When I was a school boy growing up in South Africa, granted it was about 40 years ago, we had no sense that our actions were having such an impact on the environment, and that the human race was causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. It was not a serious issue for the majority of my peers and our families. It’s also fair to say that I don’t remember being the most politically engaged teenager.
How the science and our understanding of cause and effect have advanced. Climate change and the threat to our planet from human activity is arguably the most important issue facing us. It was 14 years ago this month that Al Gore, the former US Vice President, became somewhat of a movie star with the release of his film An Inconvenient Truth which had a big impact in bringing this issue to the forefront of peoples’ minds. Since then there is far greater consensus among scientists on the causes of global warming. More recently, Greta Thunberg has been able to mobilise young people from all over the world, challenging us adults to take notice. It is excellent to witness the growing number of young people standing up for their beliefs.
In assembly this morning, against a backdrop of Climate Action posters created by our student Amnesty group, I spoke to the school about how we respond. It is important that we all look at the way we conduct our lives, and take responsibility for our actions with the knowledge that as individuals, as well as collectively, we can make a difference to halt this threat. It is a challenge facing the world but it is not all doom and gloom. There is much we can do, and it behoves us all to take steps to limit the damage, and strive through education, to contribute to the solution.
At Truro School one of our five core strategic objectives over the last five years has been, ‘to be celebrated as a socially and environmentally responsible member of the Cornish community’.
I outlined the work of our busy Sustainability Committee, in recent years we have held whole school Sustainability Days, audited how sustainability is covered in various syllabi, participated in international partnerships and exchanges with a theme of sustainability, launched projects such as Prep School outdoor classroom, Forest School, and Bug hotel to name but a few.
Eight of our students will be attending the Student ‘Climate Emergency’ Conference at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus, where amongst a wide-ranging programme of presentations and workshop activities, the Cornish Secondary Schools Green Charter will be discussed and students be asked to consider specific actions for their schools in context of the Green Charter.
We are looking at the Eco-Schools programme, run in England by Keep Britain Tidy which aims to put young people in charge of raising environmental awareness by planning and implementing environmental actions that get their whole school and its community involved. Mrs Thurlow and Mr Baker are leading a newly formed Student Sustainability Committee which will be looking at the programme and considering whether this is something they want to adopt.
I exhorted the whole school to “find your voice, to let your opinions be known to the student representatives, get involved with initiatives, raise your own awareness, participate in debate and actions that can make a difference and help us to protect the world.”