“If we can do something, then we should do something.”
Ian Gilbert, Climate 4 Change day, Barnsley
Trying to teach your average Jo (me) to get to where crusaders like Professor Paul Clarke are in their thinking is like teaching a chimp advanced Physics. It could happen but would take far more than a day. The Climate 4 Change day, organised by Independent Thinking was one of the most uncomfortable events I have enjoyed.
We don’t live in a world that has a climate for change. We live in a world of selfish people who are comfortable in their ignorance. We have food at our fingertips, served up on shelves of plastic produce. We have central heating, electricity and powerful vehicles that get us conveniently from A to B. The bin man comes regularly and the rubbish dumps are far away from home. We have learned about climate change at school and played warrior in the eco garden. We know we should switch off the lights and avoid wasting water – but it’s on tap. We live in the comfort of our modernised schools and continue to fight to be at the top of the tables by force feeding a curriculum based on the needs of an endangered society. We watch the floods on the news and read about the problems our pollution causes the planet but it is business as usual on a Monday. We are entrenched in that comfortable ignorance and change is just too hard.
This ignorance does not extend to everyone. We had a room full of willing participants at the Climate for Change event. Those participants varied from people working in this field already, having a myriad of knowledge and a plan of action, to ignorant but willing teachers with no clue but a heart to change. The discomfort came from trying to break down barriers between the two. The eco warriors know what needs to happen for the world to realign with nature. They have the knowledge and they are walking the walk. The classroom teachers want to change but they have targets to meet, lessons to plan, curriculum to cover and parents to please. They need the knowledge to be translated. Much like the expert maths teacher that cannot come down to the level of the child with dyscalculia, it was difficult to listen to each other and to have our individual positions heard. Listening is so much harder than just hearing another’s words. You always want to respond with what you already know and your point of view before the other speaker has finished. That’s the ego that we need to quieten down.
This was not a “How to” event. This was a first meeting of interested parties. We may have left the meeting feeling frustrated. We may have left with more questions than answers but at least we left having made connections and having taken a step. The Steiner School representatives said they needed to, “Sleep on it.” but we shouldn’t sleep too long (I’m confident that they won’t). Like Ian said, if we can do something about it, then we should! I like the fact that we brought these voices together, despite the discomfort. Whether an eco warrior or a willing average Jo, we need to learn to listen, make connections and find ways to work together to create positive action. Juliet Roberson shared with us the quote, “When we dream together it is the start of a new reality.” Dom Helder Camara
It will take more than 29 people to achieve a new reality but perhaps those 29 people can learn to translate the positives of that potential reality for the masses. We need to learn to listen and translate this interconnected knowledge to our various positions. We could create examples of how pupils can learn to be literate, numerate and pass exams and still work with the planet. Or create examples of sustainable solutions that make our schools more eco friendly. We could develop Naturally Smart Spaces as examples to others and invite more people to learn within this space.
Professor Clarke has already witnessed excellent examples of people being able to live with the planet and so, to him, our ignorance is frustrating. Other attendees had similar issues with the fact that they had already worked so hard in this field. Training programmes and sustainable spaces are already in operation so why are we not working with that? Average Jo has little understanding of how to live with the planet and often misses the messages that are so clearly being sent because Monday morning is such a grind as it is.
It is not good enough for those in the know to look down at us from enlightened spaces, nor is it good enough for us to see the enlightened as unrelated to our reality. We have to question and explore and make a path though the discomfort and frustration towards sustainable solutions. Professor Clarke worried that we would not dare to be deviant and we worried that we might not be able to. We need the crusaders to translate, open our eyes, point us to the examples and lead the way and we need the Average Jo to start seeing where this all links to everyday life and take action. For us, there’s often far too much going on to contend with the far out notion that we need to align ourselves with the stars and save the planet but soon enough we are going to be forced into change. How can we avoid this being another add on that we quickly give up once exam season hits? We need to get that across to the masses without them seeing this as a fringe of hippies.
Thanks to Independent Thinking, the conversation has begun. I’m still a chimp in the eyes of the enlightened but at least, thanks to Saturday’s first meeting, the complex connections that took place have given me hope that we can work together to create a climate for change.