Onderstaand artikel is een bewerking van een praatje dat ik op Ecotopia heb gehouden over JMA. Het artikel verscheen in oktober 2004 in het tijdschrift FUI van de Bundeskoordination Studentischer Íkologiearbeit (BSÍ).

Young environmentalists in the Netherlands: JMA

This year, the annual international sustainability camp for young environmentalists, "Ecotopia", was held in the Netherlands. (See elsewhere in this issue.) One of its organizers was JMA or Jongeren Milieu Actief, which means Youth Environmentally Active. JMA is the youth organization of Milieudefensie, Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

As its name indicates, JMA prefers not to wait for the government to take action for the environment, but thinks it is better to take action yourself, to actively improve the environment - to contribute your own tiny bit, but also to show that change is really possible.

JMA started about twenty years ago as an independent organization and had some ups and downs since then. In the early Nineties, when the environment was a popular topic among Dutch youth, there were many members, local groups and activities, from bike tours to street actions, but then the association faced hard times. After a while, Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) helped building up the organization again. JMA still has its own members and its own board, chosen by its members.

JMA is an organization for and by people between 12 and 28. The younger part is the largest part. There are 25 so called 'Eco-n-action' groups, mostly at secondary schools, with about 300 members. They do all kind of creative actions to make their school more environmentally friendly: make it use recycled paper, save energy, use solid cups instead of those one-time-use plastic cups in the school canteen, etcetera.
      JMA's most successful project is also on secondary schools, it is "The Bet". It is inspired by the German example, "Die Wette", five years ago. Young people bet with the government, or with companies, that they will save 8% CO2 emission in a few months, while the government and companies don't even achieve that in several years. In the Netherlands, this was such a success that it has been repeated every year for the last four years. Thousands of students have taken part in The Bet and reduced their CO2 emissions.

Another JMA project is Miss Koop, or Miss Buy. She is a lady who likes silly gadgets such as singing cake servers or electronic odour dispensers very much. On Miss Koop's web site there was an election for the most useless product. You'll understand, Miss Koop ridicules consumerism and overconsumption by exaggerating it.

Yet another JMA project is the 'Ekookcursus', the ecological cooking course. This project is aimed at students who have left their parents' home and must learn to cook for themselves. A spin off from this project is the beautiful 'Ekook' cooking book, which sold out rapidly.

JMA has many other activities. It also offers workshops to other organizations like student associations about several topics, such as biological food, clothes and the WTO.
      JMA has also some local groups which have their own activities. Last year, at Buy Nothing Day, all local groups built a living room on the streets in their own city, where people could rest and talk with each other instead of shopping all the time.

As you can make up from these examples, JMA has focused on being environmentally friendly yourself and transfer that to other people with a laugh. JMA's attitude is best described by its (former) slogan, adopted from Mahatma Gandhi, 'Be the change you wish to see'. You have to unite yourself with your goal to change something in the world, and to have the power to expect something from others, be it the public, companies or the government.
      But in the end, it has become clear that this attitude is an obstacle for other people to join, because they fear they can't fulfill the requirements, although they are not meant that way. Therefore this strategy is not effective enough in the long run. That's why this year, it was decided to lessen the emphasis on behaving environmentally yourself and broaden the scope of the organization to everything which can help the environment and sustainability. New members can choose the activities which appeal to them most.
      New JMA activities include the 'Green Pub Meetings'*, in which people can talk about environmental topics in a sociable atmosphere, and the JMA Action Network, with activities which can be joined by everyone, including non-members. The first actions, like the 'Green Light District' in Amsterdam, focused mainly on organic food; in September, JMA will participate in the international Car Free Day.

Bram van Reemst

More information: www.jma.org (JMA web site) or info@jma.org.

Bram's show-case of articles (mostly Dutch)

*After Ecotopia, it was decided that the Green Pub Meetings should not belong to one specific organization, like JMA, so now the ‘Groen Café’ is an independent project.