Given her new role as federal environment minister, one of Sussan Ley’s comments in an interview with Nine Newspapers was eyebrow-raising, to put it mildly. She said:
Sometimes the environment doesn’t need all its water but farmers desperately do need water.
This is inaccurate and concerning, but not all that surprising, given the attitude to water and rivers of some in the community and federal government.
In this age of water sharing and trading, and storing water in dams, it is easy to lose sight of what water is to a river, and how every drop of water that enters (or should enter) a river defines the character and function of that river.
Ultimately, the community – not scientists or even river managers – decides how much water a river should get. But it’s essential to be honest about the effects these decisions have on rivers and the ecosystems they support. This is vital for long-term environmental sustainability, upon which all our industry, agriculture and indeed our society are based.
Water to a river is like air to a balloon. Let out a little air and the balloon is still balloon-shaped, albeit less taut than before. But let out more air and there comes a point, which is hard to predict exactly, when the balloon suddenly collapses. By this analogy, the Murray-Darling Basin is very deflated indeed.
The point is that if we take water out of a river, or change the patterns of its flow, we inevitably change the nature of that river. Irrigators undoubtedly need water. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re not altering the river and its ecosystems by allowing them to take it.
Do we want healthy rivers?
Our job as river scientists is not to say what type of river the community wants. Our job is to inform people on what the actions of changing river management will do to a river and its life.
We already have seriously degraded river ecosystems. Restoring them is exceedingly unlikely under current demands and management. But if we take even more of a river’s water away, we need to acknowledge that the river will become yet a different river, and in some cases, one that we hardly recognise.
The public backlash following the fish kills earlier this year suggests that the community has decided that further degradation of our rivers is not acceptable.
The recently released state of the environment report highlighted deep concerns about trends in biodiversity conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater health. Budget 2019 signals a meaningful shift, but more in intention than sufficient funding.
Two very different tactics are at play in the well-being budget, and both can be seen in areas related to the environment. First, in conservation, government officials know where support is needed and can use the budget to address historic underinvestment.
Where the path for delivery isn’t clear, the government has budgeted a minimum credible investment over four years and is working through the complexity of directing that investment. This second tactic dominates climate change, freshwater, and their convergence in sustainable land use.
To better understand how these tactics play out, it helps to look at the way information is presented in New Zealand’s budgets, which are seen as a model for transparency. Announcements describe investment of new money, typically over four years, but not necessarily how the money will be spread out across the years. More detailed information that appears with the budget helps to clarify when spending will occur, as well as whether spending will really happen.
A budget includes main estimates, estimated actuals and actuals, listed over three years. These reveal useful insights, including a persistent pattern through the past decade of underspending compared to what was announced in budgets.
The conservation budget provides a typical example, showing how significant the signalled increases in funding will be. Expenditure increases from steady budget estimates of less than NZ$450 million from 2008 to 2018 to NZ$600 million in 2020.
But from 2010 through to 2016, there was a persistent pattern of underspending by NZ$30–49 million each year, relative to the budget announcements. The pattern ended after becoming controversial, but resulted in a cumulative underinvestment of NZ$275 million, which the latest budget aims to redress.
Budget 2019 also highlights major investments in biosecurity. By 2020, this budget will be nearly double the NZ$205 million spent in 2017. Historically, funding for biosecurity has been stable but low compared to the benefits of maintaining New Zealand’s natural isolation from pests and disease. Such benefits are hard to measure until they are lost following an incursion of a new pest or disease.
The budget includes a sustainable land use package of NZ$229 million over four years, including several components. It addresses the mounting environmental challenges facing agriculture. The sector generates excess nutrient flows to iconic lakes and rivers, and roughly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed to transforming the economy toward sustainability, but the budget signals only the broad direction of investment. One clear signal in the budget is an end to government subsidies for intensifying agriculture, confirming last year’s decision to end support for large irrigation projects, on which the previous government spent NZ$13 million in 2017.
But most components in the new package will not reach full funding levels until the 2021 financial year. The amounts of funding signal a credible start, but are unlikely to be enough. On an annual basis, the new package is only about 0.14% of the NZ$40 billion value of land-based primary sector exports.
Past budgets show that complex expenditure that depends on further planning, reorganisation or new structures is often delayed beyond initial projections. This applies to this budget, too. A major freshwater taskforce is now underway but was delayed from its original plan, which means its work is not reflected in this budget. Reform of the software platform that links farm management to environmental regulations will receive NZ$30.5 million, but there are no clear objectives.
