Catalyst for action

The people most likely to save our planet, students, need inspired and informed teachers to lead the way.

The IEU’s Environment Conference, Looking 2 Our Future, provided inclusive, practical and wide ranging information and inspiration to the more than 140 teachers and support staff that attended on 16 October.

Keynote speakers covered environmental issues from divergent but interesting angles. Neil Ormerod is a Professor of Theology at the Australian Catholic University, and he outlined the content of Pope Francis’s Papal Encyclical on the Environment.

Conference Convenor Gloria Taylor said that while the conference and the IEU is secular, the Pope’s encyclical is a catalyst for action for everyone, not just Catholics.

“What we’re trying to do today is equip people with the information to deal with the climate change debate, which is a critical issue for young people,” Gloria said.

“The Pope is a world leader, and we’re tired of poll driven leadership playing to our fears and prejudices.

“The Pope provides an ethical argument. Our keynote speakers marry the ethical and social issues with science.

“Climate change is a source of anxiety for students and the best way to alleviate anxiety is to give them a course of action,” she said.

As noted by IEU General Secretary John Quessy in his introduction, “there is no Planet B”.

Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf, Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW, took a scientific approach, explaining that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is feasible for Australia.

“The economic barriers are no longer there . . . just vested interests want to stop it,” he said.

Inspiration came from final keynote Tim Silverwood, who explained how his love of the ocean and surfing had moved him to start the simple campaign Take 3, asking people to take home three pieces of rubbish when they visit a beach or natural waterway.

He encouraged delegates to “create the environmental champions of the future”.

Workshops covered a board range of topics, with live animals from Taronga Zoo paying a visit during the lunch break.

Composers Charlie Chan and Justin Baird brought some musical drams to the proceedings. During Earth Hour the pair produced the inaugural Concert for the Planet, during which musicians from all over the world played Holst’s The Planet Suite.

Charlie said music is a ‘great aggregator that could help people feel differently about how to tackle environmental problems”.

Playing in an orchestra or band also taught skills of planning and cooperation that could prepare for environmental activism, she said.

Presentations from the conference will be emailed to delegates, and more information will appear at and in the January edition of IE Magazine.