Earlier this week, the Enviroschools Programme held an action-packed learning day for children in the Waikato (Aotearoa, New Zealand). The theme of the day was ‘Creating Catalysts for Change’, and I was invited to deliver workshops as well as be the keynote speaker.
In the keynote speech I wanted to empower the children so they felt able to take on the challenge of being considerate, conscious citizens. But I also really wanted to let them know that while there is important work to be done, they do not need to shoulder the entire burden. I think because of my own experiences of learning about issues and then feeling like I must solve all the problems, I wanted to make sure the children knew they would not have to do this alone.
Kia ora koutou. Greetings to all of you.
Ngā mihi tuatahi ki ngā atua. Papatūānuku kei raro, Ranginui kei runga, me au rāua tamariki kei waenganui. Ngā mihi tuarua ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei rohe ātaahua. Me ngā mihi nui ki a koutou, ngā kaimahi, ngā kaiako, me ngātamariki mokopuna.
Greetings firstly to the Gods. Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, below. Ranginui, the Sky Father, above. And all of their children from which the Earth was populated. Secondly, greetings to the mana whenua of this beautiful area. Thank you for letting us use this space. And of course greetings to all the staff, volunteers, teachers, and all of you kids.
Nō Ūropa ōku tūpuna. Kei Kirikiriroa tōku kāinga. Ko Camilla tōku ingoa. My family is originally from Europe, and I now live in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. My name is Camilla.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
Nau mai, haere mai and welcome to what I think is going to be an amazing day! You are all going to be making, learning, and doing lots of different things, and I hope you have heaps of fun.
The theme for today is ‘Creating Catalysts for Change’. A catalyst is something that speeds something up, so a ‘catalyst for change’ is something or someone who helps speed up change… and any guess who we are talking about? YOU! 🙂
We are all here as Enviroschools and environmental organisations, and our kaupapa (reason) for today is all about how all of us can become catalysts for change to help protect our beautiful nature, and all the ecosystems on which we depend… which also just so happens to be the same ecosystems all animals, and all of life depend on as well!
There are a lot of ways we can help create change to protect Papatūānuku, nature, and our environment, and I would like to talk about three:
The first is our everyday actions and behaviours. Because all know that everything we do and every choice we make can have an impact -positive or negative- on the environment, right?
Can anyone tell me some of the everyday things we can do to look after the environment?
- Not wasting electricity
- Not wasting water
- Walking and cycling
- Not dropping rubbish where it shouldn’t be.
The second thing we can do is to be an active citizen. That means taking part in activities and groups that are doing things to look after the Earth.
Raise your hand if you are part of an environment team or club, or you have done conservation work, or you are part of a group that works to look after the world, like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth? (pretty much everyone raises their hand)
Another thing people can do to be active citizens is to write to people that have decision-making power, and who can change a lot of stuff. Raise your hand if you have written to people in charge to tell them what you think – maybe a local politician or MP, a company, or even your headteacher? (lots raise their hand)
Writing to people is a great way to get change happening and it is brilliant because everyone can do it; it doesn’t matter how old you are. And that is really cool because there are lots of things that only adults get to do, aren’t there? You kids aren’t the ones that buy the groceries, or choose the power company in your house. You guys don’t get to vote in elections yet.
But talking and writing to people that can make these decisions is something everyone can do, including kids! 🙂
And that brings me to the third way all of us can be ‘Catalysts for Change’: talking to people and using your voices to inspire others.
Hands up, how many of you have family or friends? (everyone raises their hands)
What about other people? Do any of you ever talk to your neighbours, someone in the supermarket, people visiting your house? (most raise their hands)
All the people in your lives, whether you see them once or every day, they are all people that might be interested in talking to you and learning about your ideas for looking after the planet.
And I have to say, the power of talking to people to inspire change cannot be overestimated! Because each time we hear something, it enters our conscious or subconscious thoughts, and then our brain thinks about it. So every time you tell your teachers about how you are growing your own veggies in your garden, or each time you remind your parents that they can recycle bottles instead of putting them in the trash, or each time you let your friends know that they need to make sure the lights and heater are off when they leave a room… all that contributes to change in the way people think and act in their environment and in the world.
I have one more thing to say, and it is pretty important. You may hear many times in your life that you kids are the ‘future generation’, that you are the future guardians of the Earth, and that what you do and how you treat the planet is really important.
I have got to say, those people are spot on. They are 100% correct.
But I also want to let you know that even though there is lots to be done to protect and restore our planet, you don’t need to do it all by yourselves: it is a team effort, and there are lots of people already doing lots of stuff!
And guess what? When I was your age, I was told the exact same thing about being ‘the future guardians of the Earth’. And do you know what else? When my parents were kids, they got told the exact same thing, too.
Each generation and each person has a responsibility to look after the planet. Not just the kids! We have all got to do what we can.
So while all of you go and do all the activities and learn all sorts of things today, and then you go back to your schools and homes and think about all the things you have learnt, and then when you go and live and act and do things in your communities… please get excited about nature and our awesome planet Earth, and share your passion with others.
I have got to warn you, sometimes it might be difficult. Sometimes you might find you have two values and they conflict with each other, or you might face obstacles and challenges – kei te pai, that is OK. It is times like that, that I try to remember a phrase that is really important in our family:
‘We do what we can’.
We try our best to live sustainability; sometimes we do pretty well, sometimes not so well, at all. But we do try our best. And we do the three things as often as possible:
- Behaviours and actions: doing good stuff
- Active citizenship: getting others to do good stuff
- Communicating: talking about all that god stuff.
Thank you for listening and joining in this kōrero (discussion). I hope you have heaps of fun today, and get to show your teachers and friends how creative you are, and how much you care about Papatūānuku and our planet.
Bye for now 🙂