Insights – climate change advocacy

Dear Community

I would like to share with you the speech I gave at the King David School Parents’ Association Annual Breakfast.

When I walk around the School on tours with prospective parents I will often ask a passing student at random to articulate what they think is so special about King David. With startling regularity there is mention of our community, the relationships between the students and staff and a feeling of being at home at school.

I point out that this is not an accident. The community feel is supported in our deliberate focus on friendship skills in our well-being curriculum, it is nurtured in our investment in emotional intelligence and in our prioritisation of a warm and supportive teacher-student dynamic. But perhaps most of all, it relies on a wider community that shares our values and continually models the behaviours of inclusion, unwavering support and friendship.

This is perhaps best expressed through our wonderful Parents’ Association that works so tirelessly to ensure that every family regardless of background or socio-economic status feels that they belong. The KDSPA is indeed the glue that holds our community together. The busy calendar of year level drinks nights, picnics, movie and theatre nights, the breakfast and the King’s Carnival are all invitations for our families to become a part of the special thing that we have going here.

I want to take the opportunity to thank the KDSPA for their wonderful work in building our community. I want to especially thank Carrie Kausman for her dedication and energy. It is so great to work closely Carrie.

We will be most privileged today to hear from Natalie Isaacs. The theme of Natalie’s talk this morning connects closely with our mission at King David. We are a school that is deeply committed to the values of egalitarianism and social justice. We aim to empower our students to take action on the issues that they consider to be most pressing and there is no issue that motivates our students more than climate change.

In a 2014 episode of Aaron Sorkin’s television series, The Newsroom, there is a classic scene where television news anchor Will McAvoy interviews a climate science expert from the Environment Protection Agency regarding a report undertaken into measuring the effect of climate change through carbon emissions.

The scene takes a darkly comical turn when the expert, Richard Westbrooke, proffers a bleak and dire outlook for the future of the planet. When asked if he were a doctor and the planet were his patient what his prognosis might be, he responds, “A person has already been born who will die due to the catastrophic failure of the planet.”

Alarmed looks shoot around the studio as they realise that their light ‘puff’ story is taking a turn to the sinister side. Despite McAvoy’s best efforts to steer his expert towards a less pessimistic and depressing tone, Westbrooke continues. “The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the air the oceans were 80 feet higher than they are now. Two things you should know. Half the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the ocean … [and] humans can’t breathe underwater!”

McAvoy presses on even further, desperate for a trace of positivity he can offer his viewers, he says, “Let’s see if we can’t find a better spin. People are starting their weekends.”

Westbrooke finally seems to offer some hope before speedily turning this on its head – “Well that’s the thing Will, Americans are optimistic by nature. And if we face this problem head on, if we listen to our best scientists and act decisively and passionately … I still don’t see any way we can survive!”

A few weeks ago, I helped my son revise for a Year 9 Geography exam. I had a flashback of studying for my own Geography exam when I was in Year 9. Rather than fill me with nostalgia, I was mortified to recall that the same topic that I studied – the heating of the earth’s temperature due to what was then referred to as The Greenhouse Effect – was still on the course. It is an example of how little has been done to rectify a problem we’ve known about for decades.

There has been public debate in the Australian mass media about the merits or detriments of school students participating in climate action protests and school walk-outs. Greta Thurnberg, the young Swedish student who is founder of the movement has addressed this controversy by stating that “The only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake.”

At King David we have had many students who have taken on what I consider to be the heavy lifting of climate change advocacy. I cannot tell you how inspired I am by our students
every day. They care deeply about their planet and the people in it and are prepared to become involved in positive actions to make change.

Some examples of this include one of our student leaders, Freya Boltman, who gave a key address at a Climate Action forum in the lead up to the recent Federal Election. Likewise, our Year 7 and Year 10 Geography students have been engaged in investigations of behavioural changes and technological solutions to climate change. Our senior students have also been active in instituting an improved recycling system and planting vertical gardens around the campus.

While I am proud of our students’ actions, I am also heartened that the KDSPA is using this wonderful forum to inspire us all to take up the challenge of reducing our carbon footprint.

It would be wonderful if the whole King David community is at the forefront of ensuring that this happens.

Many thanks and Shabbat Shalom.

Marc Light

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