There is a growing emphasis on the appreciation of individual concepts and ideas. Following a quick google search, I discovered that it is possible to spend almost every single day of the year celebrating a ‘day of the year’. On 18th August for example, you can partake in ‘bad poetry day’ (am still searching for an appropriate response to this), whilst on the 13th August, middle children everywhere have their chance to be the focus of attention on ‘middle child day’.
Like me, I imagine the majority of you don’t pay a huge amount of attention to these ‘days’, aside from the few exceptions which are of meaningful significance to you and the causes you care about. However, on arrival at work, I was struck by the irony of the two ‘days’ which occurred at the beginning and end of last week. On Monday 8th August, the world “celebrated” Earth Overshoot Day. According to non-profit Global Footprint Network, this is the date when ‘humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year’, meaning that, from that date until the end of the year, we are borrowing from future generations.
The 12th August marked International Youth Day whose theme for this year was: The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production. In a nutshell, Sustainable Consumption and Production means making sure we meet the basic needs of communities whilst safeguarding the requirements of future generations. I would like to say that the reason for both of these days falling in the same week was a cleverly masterminded plan orchestrated by the UN and other international organisations in a bid to raise awareness. Sadly, the truth of the matter is that for the past 7 or so years that Earth Overshoot Day has been measured, it has slowly been creeping further and further up the calendar year. In 2009, the first time Earth Overshoot Day was recorded, it didn’t occur until October.
Whilst it is easy to feel very depressed about the future we are leaving younger generations to inherit, one glance at the One Young World website helped reassure me that there truly are many young people out there eager to make change. As part of International Youth Day, One Young World offered young people the opportunity to participate in a twitter chat with leading youth organisers and key influencers to promote the vital role of young people in driving the Sustainable Development Goals. Elsewhere on the website are examples from young people around the world who are involved in programmes to benefit their communities. One such example is Grigor Yeritsyan who founded the NGO, Armenian Progressive Youth, to help bring about progress and social change in Armenia.
Having said all this, whilst looking at the One Young World website, its impossible not to question how successful young people can be in a world which has not yet undergone a fundamental paradigm shift. For this to take place, we cannot rely on them as the sole driving force for their future, or displace all responsibility onto their shoulders. For true change to occur, both young people and adults must engage in new and collaborative ways of working together to re-think our current systems.
In the words of the ever wonderful Douglas Adams – DON’T PANIC! I am aware of how daunting a task this probably seems, but the key is for each of us to focus on the steps that we have already taken or are already taking. Whether this is cycling to work instead of driving, throwing a clothes swap party with friends, or simply turning down the heating. The very fact you are reading this blog (whether you agree or disagree with its content) means you have already started the process of questioning certain aspects of our current reality.
In a quick plug for one of our members, I would also recommend the recently released publication from David Hicks entitled A Climate Change Companion. The book explains the relationship between changing climate and the sources of energy we use, as well as important choices we will need to make for our families, schools and communities. It also sets out what we can do to both limit and adapt to these changes. The book is available on amazon kindle and ibooks and you can also download it via his website: https://www.teaching4abetterworld.co.uk/publications.html.
Hear’s to hoping that, as we look back on these days in years to come, we will remember how humanity came together at a crucial moment and chose to act for the future of our young people.
As ever, do get in touch if you want to let us know your good news stories of what you are doing in your classrooms and learning environments to help promote sustainability.
SEEd Projects Manager