The science is clear. The world risks dramatic consequences if global warming rises above 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2040, according to the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report produced by the world’s leading climate scientists for the United Nations. Fatal droughts, floods, extreme heat and poverty could affect hundreds of millions of people if we do not make urgent changes to limit global warming as much as possible and as fast as possible.
This would require collective action at a level unprecedented in history. From governments to individuals, multinationals to community groups, everyone has a role to play in this vision of a greener, more sustainable future. We need the best and brightest to come up with innovative solutions at community and global levels. We require cleaners and CEOs changing how they’ve always done things. We depend on village leaders and presidents to unite people at all levels for this mission.
Most important of all, we need to listen to and let our children lead the way.
They deserve to. Young people will be the heirs to a world of climate-related disasters brought upon by unchecked global warming. Greta Thunberg, 2019’s TIME Person of the Year, made this plain at a speech she gave at the United Nations Climate Action Summit last September: “The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.”
“Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
“So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.”
The inspirational Thunberg has galvanised students all over the world. But more still needs to be done.
The good news is that schools and students all over the world are heeding the young Swedish climate activist’s calls. In Italy, public schools would soon require students in every grade to study climate change and sustainability, including exploring the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in depth.
Students with family in sinking Pacific Island nations are forming clubs and advocating climate justice to be included into the school’s curriculum. Roughly one in four American teenagers have participated in a climate change walkout, attended a rally or written to a public official to express their views on global warming, according to a Washington Post survey.
In Asia, these schools are empowering students in building a better tomorrow for the planet:
BANGKOK PATANA SCHOOL
At this British International School, students are not waiting for somebody else to save their planet.
They have voted to remove plastic water bottles from snack bars and advocated for students and staff to bring their reusable water bottle each and every day. Every year, they go on a beach and reef clean-up, collecting a great deal of plastic and learning loads about the waste disposal systems along the way. They’ve come up with ideas to revamp the recycling bins around the school to help educate students and staff. They have held a food drive to donate rice to slums and raise awareness on food waste.
These students are living the values of Bangkok Patana, according to Helen Thew, Cross Campus Principal.
“They are definitely living our Patana value of being inspired to improve global sustainability. They know that they cannot wait for someone else to start, as they know that the change must start with themselves and for the Student Environmental Committees (SEC) students it has already started,” she said.
This fits into Thailand’s first and largest British international school’s vision, which is to develop global citizens who shape their world through independence, empathy, creativity and critical thinking.
This vision manifests itself in not just the School’s curriculum and extra-curricular activities, but in its sustainability efforts too. Another student-run Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) project – part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme offered here – is exemplary of this. Under this project, independent thinkers took a creative and critical approach towards realising several Sustainable Development Goals.
Called Cube Care, the project focuses on providing specialised medical care for isolated village communities and forest rangers. Last year, they raised money to purchase parts for a cost-efficient, sustainable filter for Baan Nam Phu Village in Kanchanaburi, improving the lives of the 900 villagers. For the following academic year the students plan on funding a defibrillator, blood-glucose testing machines and assorted medical equipment for a village in Prachuap Khir Khan Province.
Whether within or outside campus grounds, Bangkok Patana School is making an impact and leading the way towards a more sustainable future in Asia.
JERUDONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (JIS) – BRUNEI
At this outstanding British international boarding school in Brunei, students and staff take environmental awareness and sustainability very seriously.
Surrounded by the oldest rainforest in the world and a stone’s throw away from the richly diverse South China Sea, Jerudong International School (JIS) is keenly aware of the invaluable ecosystems we stand to lose if we do not act now. Which is why the school is wasting no time in building a more sustainable future.
There is a student led Environmental (Eco) Committee organising events for students from Junior School to Senior School to participate in. In each of the 16 houses, there is a House Eco Representative and Deputy Representative who help the Committee raise awareness and encourage action related to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Eco Reps also encourage members of their houses to volunteer in national community events, such as the Ocean Conservancy International Beach clean held last September where 120 students took part in. In November 2019, students also partnered a local NGO “GreenBrunei” and the Brunei Forestry Department to plant over 400 trees, which ties in with a new carbon offsetting initiative at JIS.
During the first two terms, these houses also collaborate on a Sustainable Development Challenge. In the third term, this work culminates in Earth Week, the focus being Earth Day. Every House is actively involved in recycling projects and raising awareness about single-use plastic.
Other initiatives include the design and creation of Herb Spirals in its award-winning Outdoor Discovery Centre as well as the setting up of Green Businesses where budding student entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to judges in a matter of minutes.
Ambitious? Perhaps. But in a world grappling with a climate crisis, a school like JIS is just what the planet and young people need.
AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, SINGAPORE
Located in one of Asia’s most sustainable cities, the Australian International School (AIS) is committed to teaching the next generation to make the world a better place.
Its partnership with Sun Electric, the first solar energy company to obtain an electricity retail license in Singapore, is part of this commitment. Through this collaboration, AIS has enabled its school roof to be installed with solar panels capable of producing a megawatt of electricity that will be supplied to the city-wide grid for smaller consumers of energy to purchase.
Andre Casson, Principal at AIS said: “Educating the next generation about the environment and sustainability is critical to the future of our planet. Our partnership with Sun Electric places this exciting project at the heart of our sustainability curriculum, as a real-life example of what can be achieved.”
“Our students will have the ability to use real data to understand the mechanics and impact of this initiative which can only enhance the learning experience and improve the impact that our students have on the future.”
Within its classrooms, educators are constantly finding new ways to urge students to take action and understand the changes they can make in their own lives to benefit the environment. Meanwhile, its two canteens are managed by School by Chartwells, a leading provider of food service to schools and universities around the world and has a food philosophy of “Healthy Food, Healthy Kids and a Healthy Planet”.
As part of the School’s globally focused philosophy, the community service programme aims to nurture students into responsible citizens. AIS students help disabled students undertake therapy sessions on horseback, raise funds for small island communities in South East Indonesia and built libraries for teaching staff and several classrooms in Nepali schools, among others.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International.
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