From the desk of the Head Master 24 January 2020
Climate change rarely disappears from the headlines these days. The bushfires in Australia have brought home the urgency of the situation in that country.
At the same time Indonesia has faced an even greater death toll after being hit by torrential downpours causing flooding and landslides. The science is incontrovertible: average global temperatures are going up in line with the increased CO2 in our atmosphere and while bad weather has always been with us, we are seeing statistically significant increases in the frequency of these extreme weather events. In Davos this week, big players in politics and industry have been meeting to consider how to save the world for us.
Leaving it to them will not be enough. There has to be a demand for change from the rest of us, and it will require us to make changes to the way we live and some short-term sacrifices to get long-term benefits. Britain does reasonably well among developed nations in terms of limiting the rate at which we are adding to the problem, but we are far from reversing it.
We are going to have to make some difficult decisions soon. Reusing carrier bags and eliminating plastic straws are eye-catching policies and positive steps, but ultimately fairly small impacts on the larger problem at hand. We have to be careful we don’t appease our consciences by turning off a few lights, only to then waste ten times as much energy as we drive when we might walk, or if we leave the heating on for a fortnight while we are away.
It can feel like our individual behaviour will make little difference, but at the school I want the boys to start thinking about the larger impact that we can have if we pull together on this as a community. We will have to consider cutting down on flights, particularly long-haul. I am not a great fan of offsetting carbon by paying some anonymous organisation to plant a tree on the other side of the world – I think we should make it more personal than that. I want us to start a programme planting trees more locally - contributing something locally to the trillion tree initiative.
I also want to improve our take up of the school bus service – and public transport more generally – and cut down the number of cars travelling to and from the school site each day and the problems that traffic brings. Can we go electric with our vehicles? We will be looking at the feasibility of electric minibuses as they become less expensive and increase in range.
And on food waste – we all have to improve on that. I am as guilty as the next person for having things go out of date in the fridge and straight in the bin. At school we are monitoring food waste and will aim to drive it down further still. In the next couple of weeks the Green Team want to challenge us to think about eating less meat.
Wherever you stand on these issues, and however such changes might impact on your families, I do urge you to speak to your children about them, and hear their perspectives. They will be the ones dealing with the situation in 2050 and beyond, and are acutely aware of the problems that will need to be faced.
Before then I hope we will see large numbers of Warwickians actively engaged in solving the problems that our generation and the ones before have not yet successfully grappled with: leading on policy; coming up with ingenious technological solutions on energy efficiency or transport; being articulate and persuasive advocates for change.
Prince Charles spoke at Davos on Wednesday. He has been making the case for greater environmental protection for over fifty years and must think people are finally starting to listen to him.
He met Greta Thunberg the following day – a young woman whose message is resonating hugely with young people around the world. I leave you with a quote from Prince Charles’ speech:
“Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink, in trying to restore the balance, when we could have done?”