Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
It was perhaps surprising for many people how much press coverage and educational curriculum time has been given over to both the understanding and awareness of International Earth Day, which took place on Thursday, April 22. It made headlines around the world, and many schools, including my own, sought to engage students in awareness activities. So, why the sudden importance and how have our children’s attitudes changed?
As we emerge from enforced lockdowns all over the world, everyone has had more time at home. It was inevitable that children and students have spent a great deal of time engaged with social media, following influential young climate campaigners like Holly Gillibrand from Scotland (Twitter @HollyWildChild): “When there’s about 200 species going extinct every day, it’s quite scary. So, you have to do everything you can.”
There have also been numerous documentaries viewed across the world – “Seaspiracy”, “Kiss the Ground”, “A Life on Our Planet” and “My Octopus Teacher”. All of which have drawn attention to the importance of action now in order to preserve our planet for future generations.
Greta Thunberg can be credited with being the young voice of the youth climate movement. Greta demonstrated that being young does not preclude one from having valid statements to make, albeit to your class, in a school assembly or, as in the case of Greta, to all of the members of the European Parliament and EU officials.
Earth Day was founded in 1970 in America. Originally, it started as an idea for special lessons at colleges and universities to educate young adults about the environmental consequences of many every day practices. It’s far-reaching impact has been to create ongoing international awareness for all ages of the environmental changes that need to be made in order to protect and sustain planet Earth.
Never before have children, young adults and students been so aware of the fact that their everyday actions with regard to environmental issues, and those of their families, schools, universities and their countries’ leaders, will determine life and livelihoods for generations to come.
Therefore, as parents and educators, it really is vital that we listen to our children and students, and put their thoughts and ideas into practice. Afterall, we cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results. Let’s work together to change the way that we live our lives.
In practical terms, how can we transfer this intent into practical everyday life? Educationally, most schools should have a comprehensive curriculum which, from Pre School upwards, seeks to develop the skills of research, analysis, evaluation, reflection, collaboration and communication in order to form a global perspective.
The subject of environmental change would be an integral part of everyday school life and provide opportunities for students to voice their opinions. Indeed, just this past week, I overheard one of our four-year-olds at school comment: “I hope you are going to recycle that bottle!”
As a family and community, there are numerous ways in which we can adopt earth-friendly practices:
▪ Grow your own vegetables, plant trees and sow seeds for flowers to attract bees and insects.
▪ Recycle and, importantly, encourage your children to help.
▪ Stop buying small plastic bottles of drinking water. Use refillable water bottles.
▪ As a family, turn off lights when not in use, power down computers, turn off the TV and resist lingering in front of the refrigerator with the door open.
▪ As often as possible, walk or bicycle.
▪ Invest in an electric car.
▪ Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
▪ Donate unwanted toys, books and clothes to local charities. Reuse, recycle and reduce waste.
As a Native American proverb states, “We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.