20 Sep 2019

Alex Hems: Head's Blog September 20 2019

Climate Change - how can we work together to make a difference?

A2.SMY AlexHems096 Crop 250w

Today will see another climate change protest taking place in Edinburgh, attended by school children from across the city. These protests are an expression of the anger and frustration that many young people feel at the slow pace of progress in tackling climate change and environmental damage.  It is an anger with which I certainly sympathise, when I try to buy broccoli but can only find it densely wrapped in heat-sealed plastic, see a river or a beach littered and chocked with waste, or watch children walking past vehicles that are parked but still have their engines running.

The problems of climate change, the destruction of natural and irreplaceable habitats, damage to our oceans and marine life, are huge challenges for our generation, and those that follow us. Surely the only way in which they can be addressed will be through sustained international collaboration, as well as political will, and that will require patience, hard work and commitment.  At the same time, any solutions that we arrive at as an international community will involve every one of us making changes to our lifestyles, whether in reducing our meat consumption, changing our approach to travel or our fashion-buying habits.

These are formidable challenges indeed, but ones that we will all have to confront. And so where does that leave the climate change protesters? Their anger needs to be recognized, because anger becomes toxic when people feel that they have not been heard, or that they are powerless to achieve change. It also needs to be channelled, because anger alone will not solve these problems. My own feeling is that schools can be powerful instruments for change, if they can harness and work with the energy and passion of young people, and bring those together with the experience of staff and teachers. I would not presume to suggest that schools can, on their own, change the world, but they are very creative places, full of energy and potential new approaches. Change can begin on a small scale, here at school, and I want the girls to be a part of bringing that about, most importantly because I want them to be learning. At St George’s we want to make some commitments to becoming a low-waste, low-plastic, more sustainable school. The Eco-Committee and I will be collaborating with the Catering, Facilities and IT teams to explore how best to do this.  There is also much to be learned from the process of working as a group to effect change within an organisation as complex as a school. Our students will find out about the economics of running a school kitchen, the cost of paper recycling and perhaps most importantly, how to go about influencing others, especially their peers.

I hope that the students who feel passionately about this cause will enjoy working to make a meaningful difference across our whole community, and I look forward to being able to bring you updates on our progress over the course of the year. I hope that the skills that they learn through this process might also equip them to tackle problems in the wider world in the future.

Mrs Alex Hems MA Oxon
Head, St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

Interested in finding out more about St George's? Join us at one of our Open Mornings on 28 September and 2 October.


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