Eco-citizenship: vital skills for life in today’s world

 The climate emergency is real, and the central issue of today’s world. This July, the Met Office recorded the UK’s highest ever temperature (38.7 degrees Celsius) – and this was not just a freak event. Scientists say that the current rise in global temperatures is more than 95% likely (NASA) to have been caused by human activity since the mid 20th century. 

A vicious circle is being created – the more snow cover and sea ice melts due to high temperatures resulting from our cars, our industrial sector, our food industry, the less sunlight is reflected back up into space and the more is absorbed by the earth, warming the Earth’s atmosphere further. 

Increased amounts of litter and rubbish that finds its way into our oceans aggravates the problem. Not only is it a danger to marine wildlife like turtles, seals and birds, but it releases pollutants into the ocean and reduces the reflectivity of the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a ‘collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean’ (National Geographic), spanning an estimated 1.6 million square kilometers. Whilst 80% of the debris comes from the shores of North America and Asia, 79,000 tons is made up of fishing nets alone. 

So, with oceans warming, ice caps melting, glaciers retreating and sea levels rising, the evidence for rapid climate change is irrefutable. Extreme weather events are taking up regular spots on news channels and according to the United Nations, world food security is increasingly at risk. Dorset Council led the way by announcing a climate emergency in May this year. So what can be done? 

Arguably, children have been taking the lead. Students around the country have been sending a message to politicians to take this issue seriously, following Greta Thunberg’s example.

Action at this scale has to be led by governments, but a huge difference can be made through collective individual action, and making sustainable choices day to day, whether through choosing to travel by bike to school instead of the car, or by choosing food options without single use plastics. However, to be able to do so, children (and adults) need to have the right information and skills. Here at SafeWise, we want to make this happen. Let’s allow children to continue being active and to make a difference. 

The fun, interactive and hands on ‘Eco Citizen’ programme we are now developing aims to educate to this purpose. In our beach scenario, issues such as plastic, sun cream pollution and fishing will be covered, and energy efficiency investigated in our kitchen scenario. Sustainable travel options will be looked into at our bus stop and train station, and in our Co-op store, food miles and food packaging. These are just a few examples of the sorts of contemporary issues covered by the programme.

We plan to communicate with local environmental groups, Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Councils, and the growing environmental business sector to develop this programme. It is important to us that our visitors get up to date and expert advice, so we will utilise these bodies to inform on the content of this programme.

We will play our part in tackling the climate emergency with our unique ‘discuss, decide and do‘ intervention – it is one of the essential skills for life, especially for the new generation.

With thanks to Aimee Hattersley (20) for researching and writing this article.