Story: Hieu Nguyen

Many young Vietnamese are working for.a greener future with projects that bring. People and nature closer together.

While major cities are growing ever more crowded and polluted, the movement of living green and returning to nature is quietly emerging in Vietnam. Numerous not-for-profit projects are being carried out among communities of diverse needs, driven by a young and engaged generation that is bringing a sense of optimism for the future.


In 2018, Nature Dance, a nature experience education center, was established in Da Nang to organize free lessons on the diverse flora and fauna of the Son Tra Peninsula. Everyone from preschoolers to postgraduates, photographers and foreign tourists is welcome at the center.In particular, Nguyen Thi Tinh, director of Nature Dance, and her team are working to help the most disadvantaged youngsters get closer to nature. By the end of 2019, more than 300 orphans and students with disabilities in Da Nang had the chance to immerse themselves in the pristine beauty of Son Tra forest. For children under special circumstances, who have little exposure to diverse experiences, leaving the concrete walls of classrooms to go into the forest – looking at red-shanked doucs via a telescope, tracing the footprints of wildlife, making toys and art and simply marveling at the giant trees — leaves unforgettable impressions.

Guests participate in Barefoot in the Woods’ activities


Meanwhile, in a small forest garden in Nho Quan district, Ninh Binh, a group of young people have been diligently building a community in harmony with nature from a familiar material: clay. Leaf Library is aknowledge-exchange center, where natural agriculture and construction is studied and practiced. Here, modern houses are built from clay, using age-old construction techniques that been revived and widely applied to many eco-village movements around the world. Vu Nguyen, the founder of Leaf Library, believes that agriculture and widespread development have severely damaged the ecosystem’s ability to serve the most basic needs of food and shelter. Vu quit his high-income job overseas and rented a plot of land far from the center of Hanoi to start the path of harmonizing with nature from scratch. Using no pesticides, relying on water from nature instead of industrial irrigation, self-producing cleanser and organic fertilizers and building houses with clay, Leaf Library is gradually proving to the local community that there is an agricultural practice where farmers and nature can support one other. And for young people whose desire is to find a way forward from an imbalanced ecosystem, joining the Leaf Library community is a declaration that harmonious coexistence between humans and nature is entirely possible.

Children join the Nature Dance project


In the project Barefoot in the Woods (BITW), a group of young people is researching and organizing ecotherapy sessions inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), which is gaining popularity worldwide. The concept involves experiencing the forest with all five senses: tasting the air, touching trees, breathing in the fragrance of the forest, closely observing the sights, listening to the sounds of birds and the wind. Sessions usually include 6-10 people. The initial shyness and hesitation of participants, who are mostly office workers, soon turns into the joy of childhood with complete immersion in nature away from the Internet and cell phones. “Ecotherapy is to help people love and be loved by nature. When this two-way connection becomes stronger, humans will want to protect nature,” said Tran Mai Ly, co-founder of the BITW project.With a constant refrain of dire environmental news, many might feel despair for the future. But at the same time, others have also become awakened, motivated and united on a large scale in response to the current ecological crisis. One can hear the words of a Trinh Cong Son song echoing: “Let’s love when the forest changes leaves. Let’s love when the water has drifted away.