So said Zamzam Ibrahim, the NUS and SOS_UK President in her address to the recent NUS sustainability summit.   More fully, she said: “Our leaders are making bad decisions because they have been badly educated.”  This is how her talk begins:

“SOS-UK is NUS’s brand new sustainability charity, created so we can go further and faster with our sustainability work, in response to the climate emergency and ecological crisis we find ourselves in.  And we really need to go further and faster.

When it comes to the environment, and our planetary life support systems, nearly all the warning lights are flashing red, and we are careering towards runaway global heating, humanitarian disasters and mass extinctions.  So why on earth isn’t this the top issue for political leaders the world over?

Here in the UK, the sixth biggest economy in the world, and one of the oldest democracies, our elected Government is spending billions subsiding fossil fuel industries and building new roads and runways, whilst not taxing aviation fuel, allowing home builders to build inefficient gas-powered homes that need retrofitting before they are even occupied, and preventing any new on-shore wind generation. How is that compatible with the climate emergency we are in?

You have to admit, Greta is really on to something in calling out the abject failure of the political class. How can it be that the people we elect to serve and protect us make such unrepresentative and harmful decisions?  When will our so-called ‘leaders’ grasp the gravity of the situation we are all in and put their egos and self-interests aside, in order to secure our future?

I have thought about this a lot recently and I think I’ve finally figured it out what the root cause of the problem is.  It’s our education system.  I really believe our leaders are making bad decisions because they have been badly educated.  Our schools, colleges and universities are education factories, more interested in preparing us to pass exams than developing us as critical thinkers and global citizens.  Our education system teaches us to compete with our rivals, not to collaborate with our friends. We are led to believe that sustainability is a niche subject, not something that is fundamental to everything we learn and do. Our education system teaches us in silos, despite the fact everything is connected. Our universities are judged by what our starting salaries are rather than the good we go on to achieve.  We leave education with so much debt we feel obliged to apply for the best paid jobs, rather than the jobs that will make the world a better place.  The whole system, not just the education system, but the society in which we live, indoctrinates us to prioritise short-term profit over long-term prosperity. …”

Click here to read the full speech.