Green.Org spoke with Nicola Kench, environmental educator about the work that is happening to provide green education and the urgency to implement long term strategic infrastructure measures to keep global temperatures below a 1.5 degree rise.
Hi Nicola, great to have the chance to talk with you. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My background is in the arts, education and union organising and activism. In education, I’ve worked extensively with socioeconomically vulnerable young people, and this has furnished me with a profound ‘front line’ awareness of social issues: poverty, family crisis, barriers to learning, mental health issues, and a general lack of a sense of social agency due to reduced investment in education as a result of these multiple factors. In particular, I’m concerned with social exclusion from environmental education and activism due to all of the above. Whilst I myself clearly identify as ‘middle class’, the similarly professional cohort with whom I associate when engaged in lobbying and project development work seem to have little understanding of the exclusiveness of their own ‘social register’. While occupying both of these worlds – the highly educated, and the socially disenfranchised – I’m fascinated by the challenge of their merging: How do we impart desperately needed environmental education to all, using language that all will understand? This is the focus of my company’s flagship environmental education programme: Green Education Counts – eco education for all.
What is a fun fact about you?
Sadly, I wish I was a ballerina. Truly. Sad, but true. In reality, I’m very far away from this silly dream.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
It’s the key to a safe future world. That’s an absolute – in the sense, that our time for bargaining with reality, in the belief that we can get away with a carbon based economy and not pay the price of irreparably damaging our ultimate life source, planet Earth, is over. This sounds overly dramatic, and I wish it was just overly dramatic, and not a statement of fact. For humanity to survive, we have no choice but to start respecting, and working with, nature.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
My dream is that my industry – environmental education – and, indeed, industry in general, will be transformed. I believe that the measures we need to take must be systematic, comprehensive and absolute. We have to face reality and abolish a carbon based economy, putting sustainability at the heart of our legislative, manufacturing, food chain and transport industries – all of our life systems, and at mass scale. We can’t roll back the clock to a pre-industrialised world, so the monumental challenge is to work out how to maintain our mass systems (food, transport etc.), but make them green at the same time. For this, we must act in haste to create, right now, the long term strategic infrastructure measures that will ensure our global temperature does not rise above the maximum safe level of 1.5°. As we’re still working through a global digital revolution, the opportunity to localise infrastructure while maintaining global communications and economies, is enormous. Covid forced us into living with this dichotomy closer to home, indeed. I also believe profoundly in the meaningful relationship between sustainability and affordability: For instance, properly insulated and retrofitted homes can reduce not only, of course, that home’s carbon footprint, but the power bills of the multiple of our planetary citizens who live in fuel poverty, not least the up to 20% of the UK that currently do so.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
An enormous amount, on multiple levels. Firstly, keep it simple and audit your life, starting with your power source. This is the process I teach in ‘Green Education Counts – eco education for all’. The course is based around looking at the relationship between systematic global issues and everyday green ways to respond to them, while still understanding the ‘big picture’. The course revolves around the ‘Power to Protection’ cycle, with 6 units, 4 of which deal precisely with this cycle: Power, Consumption, Waste and Protection. The first course unit sets the scene regarding global warming and the last unit examines ‘social units’: How you can help by modelling habit change in the multiple social units you, as an individual, engage with: from family and friends, to lobbying local governance and beyond.
Thank you for joining us Nicola and sharing some of the amazing work you are doing to educate the next generation.
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