The red oaks

by Alex Tsyapa

Photo: Alex Tsyapa

One day you wake up and realize that the thought which you had distilled off over the years became absolutely clear. No matter how bitter it may be, it is the following — the present is not yours.

- What?! Sir, are you sure that you can write this in the blog which aims to motivate people to actively engage in any aspect of development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?”

- I have no idea, but I can’t not to try.

Hundreds of books emphasize that everything in life is our choice and to make a change, we need no more no less — the desire, courage and will.

Alex Tsyapa

Once you make a decision. I will plant a tree in my beloved garden, the red oak, for instance. I will water it every day and spend all my time learning about red oaks. It seems easy, right? But the reality is quite different. The red oaks do not grow in our latitude. It seems that the climate is suitable and soil is fertile, but it doesn’t grow. They grow in the neighboring country, but not in ours. Like if oaks understand something in the state borders. Moreover, suddenly someone comes and says, ‘This is not your garden, and had never been”. “Bizarre, right ?! You know every single weed in this garden, and they say, ‘Go away, now it’s our garden! “…

You exist and the present exist, but it does not belong to you.

- Excuse me, could you please suggest me what to do?

- Hey, don’t be afraid that your youth will pass, I am passing my second one. Anyway, red oaks will not start growing here earlier that in 25 years, at least.

But wait, it may be half or even my entire life. No, there is something wrong in all this, and I have to figure out what.

First of all, if the present does not belong to us today, it does not mean that it will not tomorrow. No one can take away our future, it is ours. This means, that today we can build our future, that one day will become our present. And vice versa, our present is a decision of the past. Therefore, I decided to build my house with a nice garden from zero. I promised myself that I will grow my first red oak there.

Of course red oaks is just an allegory, that very well depicts the meaning of a word “development”. And described above story is a story I would use to describe a current situation in my country without going into the details involving facts and personalities.

Hi all! My name is Alex, I am 25 and I live in Ukraine. One year ago, together with my friends, we launched a startup ( — our first red oak). Since then development is a part of our life. We have to constantly study in order to provide a competitive product. Unfortunately, it is not always possible in our country, therefore we are looking for such possibilities abroad. This summer, thanks to the Austrian Development Agency fellowship, I had an incredible possibility to spend 17 days in Alpbach — place where once per year people from all the world are gathered together for making this world a bit better.

On the 17th of August 2016 I had reached the bus Worgl-Alpbach. I took the first free seat and in 2 minutes I was discussing the book “Everything is illuminated” with the man who speaks 12 languages fluently.

When I got out at the bus stop in Inneralpbach, I met a guy who was not able to find his hotel, I helped him and this is how I found an Austrian friend, whose dream is to be a specialist in the implementation of bionicle (robot) prosthesis.

I lived in a house with 15 people: photographers, start-uppers, philosopher, financial consultant, assistant of the premier-minister office of one Balkan country, NGO worker and ecologist. In the first day of the Forum I was nearly late to the Seminar Week because our shared breakfast grew to the discussion about dao philosophy.

And this is how it was all 17 days. I came to the Forum with the interest in two topics (big data and behavioural economics) and went out with the feeling that I received a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Besides that, I believe that the university of communication between people and cultures is a separate education. If compare the percent of new knowledge gained in traditional way (seminars and symposiums) and informal communication, the result will be 50:50.

But the main focus is development. During the Forum I was able to attend seminars of big data specialist from MIT and professor Barabasi, world-known specialist in network science.

In my motivation letter for the application to the Forum I recovered Immanuel Kant’s response to the question: What Is Enlightenment? ‘Have courage to use your own understanding!- that is the motto of enlightenment.’ Now I have an honor to say that partially my understanding was shaped in Alpbach.

Photo from Die Presse 29.08.16 Karin Kneissl / Bild: © Katharina Fröschl-Roßboth

Independently of whether we like it or not or planet is limited (for the moment) in its size. This fact involves the presence of common problems, such as global climate changes and decline in clean water resources. You can create paradise in the place you live, but it makes no sense if something horrible happens just next to you (The Chernobyl disaster, for example). And for this disaster is not difficult at all to destroy everything you had been building for so long. Therefore, we are obliged to develop together. A separate question is “How to do it?” You can give fish to hungry people or you can teach them to fish it. I think development is about the second option and the Austrian Development Agency successfully implements this philosophy for years. Therefore, people, take an active part of in any aspect of development. How? Its very easy. Once Philip Kotler said “In order to manage a process you have to measure it”. I think that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are very good measures and indicators. So why not to reach it together?