Overall, spending with an environmental classification increased 40% from NZ$0.92 billion in 2017 to NZ$1.28 billion last year. However, with a decrease to NZ$1.17 billion estimated for this year, it may make sense to ask whether the projected increase to NZ$1.55 billion for 2020 will be achieved.
To understand the challenges of funding complex environmental issues, we can look to the history of items in the budget – officially called appropriations – containing the words climate change. Budget projections went as high as NZ$64 million to be spent in 2009. But actual spending peaked at NZ$49 million in 2010. This spending bottomed out under NZ$12 million in 2014, and is estimated to be NZ$30 million this year. Estimated expenditure for 2020 exceeds the 2009–10 peak for the first time, at nearly NZ$70 million.
Estimates overshot actual spending by an average of NZ$7 million each year from 2010 through 2018. It makes sense to assume this signals a backlog of work to figure out what needs to be done on climate change issues.
Overall, for science and the environment, a first glance suggests this is hardly a “year of delivery”. Despite a focus on transformation in six areas of spending, including natural and social capital rather than GDP, the budget kicks any real plans for change down the road. But it prioritised achievable goals fairly well, given the big constraints posed by past underinvestment combined with a political commitment to fiscal responsibility.
If the budget succeeds in delivering for New Zealand’s environment, it will be by spending wisely to reverse past underinvestment in specific areas and ensuring that degradation stops and reverses in the relevant areas of environmental well-being. Success can only come through the latter, if groups like the climate change commission and freshwater task force forge clear paths through the political constraints that will guide investment in future budgets.
Contrary to popular belief, crimes against the environment are not “victimless”. They affect many people, animals, plants and landscapes. Crimes against the environment should not be taken lightly.
Broadly defined, environmental crimes are those that harm the environment. This includes acts such as polluting water or air, illegal fishing or trade in wildlife, and water theft. The international Environmental Investigation Agency reports environmental offending is “one of the most profitable forms of criminal activity”.
Australia is currently missing out on a hugely useful tool in the fight against environmental crime: restorative justice. This approach, which has been used successfully in New Zealand, deserves a nationwide commitment.
Simply defined, restorative justice is a process in which the victim, offender, and other parties affected by a crime come together to discuss the aftermath of the offence and its impact. Each party plays a role in resolving the dispute with the help of an impartial facilitator.
Restorative justice is all about restoring harm, preventing the crime from reoccurring, and fixing (or building) relationships.
During a conference, victims can explain the effect a crime had on them, and ask questions – giving them a voice in traditional proceedings. Offenders can give reasons why the crime happened, and apologise. A range of other outcomes may be agreed to in a conference, including compensation and community work.
However, our research reveals that conferencing is underused when it comes to environmental crimes in Australia.
New Zealand leads the way
New Zealand is leading the world in using restorative justice to deal with environmental crimes. This is largely a result of two pieces of legislation passed in 2002. First, the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 says that, if possible, the court (or other representative) must arrange a restorative justice conference at a victim’s request. Second, the Sentencing Act 2002 makes it mandatory for a judge to take into account any outcomes reached in a conference.
While more research focusing on the precise benefits is needed, anecdotal evidence from shows New Zealand’s approach is effective. Several judges, prosecutors and facilitators have praised environmental justice in addressing environmental crime.
Unlike New Zealand, Australian courts have not embraced restorative justice for environmental offending. In fact, Australia has only used restorative justice conferencing in two cases of environmental crime: Williams (2007) and Clarence Valley Council (2018).
Both Williams and Clarence Valley Council involved offending against Aboriginal cultural heritage, in breach of New South Wales’s National Parks and Wildlife Act. The outcomes reached in the conferences went well beyond what a court could have imposed on the offenders.
For example, in Williams, where a mining company built exploratory pits and a private railway siding across areas of Indigenous significance, the maximum penalty at the time was a fine of A$5,500 and 6 months’ imprisonment. The judge suggested the parties engage in a restorative justice conference, during which Craig Williams donated A$32,200 worth of items to the local Aboriginal people.
In Clarence Valley Council, which concerned the council cutting down a protected tree, the council agreed in the conference to donate A$300,000 to the local Aboriginal community to fund research into cultural heritage. The council also agreed to create employment opportunities and youth initiatives for Aboriginal people.
