Education Really Matters: Overview of the article entitled “Saving the planet … and beyond”

Education has an important role to play in enabling learners to develop their approaches towards saving planet Earth.

Frank O’Hagan

Carpe diem? What are children and young persons to conclude from the many differing points of view which circulate about the future of planet Earth? Groucho Marx succinctly summarised short-termism – “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” In contrast, there is what is sometimes referred to as ‘cathedral thinking’ or in other words ‘being good ancestors’. Our predecessors bequeathed exquisite buildings for us to admire. Can we, in turn, leave a delightful and healthy world as an inheritance to our descendants? The young have a right to know what those in positions of responsibility at both local and national levels are proposing and must be allowed to voice their opinions and apprehensions. It is essential to respond to the significant doubts which they may wish to raise.

22nd April – Should every day be an Earth day?

Obstacles to overcome. Guidance should ensure that learners grasp trustworthy facts and the outcomes of genuine, scientific research. As some might have felt perplexed and experienced a sense of helplessness through a succession of reports on the media, a warm and inclusive learning ethos can reduce emotional upset and help avoid deleterious impacts on mental wellbeing.Some commentators have noted what has been called an ‘information deficit model’ – valid facts not known or understood – is still to be found in sectors of society. This is a separate phenomenon from that of the denial of indubitable facts and statistics. Another obstacle is that the threats connected to climate change normally are not instantly noticeable and, as a result, treated as inconsequential. While it is relatively easy to understand the immediate menace of a global pandemic, the linkage between homes being flooded and carbon emissions is less obvious. By highlighting and explaining the gradual variations which are occurring and the requirement for long-term planning, perceptiveness can be increased and doubts resolved.

A dynamic and comprehensive curriculum. The curriculum on offer requires to be all-embracing and needs to address how contemporary living conditions can be upgraded. The topic of climate change is only one element, albeit a markedly important one, of a wider study encompassing the saving of our planet … and beyond. The overall aim is the enrichment of the living environment for all humankind. A more comprehensive approach incorporates improvements to tackle poor living conditions, unhealthy diets, misuse of pesticides, destruction of sea beds from excessive dredging, the dumping of garbage and radioactive materials at sea, and the list goes on. It also contains suggestions for consideration on appropriate, eco-friendly involvement. Education really matters!

How do we create greener alternatives?

We are family – all in it together. We live in a common home and our society now has the opportunity to create a happier, safer and flourishing world. While teachers and tutors can partake meaningfully, it would be unreasonable to expect only education settings to embark on this onerous task. Fortunately, there are organisations willing to assist and many sources for learners to exploit over and above their formal curriculum. The good news is twofold: educationalists are occupied already in this enterprise and, for pupils, their ensuing acquisition of comprehension and prescience guarantees advancement in terms of personal, social, emotional and cognitive development.

Love learning, love your planet. At the early and nursery phases, children form habits with regard to cleanliness, communication, personal safety, good manners and kindness to others. In creative and investigative play activities, they develop an appreciation of camaraderie, flowers, plants and animals. As pupils move through primary school, they have opportunities to learn more about everyday living and how to take good care of ecosystems. A firm basis for responsible citizenship is being established. Project work is often arranged to cover a wide variety of themes, allowing children to select, investigate and then share their findings. The cross-curricular nature of ecology and green politics is evident throughout secondary education, an opinion forcefully made by a second-year teenager when interviewed, and requires effective cooperation from different departments. This characteristic holds the likelihood of deepening the understanding of complex issues though analysing them from separate perspectives. Optimistically, by the time that students are leaving secondary school, they will be fully equipped to reflect expertly on perplexing dilemmas such as migrations due to crop failure or tensions among nations arising from the pursuit of scarce commodities. All being well, they will become the guardians urgently required to safeguard humanity.

Young people care, therefore they are part of the solution. If addressing climate change is urgent, why has headway been incoherent and tardy? It has proved to be comfortable to ‘talk the talk’ but considerably more challenging to ‘walk the walk’. The dominance of rationalism, following the philosophical dictum ‘Cognito ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am) of Descartes, lingers on in some current thinking and still influences much of what takes place at major conferences. No matter how erudite the conclusions might be, if they lack pragmatism and empathy, they are of little value. While they await to find out in what manner those in positions of authority are prepared to move forward, the futures of juveniles are to some extent put on hold. It is clear that many adolescents feel obliged to call out for vigorous action to avoid planetary suicide. As responsible outspoken advocates, they deserve our praise. For them, false narratives, complacency and nihilist stances on future calamities being ‘too big to handle so live only for today’ are not acceptable. Learners know that, cherish it or not, they too are involved and have their parts to play. They identify themselves as global citizens and demand a ‘can do, make it happen’ mindset to be adopted.

Concluding remarks. The article concludes by suggesting that: (1) education establishments are very powerful in assisting to reach targets and deserve support to develop their programs of study on how to save and improve planet Earth; (2) using their own research and critical thinking, youthful scholars are able to embrace the role of ‘learner as scientist’ and, as a consequence of their successful efforts, they come to realise that it is individual and communal behaviours and customs which cause so much damage; (3) they understand that there are choices which can no longer be sidelined by society at large, with many aiming to ensure that their incremental steps will ultimately result in giant leaps forward.

For the more detailed article on this topic, please use the following link:

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” John Muir (1838 – 1914) Scottish-American author and environmentalist, sometimes referred to as “Father of the National Parks”