Students Get a Lesson in Climate Change at Expo
Clutching a plastic bag containing a tree sapling in his right hand and a slim notebook in his left, 11-year-old Rizki Fauzi is the picture of a young climate change expert.
“I will plant this seedling at my school to catch carbon emissions and prevent erosion,” said the fifth-grade student at the state-owned Karet Tengsin Elementary School in Central Jakarta.
Rizki, together with 24 other students from his school, recently attended a four-day climate change education forum and expo from April 19-22. The event was organized by the Indonesian National Council on Climate Change (DNPI), as part of efforts to raise environmental awareness ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, that will take place in Brazil from June 20-22.
The expo in Jakarta offered students tangible solutions to risks posed by climate change.
Rizki and his classmates were briefed on the importance of planting trees to capture carbon dioxide, the most deadly greenhouse gas, which is produced primarily by the combustion of fossil fuels, and forest fires.
At the end of the forum, students were invited to take home a sapling each to be planted at their schools or homes.
A 2007 World Bank report named Indonesia as the planet’s third largest emitter, with annual carbon dioxide emissions standing at 3,014 billion tons, trailing only the United States — the world’s top emitter — with 6,005 billion tons, and China with 5,017 billion tons.
DNPI chairman Rachmat Witoelar, a former environment minister, suggested that lack of awareness among local government officials may compromise the country’s efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
“Local administrations are still reluctant to promote public transportation, while the people in general don’t want to use public transportation or join car pools going to work,” said Witoelar, who is also President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s special envoy on climate change.
However, for Rukdi, the principal of Karet Tengsin Elementary School, the challenge lies in convincing parents to take the first step in educating the next generation about solutions to the climate crisis.
According to Amanda Katili Niode, the communications, information and education coordinator of the DNPI, the forum and expo were part of efforts to educate, empower and engage all stakeholders on policies relating to climate change, as stipulated in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“We invited at least 5,000 elementary and high school students from the Greater Jakarta area. Many other schools organized their own trips,” she said, adding that the number of visitors was thought to have reached 50,000 people, compared to 30,000 in 2011.
M. Wahyu Rozhy, a student of the state-owned 109 Junior High School in East Jakarta, said he learned a lot about climate change and its impacts on humans during the visit.
“This is my first trip to this kind of exhibition and I am really happy. Now I know more about climate change and what we can do to mitigate its effects,” the eighth-grader said.
“I want to introduce recycling in my school. I will discuss the idea with my teachers first and hopefully they will support me,” said Rozhy, who was disturbed by the fact that most students at his school do not regularly recycle.
One booth at the exhibition displayed a clean batik initiative, a project funded by the European Union and the German government to encourage batik companies to use gas stoves and natural colors instead of wood and chemical dyes. A British Council-sponsored stand displayed a local bicycle that produces and saves electrical energy.
The state-owned oil company Pertamina exhibited technology that converts coal into gas, while the publicly listed mining company Aneka Tambang showcased a successful reclamation project at its mining site. Other stalls highlighted the environmental benefits of recycling and organic farming.
“We’ve just learned that our paper and books come from trees and that the more papers we use or waste, the more trees are cut down,” said Vania Mailia, a tenth-grader at the state-owned 6 Vocational School in South Jakarta.
Luniar Aulia Rachmah, Vania’s classmate, said she learned that cutting down trees would not only release more carbon into the atmosphere but also deprive humans of oxygen.
But educating children alone will not be enough. “This exhibition is very important as it teaches us how to deal with climate change. However, why does it draw so little interest from the public at large?” Rukdi said.
“It is easy to tell students to recycle their waste or plant trees at school, but what if they are told otherwise at home?” he said.
He believes that teachers must educate parents on environmental issues. “We usually invite parents to school to receive their child’s academic report, that will be the right time to tell them to recycle or plant trees,” he said.
Inter Press Service