These outcomes are far better in repairing the damage done than a mere fine or prison term.
Complementary to traditional prosecution
Despite these significant benefits, restorative justice conferencing is not a replacement for prosecution. It should be used only after the offender has been assessed as suitable, as in the cases of Williams and Clarence Valley Council.
Restorative justice conferencing can be suitable for all sorts of environmental crime, from water pollution to breaches of planning laws. In the case of offending against Aboriginal cultural heritage, conferencing may be appropriate given its ability to give a voice to members of the Aboriginal community who would otherwise be unable to participate in the formal court process.
The ideal time to integrate conferencing is after conviction but before sentencing, which we refer to as a “back-end model” of conferencing (the method most commonly used in New Zealand).
Typically, a back-end model involves the prosecution bringing charges before the court. The court then considers holding a restorative justice conference and, if appropriate, the proceedings are postponed to allow the conference to occur. The matter is later referred back to the court for sentencing.
This creates an opportunity for the sentencing judge to consider any results from the conference, but maintains a court’s essential oversight role by ensuring the outcomes reached are adequate, achievable and legally binding.
A more environmentally friendly response
Restorative justice conferencing can provide a more effective way of dealing with environmental harms because, according to Trevor Chandler, a facilitator in Canada, “punishment makes people bitter, whereas restorative solutions make people better”.
Of course, conferencing is not without limits. Just as restorative justice may not work for all young people, it may not work for all environmental offenders. Conferencing can require more time, money and energy than traditional court processes. However, this may be an investment well worth making for the environment.
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How would the disappearance of anglerfish affect our environment? – Bella, age 6, Sydney.
As I am sure you know, anglerfish live deep in the ocean. The females have an enlarged fin overhanging their eyes and their mouth that acts as a lure – much like bait on a fishing line – and this explains their name. (“Angling” is a method of fishing.)
The fact is we understand very little about the deep sea and how its inhabitants, including anglerfish, will respond to change. In fact, more people have walked on the Moon than have been to the bottom of the ocean.
Close your eyes and imagine a spider’s web. All parts of it are connected, and if a bug gets tangled in one part, it can cause a completely different part of the web to wobble or break.
It helps to remember that all species are interconnected via something called the “food web”. The food web is not a real web like a spider’s web. It’s just a way of thinking about how species are connected to each other. Basically, the food web tells us who eats whom.
If you make a change to one part of the food web, that can have an ripple effect that can cause changes on another part of the web.
Less of one animal can mean more of another
Anglerfish usually eat small fish, as well as relatives of shrimp.
It is likely that if all the anglerfish in the ocean disappeared, their prey would explode in number and another predator would then “step in” to replace them.
And any species that likes to eat the anglerfish would have to start eating another species instead – or risk dying out.
At the height of the whaling industry, about 100 years ago, whales nearly disappeared. That meant that the number of krill (the tiny animals that whales eat) exploded, providing a feast for other animals that also eat krill – such as seals. That is how a food web works.
Weird and wonderful
There are around 200 different types of anglerfish. Although one giant species grows to over a metre, most anglerfish are tiny – less than 10cm long.
Only female anglerfish have lures. These lures often glow in the dark, thanks to the bio-luminescent bacteria inside them, which presents a tempting (but fake) meal to their unsuspecting prey.
Anglerfish don’t form large schools like many other fish and this represents a problem for them – they need to find a mate. The tiny males have found a solution: if they do happen to find a female, they grasp onto her with their mouths and never let go.
These males tap into the females’ blood stream and never have to eat again. Scientists call this behaviour parasitic. Sometimes more than one male can be attached to a single female. Imagine someone’s father being 100 times smaller than their mother and being permanently attached to her.
Among the biggest problems for a lot of fish species are disease and overfishing by humans. But it’s highly unlikely that these threats could wipe out anglerfish.
Anglerfish are found between 300 and several thousand metres of water. At this depth, it is constantly dark and the water is cold.
As they live in such deep water and do not form schools, they are not targeted by fishermen, a common threat for many shallow water fish.
And anglerfish are so widely spread across the world’s oceans that any disease is highly unlikely to spread among them.
There is one threat that might affect angler fish – the threat of global warming. Temperatures in the deep ocean are very stable, they simply don’t change much.
