Today’s blog is the first of a series by Tom Davies who co-ordinates NAEE’s Facebook pages. As ever, the views expressed are Tom’s, and are not necessarily shared by NAEE.

Growing up in rural North Wales it would almost be inconceivable not to be exposed to nature and the outdoors. My parents would take us to Loggerheads country park and up and down the Clwydian range as if it was a compulsory part of parenting, often to the dismay of my sisters and I.

Looking back at these experiences, despite the lack of interest I had when I was younger, I feel very fortunate to have been brought up immersed in nature. It has shaped who I am and instilled a deep interest in and understanding of the importance of the natural world.

My upbringing in nature, however, was not reiterated in school. I always found school’s rigid structure and emphasis on the importance of certain lessons to be tiring. I was disengaged, uninterested and always looking forward to the end of the school day and the end of school itself (ironically so I could continue education at university). Even at university I still found myself academically unengaged: adrift. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, so naturally I continued my education and did a Master’s degree.

It was, however, whilst at university that my interest, knowledge and understanding of climate change was first given life. I recall watching a documentary, ‘Before the Flood’. I was outraged, confused, fascinated. I had so many questions . . . Why have we allowed this to happen? How have we got to this point? Who is responsible? Am I complicit? What can I do?

The last question, ‘what can I do?’ was the one that I found myself wrestling with. I felt so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, one person of 7.8 billion, but yet still compelled to do something. I did some self-reflection and looked at what my carbon footprint was and how I could improve it, I felt that one step at a time was at least the beginning of a journey in the right direction. I became and remain a militant recycler, I try my best to buy sustainably, I stopped eating meat and fish – my first few steps.

It wasn’t until doing my Master’s, studying a module on conflict and development that a lecture on sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals that I found myself taking the next few steps. It completely changed my perspective of how collectively society can evolve, advance and develop. My dissertation proposal was looming and I decided it had to have a focus on sustainable development and the SDGs. I finalised my plans and titled it:

‘Would Expansion of Environmental Education Benefit Sustainable Development and the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 13: ‘Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impact’?’

My findings, in summary, were that expansion of environmental education would benefit sustainable development and the SDGs. I had finally found the enthusiasm I had so craved and watched as my idea became a fully formed, 20,000 word, distinction level dissertation.

Fast forward to March 2020, four months after I have had my result. University is over, it’s time to adult – where to start?

Just as adulting is starting, the Covid-19 global pandemic has locked down the UK. I was off work and was finding myself increasingly frustrated at the fact that there had been countless warnings of impending pandemics and a brazen lack of preparation for such circumstances. My concerns, I found, directly corresponded with the climate crisis. The growing regularity of forest fires, the plague of deforestation and the annual reduction in the size of the arctic sea ice. ‘Why aren’t we prepared?’ I found myself asking myself. This is where I took my next few steps.

An environmental education school framework. Building upon the findings in my dissertation I began writing a whole school, project based approach to environmental education. An hour per week, of every week, of every term of every school year from Reception – Year 11. Despite using my time to undertake this self-conscripted project, as well as getting a handful of schools to pilot the framework in the coming 2020/2021 school year, the most rewarding aspect of this was to realise that I’m not taking these steps alone. There are countless people eager to offer their support, expertise, advice and enthusiasm for sustainability. Every person I engaged with showed me a new perspective, instilling in me a realisation and appreciation that together each of our own little steps can become a journey towards a progressive, sustainable and protected future.

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Tom Davies can be contacted at: tom.daviesss80@gmail.com

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