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Campaigning to Change the Landscape of Energy
International schools and the fight against climate change
In 2005, the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport of the European Commission launched Sustainable Energy Europe 2005-2008, an unprecedented campaign aimed at ensuring greater public awareness, understanding and support for the intelligent use and production of energy in Europe.
Sustainable Energy Europe 2005-2008 is about imagining a better energy future for Europe and its children.
The majority of Europeans now understand that we face an irreversible environmental crisis unless we begin to change the way in which energy is produced and used. This means that, in the future, we will have to make much greater use of renewable energy sources and focus more upon energy-efficiency. The purpose of this Campaign is to reinforce this message to the widest possible audience and to highlight ways in which we can ensure a positive change in our attitudes towards energy. It goes without saying that schools and other educational institutions are key partners in this effort to change the landscape of European energy - for a large part of this burden will undeniably fall upon the shoulders of future generations.
European Commissioner for Energy
For more details, visit the Campaign website: www.sustenergy.org
At the heart of this initiative is a simple conviction that, to achieve the Campaign goals, all sections of society need to get involved and that, together, we can make a difference and reduce the levels of CO2 emissions that lead to climate change.
Since its launch, the Campaign has successfully brought together a range of stakeholders, forming a unique alliance of individuals, communities, public authorities and industry representatives. Noted by its absence, however, was the lack of school representation. In 2006, The International School of Brussels (ISB) was therefore invited by the European Commission to become the first school awarded the title of 'Campaign Associate' in acknowledgement of its contribution to, and promotion of, the key messages of the Campaign.
What is clear, however, is that ISB is not alone in its commitment to becoming a 'sustainable' learning community, where students not only learn in the classroom, but experience in practice, the impact of their actions upon the world around them. At International School Bangkok, for example, a group of students, parents, and staff work to raise environmental awareness among the school community. "We know that students pay far more attention to what adults do than what they say," explains Bill Gerritz, Director of the school. "So the ISB Board of Trustees, as part of a 10 year facilities master planning effort, has committed to Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) for all new construction and retro-fitting. The next building, a cultural center housing the arts and humanities, will be a lighthouse ESD building in Southeast Asia. The school is also now embarking on a comprehensive environmental action planning effort including a carbon footprint analysis."
Likewise, at European School of Brussels I, there is the firm conviction that complex global issues can be tackled with simple and modest action plans. As Kari Kivinen, the school's Director, explains: "The depressing news about global warming and environmental catastrophes can be presented for the pupils in a form of a positive challenge - everybody can do something! It is necessary to demystify for the pupils the various sustainable energy use concepts and programmes. Energy efficiency starts with changing some daily habits at home and in school."
The Global Issues Network - Europe held its annual regional conference on 20-21 October 2006. Students from international schools in Zurich, Düsseldorf, Milan and Luxembourg were hosted by the American International School of Rotterdam.
Focusing upon the theme, Alternative Energy & Energy Conservation, the students met on the first day in the conference rooms of the World Port Centre. Speakers included the senior advisor for sustainable energy of ENECO, Mr. Bernard Verheijen, and a representative from Shell Exploration and Production, Mr. Severino Simeone. After a boat tour of the Rotterdam harbour, the participants were treated to a demonstration of Zero Formula, a car driven entirely by hydrogen fuel. One student volunteered to drink the car's "exhaust" of pure water.
For more details, visit the website:
A similar emphasis on the fact that students can and should be empowered to work with their peers to develop solutions to global issues is the focus of the Global Issues Network, which now involves a growing number of international schools across the world.
Begun by teachers and students from six international schools in Europe, the programme is based upon High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them by Jean-François Rischard, former World Bank Vice-President for Europe. Rischard describes imminent issues that can only be solved through global cooperation: water shortages, global warming, environmental degradation, infectious diseases, poverty, illiteracy, depletion of fisheries, peacekeeping, and the loss of ecosystems. Rischard notes that the existing institutions charged with addressing such issues, namely nation-states, government departments and international organisations, cannot alone solve these issues. Rather, he calls for an alternative model of global governance based upon independent global networks that are flexible and super-responsive.
International schools already represent a network of independent organisations that co-ordinate their worldwide efforts toward a common purpose, and are therefore an excellent platform to apply Mr Rischard's concepts. As Clayton Lewis, Director at the International School of Luxembourg explains:
"It is highly appropriate for young people to be engaged with those issues that will have such an important effect upon their future. As young citizens, they are ready and able to participate in the political process and to understand the dynamics of how decisions are made. They do not need simulated activities; instead, they must be given real opportunities to interact meaningfully with those who are in authority - within schools, corporations, and civil society - and to assume their share of responsibility."
In this way, students can be encouraged to think systemically about real issues while also taking action to improve the human condition. This approach involves collaboration rather than competition, where students assume leadership of their own programe. Their network should promote both face-to-face conferences and on-going communication via the latest technologies.
The Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign is about changing habits, a notoriously difficult process. By engaging schools as partners, the Campaign multiplies its chances of success. The real future of sustainable energy lies with forming habits, and that is the work of schools.
Director, International School of Brussels
Chair, Board of Council of International Schools