the network for communities building local resilience
My experience facilitating the Education for Resilience table in Tralee started out much like my first conversation at a transition event hosted by Fada in Newbridge 5 years previously. I was full of ideas and marveled at my suggestion that teaching the children about climate change and resource depletion would bring the awareness into the up and coming generation. I was enthused by the fact that once they were on the curriculum it would awaken the young people and somehow empower them to do something to address the challenges our species face.
This conversation wasn’t much different to begin with. It started out as a typical how-to-use-education-to-address-the-state-of-the-world discussion - “lets add it to the curriculum and the young people can deal with it”. All seems like a good idea at the time until you look into the current curriculum. They are already on it. In fact there are preschool books detailing climate change and fossil fuel dependence. There are people in their thirties who have learned all about climate change in school and people n their forties who learned about peak oil in the 70’s. So why are we still dependent on an imported source of energy that is choking our life support system and our economy?
With the idea that teaching the children will solve all of our problems put aside for a while we got to go under the surface and explore WHY it isn’t happening according to our misconceptions. Why are our young people learning about these challenges and not much is changing? Why are people who may now be parents themselves, who have learned about climate change and resource depletion, sitting around worried more about the latest plot on Coronation Street or Eastenders than the future air supply for their children? How come the gravity of the situation is not being grasped. The information is definitely not being absorbed or understood to a level that empowers people to act. Perhaps people don’t know how to act or are too lazy to act? Do they understand food and energy security? Are they in denial or are they afraid? Have they forgotten the need for resilience? Have they forgotten how to be resilient?
We discussed that television has become a very important part of life and the effects may be very detrimental to our idea of reality. The media in general is more about negatives than positives. Bad news seems to sell more papers than good. Programmes aired are more about fictitious lives than reality. Time spent watching fantasy and dumbed down reporting could be otherwise spent engaging with nature and each other thereby awakening our senses to the state of the world around us. The same was suggested for games consoles and computers. The fact that the internet is a good source information and education was also stated so where the mainstream media fails there is the truth available when you want to know. The lack of governance was discussed - we are a country that looks to our leaders.
We went down a road of discovery, behind the psyche of inaction. Why respect has somehow disappeared. Morals and a sense of justice have vanished. The void left by the demise of the authority of the church in the country is not being filled. Some suggest it was filled for a while by money but now that too has gone. Are we a nation of media zombies living in a parallel universe ignorant of the state of our planet living on fantasy? Did we need to fear a god to keep ourselves in check?
We also discussed the lack of critical thinking and our inherent ability to dismiss criticism. The need for critique was highlighted as was the importance of taking criticism on board and learning from it. Joined up thinking is another failing in our society. We also seem to do more bad mouthing than good, especially toward people active in our own communities. This gave rise to questions about trying to educate or raise awareness in your own area and the fact that you may be ignored or criticised purely for initiating change. Even tidy towns groups are often frowned upon. Why is that? Why, as a society do we feel the need to bad mouth people out working with a pride of place, doing their best to make our community look well? Personally I feel this is a massive obstacle for the transition process in Ireland. Having absorbed the Transition Kerry attitude, a county wide approach, I am also considering that as progressive and a new approach for laois.
So what obstacles or barriers to education in resilience could we agree on? What needs to be done to advance education in resilience? Reinstating morals, empathy, sense of justice, consideration, confidence to act, respect - a whole change in the road our social psyche has taken us on. Supporting our resilience educators within the community. Turning off the tv :) While the curriculum is being revised it could be rewritten to teach these values, teach social responsibility, confidence to take action, combat apathy. Someone even agreed with my long held belief that it’s more about educating the parents than the children. The fact that life long learning should be purported as a key to resilience - it's not all about a curriculum, we learn from the cradle to the grave. When we are closed off to learning, to change, to new ideas we greatly curb our ability to understand what is happening. We need to embrace life enthused to acknowledge learning something new every day.
We had a great mix of participants including 3 lovely wise women from an older persons organisation who helped tease out our evolving social attitudes. Ann O'Dwyer from Kerry Education was an inspiration. As well as being at our table she addressed the whole audience and imparted great ideas for the school curriculum. It all seems so positive and a much more holistic approach to learning. I have no doubt that everyone at the table will spread what they took on board and shared over the course of the day. I also feel that the community resilience education platform is and will continue to be strong in Kerry - we definitely noted the importance of it. I wouldn't be surprised if new avenues are explored especially along the lines of empathy, moral obligations and respect playing a vital role in resilience and earth stewardship in general.
On a personal note - I just want to go back to that point about educating the children so that they may act. I now find that solution very disappointing. While it was my first reaction 5 years ago the more I think about it now the worse it gets. WE have become dependent on fossil fuels that WE have no control over. WE have built our society and economies around the outputs from using it. WE have polluted the atmosphere causing misery to millions of people throughout the world which is set to become much worse. WE have a government whose department of education teaches the young people the perils of fossil fuel, a department of the environment who promises to take action on climate change and a department of energy who wants to drill the country until no bedrock has been left unturned in the search for natural gas or oil to burn and further warm the planet. They are being taught that WE know all of this yet WE are doing nothing significant except passing the buck on the mess WE have made. I wonder where they get their lacking sense of justice, apathy, lack of consideration, disrespect, lack of empathy etc etc from!
Now to mention another take from the young people in America who have chosen to sue the government for global warming. This is what could happen if our initial ideas manifested! The young people took a stand and now there is a question over intergenerational justice. It is very interesting indeed and a lot of big business are skulking in the hallways, probably doing what they do best - brown envelopes no doubt ;)
You can find a recent press report here :
and their official website is here : http://kids-vs-global-warming.com/Home.html
Just to say, I left my notes behind me and my memory is going so if I've forgotten something or you feel it's misrepresented please let me know so that I may change it.
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