I wrote this blog for the Oxford University Climate Alumni (OXCAN). They are bringing together Oxford University graduates who are interested in tackling climate change.
In 2012, I was invited to be a part of an international conference in Iceland called, The Spirit of Humanity Forum. It brought together a diverse range of international changemakers who were asked to consider how humanity can reset the compass and create a landscape of possibilities.
I was particularly touched by the prophetic wisdom of Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, then President of Iceland. In a moving address he pointed to the profound changes taking place in the Artic because of climate change. He celebrated that Iceland’s energy was 100% clean energy. He said that failure to address the existential problem of climate change, witnessed in the Artic by the disappearance of the ice, would have a profound effect on our children’s future.
In the intervening years since 2012, have governments really taken the necessary steps to stem climate change? I have, as I’m sure you have, listened to a lot of encouraging rhetoric at events such as COP 22, but seen comparatively little action. In the UK last Summer, I was driving on the M25 motorway and the car’s temperature gauge was registering 40C. I realised that I had never experienced such extreme heat. You will recall too the alarming photos of the bush fires in Australia.
Recently I heard on my car radio, that according to the UN, global hunger numbers are rising fast, especially in Africa, where climate change is having a disastrous effect on the crops of small farms. Upwards of 828 million people globally are now suffering from hunger.
My last illustration, although not directly linked to climate change, is nevertheless heart-rending and relevant. It concerns the human and environmental catastrophe that the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have caused.
One poignant photo has particularly stood out for me. It shows buildings standing without any damage in theKahramanmaraş Hayrullah Neighbourhood called “the navel of destruction”. The buildings belong to the Chamber of Architects and the Chamber of Civil Engineers. It was explained that the reasons for them still standing had nothing to do with a miracle, they were just built properly — as all the buildings should have been!
What links the melting ice in the artic, the extreme heat in the UK, the bushfires, and the unnecessary tragic loss of life in Turkey and Syria? The link is that all these events can be traced back to humanity’s lack of ethical intelligence and consequently a lack of ethical leadership in the world. Ethical intelligence is our ability to ethically self-regulate our behaviour for the good of ourselves and the planet. This self-regulation is founded on the enhancing values we choose to model and live. Values underpin all human decision making but are rarely identified as the foundation of a sustainable civilised society. Currently limiting values such as greed, jealousy, materialism, and selfishness dominate human behaviour at the individual and national level. Making money and increasing productivity is seen as the driving force of human behaviour, rather than human and planetary wellbeing.
For many years, I have been leading a Quiet Revolution in school systems globally, to place the learning about, and living a community inspired set of universal human values, such as trust, honesty, cooperation, justice, care, compassion and altruism, at the heart of the curriculum. Such values form the culture of the school and its routines, structures and curriculum.
I researched the impact of Values-based Education (VbE) as a part-time doctoral student at Kellogg College, Oxford. My research was endorsed by Professor Terry Lovat, at Newcastle University in Australia. Terry had earlier asked me to bring the “gold standard” of VbE to Australia. His subsequent research looked at the effects of values education across many Australian schools. What the research shows is that making values explicit in every aspect of school life has a profound effect on the thinking and behaviour of the school community — it develops ethical intelligence.
I passionately believe that if society invests in helping the transformation of the inner world of human beings, so that we are freed from the chains of ego and release the power of our true essence, then we will successfully address climate change and other existential challenges that threaten to destroy us.
Children are learning this wisdom in schools such as Madley Primary School in Herefordshire. Lee Batstone, its Headteacher, takes pupils to forest school where they learn about their relationship to nature. In the photo the children are experiencing the feeling of rain drops falling on their tongues. Experiential learning is at the heart, or should be, of educational practices that help to make us humane and in synergy with our natural environment.
To be achieved, my vision requires a major shift in consciousness, which challenges established structures and ways of organising human activity.
I will conclude with the words of the President of Iceland, who in 2012 gave an example of a change of consciousness in practice. He said, “Iceland does not have an army. When the Americans left their base, we built a university. We do not have a soldier on our island. I believe this should be the case in every country?”
Solving climate change and ensuring planet Earth flourishes, is therefore about the values we hold dear and live in our lives.
Neil is the Founder of www.valuesbasededucation.com
and the www.ivetfoundation.com
For more information visit www.neilhawkes.com