Home Career ITM, May 2024 | Schools and sustainability

ITM, May 2024 | Schools and sustainability


Schools, sustainability and an obvious change

Why we all need to take immediatte action in how we teach sustainability and the way we run our schools.

The need for cultural change

According to Jeremy Bacon, one of our contributors to this special Sustainability issue of ITM,

Organisations like schools need to undergo a cultural change so that recycling becomes part of everyday life for everyone, rather than something ‘special’.

The emphasis on the need for cultural change is interesting. As Bacon sees it, this will involve ideas now regarded as off-centre, becoming mainstream and commonplace.  And, of course, it’s not just about recycling. It is, perhaps above all else, about decarbonising our society in the face of climate change and here schools have a really special and urgent responsibility. Eco clubs are great, but now whole school communities need to take a position on climate change and put it at the heart of their raison d’être. There are two reasons why this is so important. Firstly, concerted action to decarbonise taken by enough schools will have an impact that can be tracked. They will be shown to be setting the example. Secondly, it will change the expectation of young people, who will see decarbonisation as ‘obvious’, establishing a social and cultural norm that they will carry through into their future lives.

The urgency of this need is illustrated by Joe Human. The Louis Glacier on Mt. Kenya which he used to visit as a young teacher in the 1970s has simply disappeared within his lifetime. This is not just a problem for mountain climbers or eco-activists.

It is a problem for us all.

The good news

However, the good news is that we are also the solution. The technical answers are already emerging, many of them engineered by young people like the incredible team members submitting ideas for the Earth Prize. More will come, quite quickly. However, what is also needed is developing a critical mass of expectation, driven by work in schools, which will promote the urgent implementation of measures seen as common sense rather than ‘extreme’.

Although, as Roman Krznaric argues, we probably still do need social activists to press the need for change, we also need the quiet revolutionaries who just get on with things as a normal part of life. We need more schools like West Buckland in Devon, who have already freed their campus from their dependence on fossil fuels and more campaigners like Peter Milne who show how we can join the educational and social eco dots together. If these examples of good practice for sustainable living become the norm rather than the exception, between us we will bring about the kind of cultural change that Jeremy Bacon has correctly identified as so desirable and which politicians at the moment find so difficult to lead.

FEATURE IMAGE: by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash

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