Anglerfish live their entire lives at depth with near constant temperatures; hence even small shifts in temperature may affect them. It remains unclear whether increasing temperatures really will threaten angler fish – only time will tell.
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We take a different view. As the chief investigators on an Australia Research Council Discovery Project examining East Asia’s clean energy shift, we are examining why and how some East Asian countries – including China – are pursuing ambitious renewable energy transformations, and what Australia might learn from these countries’ experiences.
We argue China’s success in greening and growing its economy is not because, but in spite of, its authoritarian government.
China’s approach to greening shares much in common with democratic countries such as Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. All have ambitious programs to rapidly build domestic clean energy industries and “green” their power generation.
Developmental environmentalism refers to a state approaching greening as an opportunity to promote national techno-economic competitiveness. It helps explain both the drivers of the green shift and the means of its execution.
The “means” are less about authoritarianism and more about the state’s capacity to induce the private sector into a cooperative relationship.
This type of negotiated relationship between the state and industry is the exact opposite of authoritarianism, which pursues its goals irrespective of the wishes of the private sector. Indeed, the pages of history tell us authoritarian leaders are far more likely to misuse their concentrated economic power, resulting in developmental failure.
China is not alone in its green shift. In fact, some of the world’s most ambitious national greening programs have sprung to life in democratic settings.
The clearest example is Germany and its widely admired Energiewende (“energy transition”). Germany took an early lead in the development of solar devices through government-sponsored industrial programs.
Then in 2011, in the wake of the Fukishima nuclear disaster, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the shutdown of Germany’s nuclear power stations.
Countries around the world are now emulating Germany’s Energiewende.
In one of East Asia’s most vibrant democracies, South Korea, the election of President Lee Myung-bak in 2008 signalled a shift from intensive fossil-fuel development to “low-carbon, green growth”.
Lee’s focus was on greening the economy by investing in renewables and related infrastructure such as smart grids. His successor in 2013, President Park Geun-hye, continued this approach.
Finally, after President Moon Jae-in swept into power in 2017, South Korea committed to scaling down its use of nuclear energy.
Taiwan provides another fascinating example of a proudly democratic country that has followed in Germany’s footsteps. National efforts to establish a renewables industry began in 2009 under President Ma Ying-jeou. These initiatives targeted various clean energy industries for promotion, including generating solar and wind facilities and batteries.
However, just like Korea, the country’s over-reliance on nuclear energy (facilitated by a state-owned monopoly in the power sector) prevented the growth of a market for renewables.
A breakthrough in the country’s highly contentious debate over nuclear energy came with the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, who committed to the complete shutdown of nuclear reactors in the country.
Developmental environmentalism in action
These examples provide a clue that China’s ability to green its economy stems from something other than its authoritarian political system. We argue China’s success in greening stems from developmental environmentalism in action.
This does not simply mean a state that is “pro-development” and “pro-environment”. Rather, policymakers see greening the economy as chance to gain a competitive edge over other countries. The pursuit of strategic industry development goals involves nurturing – not displacing, as would occur in an authoritarian setting – “governed interdependence” with the private sector.
Best depicted by the Korean example, developmental environmentalism as a policy initially emerged as a response to threats to national industrial competitiveness. These included acute dependence on fossil-fuel imports, which are highly volatile, and global competitive pressures in the race to gain an early lead in the green economy.
Developmental environmentalism is also a strategic response to domestic challenges, such as the need to drive new sources of economic growth.
Lessons for Australia
If an authoritarian government provides little to no advantage for coordinating a green shift, what lessons might these countries have for Australian policymakers?
The key lesson is it’s not about designing the perfect constellation of policies or about pouring more money into entire industries.
Developmental environmentalism involves the political will to take big risks. Policymakers must target technologies – or segments of the economy – where government support could build national competitiveness.
Of course, this means creating a strategic, long-term approach to industry development, coordinated with the private sector.
Despite political gridlock, Australia is well placed to establish a foothold in the rapidly growing clean energy industry.
As the nation’s leaders engage in a fruitless debate over building new coal-fired power stations, Australian companies with world-class strengths in clean energies are emerging. Nowhere is this growing confidence more evident than in the blossoming of companies that have commercially ready smart microgrid and energy-storage solutions.
