Sustainability: It Starts At School

Sustainability: It Starts At School

By: Kayla Tran, 2018 PF1010 Ambassador

In the US, students go to school 180 days per year for an average of 6.8 hours per day. The years of K-12 are crucial for development, and students are often surrounded by the influence of new knowledge and teachers. Classrooms are meant to be spaces for inspiration, creativity, and where students pick up a sense of awareness and responsibility as they learn from each other. But what is the purpose of education? According to Valerie Strauss, an education reporter from The Washington Post, “education should prepare young people for life, work and citizenship”. It is inarguable that critical thinking, interpersonal skills, creativity, and social responsibility are factors that ultimately influence a person’s success in life, work, and citizenship. But aside from policies on the traditional disciplines of math, language arts, social studies and the basics of science, how are schools really preparing new generations for life in the 21st century?

With a speedy increase of the global population and prevalent effects of climate change, sustainable goals must progress as quickly as the environment is regressing. Just as children are encouraged to be the future to technological and medical advances, they could also be the future to a sustainable planet. At the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil in 1992, education was recognized as an essential element for raising awareness and fostering the understanding on Earth’s environmental issues. One out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, targeted to be met in 2030, is to “educate young people on climate change to put them on a sustainable path early on”. Other goals include increasing recycling practices, waste reduction, and energy efficiency, which, to be met, first requires an individual’s understanding of the importance of sustainability.

Photo from un.org

Communities in other areas of the world are often affected by the deficits of resource scarcity and climate change the most, yet education may be considered a privilege. It should be our responsibility as a first-world country with wide access to education that that sustainable schools be more prominent. In history, we have seen the power of education, and in politics, we have seen movements dedicated to fighting for that right, such as the Malala Fund.

Since accessibility is not a barrier here, it is time that we push further. It is time that we push for environmental education. According to the Green Schools Alliance, “As hubs of communities, schools can help to transform markets, policy, education, and behavior, increase community resilience, mitigate climate change, and prepare citizens to think and act in new and creative ways”. The addition of environmental education would be how we can prepare the next generations for life, work, and citizenship in the 21st century. In the future, UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair envisions: “Sustainable development will not just be a subject in the classroom: it will be in its bricks and mortar and the way the school uses, and even generates, its own power. Our students won’t just be told about sustainable development, they will see and work within it: a living, learning place in which to explore what a sustainable lifestyle means.”

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