Happy Earth Day everyone! I guess it’s a bit like wishing everyone a happy, annual birthday celebration for the planet they live on.
While it’s wonderful to dedicate this annual celebration of gratitude and respect for our one, beautiful home, it’s also important to find small ways to celebrate, or at least give gratitude for the Earth everyday. We would not be here without all that it offers. It is only in this place, within about the first 3,000 meters of atmosphere on a rock which happens to be in the perfect position from the sun to sustain life, that we and all living beings can exist in this universe.
“Having an Earth day each year gives us the pause we need to measure how we are treating the Earth now, and reflect on how we might change to sustain it into the future.”
In 1983 the United Nations defined sustainability as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ This doesn’t mean that we must stop all use of resources on this planet, but that our use of those resources must not impact the ability of any future generations to also live a healthy and meaningful life here on Earth. It is a forward-looking, generous and holistic view that considers not only the environment, but also economic development and societal equity. It is a way of life that has inspired the formation of Green Schools around the world.
So, how do we support this definition of sustainability and sustainable living at Green School New Zealand? First and foremost, we live every day in balance and in contact with the natural world around us. By connecting with the Earth, our students, parents, teachers and entire community are reminded each day of its abundant gifts and the need for its protection. We experience the weather. We enjoy the sunshine or listen mindfully to the rain. We forage for food, or plant and harvest and cook it. We dig in the dirt to see all the bugs that purify and process our soil to grow and support plant life. We swim in the awa (rivers) and drink from their waters to see the impact we have on that most precious resource.
In so many ways, we spend time exploring and understanding all the intricacies of our local ecosystem, both big and small. Our Taiao Rumaki, or environmental immersion experience, introduces our youngest learners to develop a natural wonder at the planet they live on.
As we move into the Middle School, students begin to understand how we have taken for granted the resiliency of our planet. We explore how some human activities have long and far-reaching impacts that compromise the health of both planet and the future generations who will inherit it. Identifying what must change allows these students to begin to take action locally, and entrepreneurially, to demonstrate that there are better ways to meet our economic needs through environmental action. They also identify the social inequities that have existed, and continue to exist, to better understand how we can help all individuals meet their needs and live a fulfilled existence here.
The High School journey focuses on solutions. If we are to have a long-lasting impact as a school, we must build the leaders of tomorrow – academically prepared, socially aware, environmentally conscious, and sustainably driven – to build a way of living within the balances and tolerances of the Earth and all its living entities. In other words, a life that can be sustained. This requires our oldest students to develop a strong understanding of the sciences, the arts, maths (STEAM), business and the social sciences. At the same time, they form a strong foundation of personal wellbeing and community values based on respect for others, tolerance, understanding and, most importantly, the ability to communicate to others in a meaningful way. At the end of this academic year we will send our very first graduating cohort out into the world, and we can’t wait to see what solutions they have to offer us.
The Green Schools, both here, in Bali and in South Africa, have taken on a huge challenge, and I am in the privileged position to witness everyday the tireless mahi, or work, of our teachers, staff, parents and learners to help restore the balance our Earth so desperately needs. This Earth Day, I hope we all take a moment to show proper gratitude, respect and reverence for this planet. I leave you with a Māori proverb:
Te toto o te tangata, he kai; te oranga o te tangata, he whenua – while food provides the blood in our veins, our health is drawn from the land
HAPPY EARTH DAY!