It would be a great shame – if not a national tragedy – if these companies were allowed to be picked off one by one by foreign multinational enterprises. This is the sad and familiar story of Australian manufacturing: highly innovative companies – a testament to our wealth of knowledge – are bought out, intellectual property rights absorbed, and manufacturing eventually outsourced. Often, shells of our prized national assets (typically the marketing and sales divisions) are all that remain.
Yet, in the absence of a coordinated national strategy that focuses on building a national value chain or ecosystem of upstream and downstream players – as the Koreans and Taiwanese have done in smart microgrids – this future appears all but settled.
The environment was a keyconcern in the recent federal election. It was also a polarising one, with concerns raised about regional industries and livelihoods. But jobs and environment need not be locked in battle: there are pathways that secure a better future for both our environment and future generations.
It’s just over two weeks since the global announcement that extinction looms for about a million species. The warning may have been partially lost in the noise of Australia’s election campaign, but it should resonate long after the political dust settles. This scale of loss will have catastrophic consequences not only for nature, but for us too.
The good news is many of the key steps to addressing Australia’s ecological challenges are also wins for jobs, industry and social well-being. Others involve more difficult choices, but could be helped with careful strategic planning and the active involvement of all those with a stake. All require factoring in costs and benefits not only to our generation, but also to generations of the future.
Here are seven suggestions to get us started.
1. Support wildlife-friendly agriculture
More than 60% of Australia is managed for agricultural production. Agriculture is a major driver of species loss both at home and abroad. Yet we know it is possible to manage our agricultural landscapes for wildlife and productivity. Actions like restoring native vegetation, establishing shelterbelts, and creating wildlife-friendly farm dams can help maintain or even boost farms’ productivity and resilience, including in times of drought.
Many farmers are already doing this but their efforts are undermined by policy instability. Political leadership and incentives such as stewardship payments and direct carbon investments are needed to support farmers as they increasingly support the nature from which we all benefit.
3. Help Indigenous Australians care for natural heritage
Indigenous people prospered for millennia in Australia by forging deep connections with land, water and sky. But these connections are ever harder to maintain in the face of two centuries of colonialism and disruption to traditional lore and custom.
Long-term stability with these programs provides for healthy communities, maintains connection to country, and delivers enormous environmental benefits.
4. Invest in species recovery
Many valiant efforts to help threatened species are undertaken by dedicated groups with often limited resources. They have shown that success is possible. But to prevent extinctions we need much greater investment in strategic and committed management of species, and of pervasive threats like changed fire regimes and changed water flows. Australia’s investment in biodiversity conservation is low compared with other countries, particularly in light of our high rates of species loss.
Investing in threatened species and conservation works. Involving the community in recovery actions can also create employment, skills and many other benefits, especially to rural and Indigenous communities.
5. Build strategically important safe havens and strengthen biosecurity
Much of Australia’s wildlife is threatened by introduced species – predators, herbivores, weeds and disease. Chytrid fungus, introduced through the pet trade, has devastated frog populations. New pathogens like myrtle rust, which affects many Australian plants, look set to repeat this scale of loss. Invasive predators such as cats and foxes are the single biggest threat to most of Australia’s threatened mammals, some of which survive only on islands and inside fenced areas.
Strong biosecurity, of the kind that has long helped Australian agriculture, is vital to prevent introductions of new invasive species. New havens are needed in strategic locations, underpinned by national coordination and partnerships, to help protect species like the central rock rat that are still not safe from predators.
6. Support integrated environmental assessments
Regional development, mining and urban expansion are part of our economy. They can also harm species and ecosystems.
Improving resourcing for decisions about environmental approvals can ensure they are underpinned by sound science. Independent oversight and review could help ensure environmental approvals are credible, transparent, and consistent with Australia’s conservation commitments. Strengthening and expanding protections for critical habitat could ensure our most vulnerable wildlife is protected.
Development can be designed to avoid wholesale devastation or “death by 1,000 cuts”. But ensuring that crucial species habitats are protected will require careful planning based on strong environmental and social science. Applying existing provisions for integrated environmental assessments, fully resourcing these processes, and ensuring all affected people – including local and Indigenous communities – are involved from the start, can help plan a future that works for industries, communities and natural and cultural heritage.
7. Minimise and adapt to climate change, including by investing in biodiversity
Climate change threatens our communities, economy, health, and wildlife – it is changing our country as we know it. It has already contributed to the extinction of species such as the Bramble Cay Melomys. Impacts will certainly worsen, but by how much depends on whether we take strong action.
