Sustainability Webinar: Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Launching of the BHS Sustainability Programme

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

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By Richard Bampfylde

May 12th 2020

At 4:45pm, Natalie A. IB1 and I gathered on Teams online, both of us sharing the excitement close to akin to that of two young children, as we set to kick-off the school’s first Sustainability Webinar just 15 minutes later!

There was no excitement due to any anxieties or fears of what might take place in the coming hour or so. Indeed, there was not a chance as preparations had been lengthy and in-depth, with Natalie in particular taking the lead on preparing an excellent presentation for the webinar. It was simply pure excitement over what we were about to achieve and what was to come at Brummana High School in the weeks, months and years to come in terms of sustainability. A very nice feeling honestly.

The webinar had been ‘advertised’ on the school’s social media platforms and perhaps the only nervousness was in how many participants would show up. We had had 25+ sign up but the school’s experience with previous webinars had taught that certainly not all of those signing up would in fact attend. Indeed, the school’s two previous webinars had seen numbers decrease substantially to around a quarter or less of the original sign-ups. This was not to be the case with the Sustainability Webinar! During the upcoming session Natalie and I would be greeted by 15+ attendees, all joining to listen in on Natalie’s presentation on climate change and sustainability and to understand further the school’s approach to its growing sustainability programme.

Natalie’s preparations with the presentation had been excellent and, indeed, her actual delivery of it was perhaps even better! Her knowledge, passion, balance and commitment all shone through. The attendees were very happy to listen and receive this dynamic presentation from one of our own IB1 students. Natalie has experience in these matters both within the school as well as locally and internationally, notably winning the Best Individual Debater award in the Trust for Sustainable Living’s annual debates competition of 2018, which took place in the Seychelles no less, as well as being selected to represent Lebanon currently in the Youth Advisory Council for the World Ocean’s Day organisation.

For Natalie’s full presentation please click here. Her presentation focused on:

  • – Environmental Risks and Sustainability
  • – Positive Impacts of Lockdown
  • – Living Sustainably During Lockdown
  • – Hope For The Future
  • – The BHS Sustainability Programme

As stated, the participants were very engaged and took the opportunity during the two Q&A sessions to ask Natalie questions on specific details, which she of course was able to comfortably address. I was there and happy to support if/when needed, which was mainly when we started to discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to address the school’s programme. Some extra comments which came up and which I decided to elaborate upon towards the end of the session, building on items in her presentation and the thoughts she provoked in all of us. Links to those extra items are detailed below:

  • – City of Amsterdam to adopt Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ model for post-Corona restructuring of the economy – available here
  • – Garret Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ – available here
  • – BBC’s ‘Our Planet’ documentary, scene in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone – available here

The school’s Sustainability Programme is already a rich one, with many initiatives taking place across the campus and in all sections. The Recycling Committee led by Ms Amal Habib is driving forward this key area of sustainable lifestyles, and Amal and the Student Council have been active with the Mr Abdou Trad, Services Manager, in setting up the designated recycling stations on campus. One of the Committee’s most recent plans is to create a book exchange programme for used text books and other items. The school’s development as a Botanical Garden continues, most recently marked by the celebration of the ‘Mother Tree’ in February, the oldest pine on campus dating back to the 1770s remarkably! The topics of climate change and sustainability are becoming more and more integrated into the curriculum at many levels and in many subjects. A co-curricular committee has been focused on re-aligning the clubs system at school around the SDGs and even the BHSMUN which unfortunately was postponed this year had sustainability as its central theme. Also, more webinars will be planned and with different stakeholders in the school and externally involved.

Commenting on the SDGS, the school’s Vice Principal Academics is already considering plans to align with one SDG each year, where many of the activities in (and outside) of class could run under one centralised theme each year. An important element to consider is that the programme is very much an inclusive one, with all members of the community having a voice in possible actions to take. Perhaps the most important element of all is that the programme is student-led as far as possible, with Natalie very active and other students also becoming more and more involved. This includes three Intermediate students who are directly involved in the Botanical Garden development as part of the Working Group for that project. By leading such a programme, students will of course reap the rewards from the benefits of the programme as well as learn how to develop, lead and run such programmes themselves, another quite remarkable educational aspect.

The next task for the programme is to complete a school sustainability self-assessment and which Natalie has been working on. Other community stakeholders will be called upon to provide input into this. Once completed, this document will act as a guide to the overall programme, as we will know exactly the areas of strength at BHS as well as knowing exactly the areas which are in need of tackling and developing next in order to continue to grow and grow. Look out for more details on that soon!

Finally, and being born out of a comment from a participant of the webinar, the programme will need to look at what impact it can have on a national level in the country, a country which very much needs more and more sustainable mindsets and actions in the coming months and years as it grapples with not only Covid-19 but also the economic crisis etched into everyone’s minds as of now. A strong BHS and a strong BHS Sustainability Programme are very much two ways of providing relief to this period, not only for the school community but much wider too, and allow us all to look to a brighter future to come.