Sunday, February 21, 2010

9 Weeks left to Earth Day: Week 8: The FUTURE!

I have mixed feelings when I think about the future.  The optimistic me, holds on to a vision of a kinder world, one in which humans excel in creating sustainable solutions to energy use, agriculture, manufacturing and land use.  But the realist me, while seeking to find the good in each person, must acknowledge that human traits such as avarice, selfishness, bigotry and meanness exist and thrive in a culture of entitlement, which in some ways is what we seem to have right now. 

Thankfully, there is no question that human kindness and compassion also exist and there are gazillions of examples if one cares to look!  I think that the Earth itself will be the fulcrum upon which we will come to our senses; and the necessity of overcoming challenges wrought by climate change will force the cooperation of nations.  And since I happen to believe that we become and embody that which we envision, I personally choose to focus my imagination on a bright vision of the future! 

The key is to find ways in which to empower young people about the future, to get them excited and engaged in it!  We are creating the future every minute of every day and so each time we choose to make a conscious effort to protect and preserve the planet in any way, we are giving a gift to those who come after us.  The Indigenous People of the World have always talked about the next seven generations, that it was the responsibility of each person to always consider them in each action taken.  So lets teach our youth this, gift them with the understanding of that sacred trust so that children in the future will inherit a healthy and beautiful world.
Lesson Plans:
1.  The Little Earth Charter Principle No 8 is the Future.  Invite young children to draw or paint their image of the future.  Imagine the future as a treasure that we will share with those who come after us.  How do the kids imagine the Earth in 100 years?   

2.  With older students, explore some of the exciting innovations of the future such as the concept of Upcycling – a phrase coined by Cradle to Cradle authors  William McDonough and Michael Braungartis - which is the act of creating useful products from waste materials.  Here are some examples of Creative Upcycling Projects  Here’s a Company that pays you to recycle your waste! Terracycle!

3.  Make a class list of things that you can do to try to make sure the Earth is preserved for the next seven generations.  Invite each child to commit to at least one action they can realistically carry out. Create a "Time Capsule" and fill it with messages from the kids about what they have done to preserve the planet and make the world a better place.  Create a ceremony and together, bury the capsule somewhere it will be found in the future! 

4.  Imagine cities of the future, what do students think they might be like?  Architects Ken Yeang and Ross Lovegrove share their vision in this Video.  What kinds of innovations can the kids imagine for future cities.  Create a poster of a future city, make it large and beautiful so that everyone can see it! !  Look at some ideas for sustainable cities check out what San Francisco is doing and Chicago

5.  Introduce children to Environmental and Conservation Success Stories to illustrate how we can make a difference and help to turn things around.   The Nature Conservancy  has some inspiring stories, and they also have an innovative program called Plant a Billion Trees . 

6.  Introduce the practice of seafood conservation through Sustainable Seafood Choices and the Sustainable Seafood Guide   Being informed and educated allows us to make choices that are not so harmful to ecosystems.  Introduce kids to the concept of Paying it Forward.  If you can, rent the movie Pay It Forward, to share with the kids.  

Everything we do today impacts the future.  You can choose any ecological or human story to illustrate this.  From deforestation to reforestation, pollution to clean up, war to peace, destroying cultures or helping to preserve them – every action we take, each and every moment is impacting the future in some way.  Ask students to reflect on this silently and then to write down, or tell, one way to illustrate it.  

When I began a cross-Canada school music tour called the Rainbow Road, in 1997.  I had only one thought in my mind - to do everything I could to inspire kids to care for the Earth and to let them know that together, we can turn things around.  The song that I wrote for that tour is the Rainbow Road Song, and that is the song for this post.

Story:  I had a difficult time finding the right story for this post; I am not at home, so my library of books is not readily available!  But as I was searching, I came across this short film Make A Difference
It is a simple story, but profound, since we are all given opportunities in which to make a difference in someone’s life and while it is not always possible to know the impact of that small kindness or gesture of compassion, it is surely enough to know that we are always trying.
The Film, “For the Next Seven Generations” tells the story of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers from all around the world, who come together to help people create a new way of life that will be in balance before it is too late.

So here's to the future, to doing all that we can to ensure that those coming after us will be able to witness the beauty that we have; that the wonders of this world, the animals, the ecosystems and the people will be there for them to experience too.  I believe in a future that is achievable; I believe we can learn from our mistakes and our triumphs, that we can evolve to become more altruistic and conscious.  Will it be everyone?  I doubt it; that's just the way it is, but if there are enough of us that become aware of our ability to participate in the co-creation of a more harmonious world for all sentient beings, then I do believe we will reach a tipping-point, and it is that belief that keeps me going!  Have a great week!
In gratitude, for life and this beautiful Earth!

Other Resources
Earth Charter Youth Groups Wiki Page:

Animation by JC Little –

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