Many communities, businesses and governments are aiming to tackle climate change. Strategies such as greening cities to reduce heat islands can help native species too. Investing in biodiversity-rich carbon storage (such as old growth forests) can boost regional economies. Options include restoring native ecosystems, boosting soil carbon, managing fire, and transitioning native forests from timber harvesting to being managed for carbon, while sourcing wood products from plantations.
Our economy, communities, cultures, health and livelihoods depend on environmental infrastructure – clean water, clean air, good soils, native vegetation and animals. As with Indigenous sense of place and identities they are entangled with the creatures that share our unique and diverse continent. We steal from future generations every time a species is lost.
For our sake and that of our descendants, we cannot afford to disregard this essential connection. Investing in natural infrastructure, just as we invest in our built infrastructure, is the sort of transformational change needed to ensure our communities and economy continue to flourish.
As the global climate crisis accelerates, early childhood teachers and researchers are considering whether and how to approach the issue with children. Should we talk openly about the crisis and encourage children to change their daily practices? Or is there a risk that in doing so, we are inflicting anxiety on young minds, still in critical and early stages of development?
critical agents of change and will find in the new goals a platform to channel their infinite capacities for activism into the creation of a better world.
Australia’s quality standards on early childhood education and care call for childcare services to support children to become environmentally responsible. But how can this policy be turned into a living practice?
Contact with nature is a crucial part of sustainability education in early childhood education and care. This helps children develop an appreciation for the Earth and all its inhabitants. Educators in childcare settings can provide a learning culture where children develop skills to take care of nature through play and creativity, without inflicting mass anxiety on them.
Programs to helps kids learn
There are many ways play can help children love the world around them. For instance, the nursery rhyme about Dingle Dangle Scarecrow could help engage children in vegetable gardening. Children can pretend the scarecrow will keep the garden safe.
They could build a scarecrow themselves, which would inspire creativity and educate them about the living environment at the same time.
Our recent research (not yet published) explored an educational program with 200 children between the ages of three and five. The children learnt how to sort, reduce and recycle waste into different colour-coded bins. As they sorted food waste, the children also fed chickens and compost worms.
Educators expanded on these activities by telling the children how living things are connected, which the children had themselves witnessed when feeding the chickens and worms. This new knowledge carried over into the children’s home environments, where we found children reminded families about sorting household waste. This then impacted on parents’ recycling practices.
In New South Wales a program helped children learn about water. Children in three pre-schools (aged three to five) were asked to report dripping taps, taught about half-flush toilets and told to advise families to take shorter showers. An evaluation of this program found children had developed courage and agency when it came to water awareness, because their feelings, thoughts, and questions were taken seriously and met with empathy and interest by adults.
From despair to hope
Adults are strong role models for the way children understand the importance of the world around them. If adults act in a respectful way towards animals, and even creatures such as spiders, children will receive the message these creatures are entitled to care and protection.
If you’re quick to swipe a spider in front of a child, this may create biophobia, where creatures are considered as fearsome pests.
But teachers don’t need to know the ins and outs of climate change to teach children how to respect the planet. They could simply encourage children to play in nature and role model behaviours that show appreciation for the environment.
Finland’s approach to early childhood education and care offers a good case study for how to incorporate sustainability practice into preschool education. The Finnish curriculum is based on a playful learning approach where respectful dialogue between children and adults supports learning.
The curriculum gives teachers tools to meet children´s worries with approaches that encourage actions, which create hope. Young children see themselves as more a natural part of the environment than older children. Teachers can support young children’s actions from this position.
For example, an adult could relocate a spider to a position where it won’t be trod on. Children could then watch to ensure it is safe, which gives them a sense of agency in their environment. In this way, children can feel they have control over the smaller elements of nature and that they can have an effect on it. This gives them a sense of empowerment rather than feeling overwhelmed and helpless, which leads to despair and anxiety.
Sustainability education for children can best be approached by helping them understand their place in the web of life, which supports their existence in terms of clean air and water, food and clothes, and other necessities for a decent life.
It’s about fostering a sense of belonging, respect and care for all living creatures, and an understanding of how to handle material resources in a limited world. Sustainability education is about fostering the world-view that we are in this together. Only through our common actions can despair be turned into hope.