said that the use of narcotics decreased when it started to get banned. However, lately, the consumption has increased again at the same time that the law has become stricter. This shows that the method to keep the drugs away doesn’t work, it´s all about control. If you act anti-social or have the disease of addiction, you will go to jail instead of getting health care. An even more disturbing thing was said that the police generally arrest the buyers but not the sellers, when it should be the opposite. A was said, the result is that 70% of the prisoners in Georgia are drug addicts.
A panel discussion on environment and sustainable development were held. The topics were on how the world will change as a result of climate change, instruments of environmental policy, sustainable economic development and the connection to labor rights. The panel members were Merab Sharabidze, Environmental consultant, Revaz Karanadze from the Students self-organizing network and Kazaishvili from the students organization Green Fists.
Overall, we were satisfied about the Green Fest and would want to hold one again next year, to make it bigger and broader. We managed to involve people in a public discussion, which is a good concept that Georgia needs. Some organizational and technical problems that we can learn from until next year are issues as promotion, moderation, coordination and separation of labor.