The COP26 summit has (thankfully), brought the burning issue of climate change back to the forefront of government policies after 18 months of ‘environmental lapse’ due to COVID.
In my experience, I saw too much shameful ignorance of environmentally friendly attitudes excused by COVID. Gluttonous seizing of products; single-use masks, aprons and gloves pebble-dashing the gutter; and a ‘throw-away’ culture suddenly being deemed acceptable once again. Some eat-in cafes I know are still using throw away plates, cups and cutlery, excusing it with a ‘free-pass’ to landfill expansion due to COVID. They claim the materials are recyclable, however, plastic coated coffee cups and any item soiled with food are incidentally not recyclable and unfortunately, an extremely low percentage of ‘recyclable’ materials are actually recycled into something else anyway. In addition, I do hope large corporations learn something from the working-from-home period and continue it, if just in part, to reduce commuter transport pollution.
Although, like Greta Thunberg states,
“Immediate and unprecedented annual emission cuts by governments are needed to avert the climate crisis rather than small steps in the right direction,”
I believe that for us, the general public, these small steps WILL make a difference. It’s these small steps that signify a shift from ignorance to action; a shift from a throw-away COVID culture to a greener culture of sustainability; and a shift from a reliance on the future generation to a view of accountability.
I find it astonishing that we are still having this conversation 27 years after my school GSCE class where I sat learning about how human meat consumption is contributing to greenhouse gases through not only the clearing of forests for cattle grazing, but also due to their methane ‘parps.’ At the age of 16 I was reading about the burning of fossil fuels and how it creates greenhouse gases and the need for more renewable energy. Now, at the grand old age of ** (you do the maths), we are still in the same situation and I am teaching pupils of my own the very same message with a state of affairs even bleaker and unresolved.
Back in my 1990’s geography classroom (sparked by my GSCE teacher’s passion for the planet), I decided then to learn more and try to make a difference. I studied geography and environmental science at university; tried to have an eco-friendly mind-set; volunteered on conservation projects across the globe; strived to inspire and educate others by leading my own international expeditions; established an outdoor learning and forest school department at my school; trained other staff to facilitate such sessions; and have now shared my experience and knowledge through my own outdoor website, providing plans and ideas to help other teachers to inspire and connect their own pupils to the outdoors. A single lesson on climate change back in the 1990s sparked my curiosity and determination. What if your ‘small steps’ for sustainability inspired someone else to make a difference; or by implementing high quality, sustainable outdoor learning sessions with your class, you sparked your pupils’ curiosity about the environment? Small steps could soon become leaps and bounds.
Through my international volunteer and expedition work, I have seen third world countries being spearheaded into ecosystem collapse by their capitalist neighbours. I have experienced the rainforests of Borneo being cleared for Chinese palm oil plantations and orangutans clinging to sparse patches of forest. I have studied the lemurs in Madagascar who are struggling for survival amongst patches of deforestation where their habitat has been cleared by loggers hoping to pay for their next meal with thanks to the first-world demand for timber. I have listened to the struggles of villagers in Zambia who are fighting through sustained periods of drought and famine due to global warming. I understand the main part of the climate crisis aversion lies with capitalist governments and corporations, however, much of their policies are determined by our own life-style choices and attitudes of consumerism. As well as environmental degradation due to capitalism and climate change, I have also learnt how Nepalese Sherpas have created solar-powered cookers in the Himalayan mountains and how permaculture is at the heart of Ecuadorean family traditions deep in the Amazon rainforest. I have seen first-hand the inspiring ‘pura vida’ culture of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican population, where sustainability is embedded deeply into every core of their life from an early age, can proudly claim to source over 99% of its energy from renewable resources.
What if we all took a responsibility to embed core values of sustainability into our own (and our pupils’) lifestyles? After all, small choices become actions; small actions become habits; and small habits become our way of life.
Below, you will find a free downloadable poster which details some of these little steps which we can all take to shift our choices, actions, habits and lifestyle that really WILL make a difference.
All is not lost. In addition to learning about cow’s methane ‘parps’ during my GCSE classes 27 years ago, I also learnt about chlorofluorocarbons and how they had created a devastating hole in the ozone layer. Incidentally, CFCs were banned in 1987 and the Antarctic ozone hole, one of the deepest, largest gaps in the ozone layer, has now closed as a result, 34 years later. (World Meteorological Organization (WMO) January 6, 2021.)
Download the FREE poster, “What can WE do to help climate change?” HERE.
Access teaching resources to connect YOUR pupils to their outdoor environment and develop their sustainable attitudes HERE.