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Call to Action

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Let's Make April

Earth and Climate

Education Month

Environmental Education Ontario (EEON) is launching a multi-year campaign to Make April Earth and Climate Education Month. We are encouraging students and teachers everywhere in Ontario, in every subject, to integrate ecological and climate learning into their programs during April, starting in April 2024.  We invite schools, school boards, colleges, non-profits, faith groups and community organizations to get involved and endorse this campaign.

We urge you to join us! Some ways you can help are: 

  • Endorsing our campaign

  • Informing your members and others in your networks to encourage their participation

  • Connecting with us to share ideas, resources, fundraising suggestions 

Together, Let’s Make April Earth and Climate Education Month.

Please click through to a quick form indicating your level of interest!

 

The EEON Steering Committee

A Green New Deal for Education

This is the text of a budget deputation made on January 15 by Steering Committee member Anne Keary.

 

My name is Anne Keary and I am speaking on behalf of Environmental Education Ontario, an independent organization of educators and advocates dedicated to promoting high-quality environmental and climate change education in Ontario. 

 

This evening I will be advocating for funding for a Green New Deal for education.

 

The climate crisis is accelerating and we are seeing the effects everywhere:

in the wildfire smoke that made the air in Toronto dangerous to breathe, in deadly heatwaves, and in the cycle of droughts and catastrophic floods around the world.

 

In the face of this, 73% of youth in Canada are reporting that they find the future frightening, and 39% are hesitant to have children themselves. 

 

For students from Black and Indigenous communities and Communities of colour, the threat of climate change comes on top of, and threatens to worsen, the impacts of systemic racism and economic inequality.

 

Ontario’s education system needs to address this.  

 

Our school buildings are crumbling and highly energy inefficient.  

 

Our textbooks and curriculum are out of date – my own children have had textbooks that presented solar energy as risky although it is now the cheapest and fastest growing source of energy around the world . 

 

This needs to change.  

 

What could a Green New Deal for Education in Ontario look like? 

 

First, with regard to school facilities, the 16.8 billion repair backlog in our schools is both a cause for great concern and an opportunity. 

 

By approaching repair as an opportunity for retrofitting we can both cut carbon pollution, improve our schools, and reduce operating costs.

 

We need measures such as

 

  • removing asbestos and properly insulating school buildings

  • replacing polluting, gas furnaces with heat pumps. (that can also provide cooling on the increasing number of hot days in our fall and spring) 

  • improving school yards by planting more trees to provide cooling and installing permeable surfaces to reduce flooding

 

All of these measures reduce dangerous emissions, improve student well-being, and save money in utility costs. 

 

New school buildings hold even greater potential as they present opportunities for establishing geo-thermal energy systems that might also be used in district energy systems for surrounding residences.

 

Second, I would urge the province to commit to the electrification of the school bus fleet.  

 

Such a program would significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution and provide several co-benefits.  .

 

Currently diesel buses are negatively impacting the health of students and drivers– increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  This, in turn, leads to higher absentee-ism, lost learning days, and then days off work for parents.  By shifting to electric buses we could improve student health and learning. 

 

Further, with Vehicle to Grid charging, electric buses can also serve to stabilize our power grid and serve as sources of revenue– as they can take energy during times of low demand when prices are low and provide electricity back to the grid during peak demand times when prices for electricity are high. 

 

And, in the event of power outages E-buses can serve as emergency sources of back-up power for schools which can, in turn, serve as community climate emergency hubs.

 

Third, we need to revise Ontario’s curriculum so that our students are climate-literate. 

 

A revised curriculum across all subjects must enable students, at age-appropriate levels, to understand:

 

  • The science of climate change and its systemic causes 

  • The impacts of climate change on ecosystems and on people, particularly the disproportionate impacts on Indigenous people, historically marginalized communities of colour, women and youth.

 

  • The history and current examples of Indigenous peoples’ efforts to defend their lands and waters and the importance of Indigenous knowledge and stewardship in sustaining all forms of life 

 

  • The role of civic engagement in addressing the climate crisis.

 

  • And the co-benefits of transitioning off fossil fuels for people’s health, community well-being, and sustainable economic futures.
     

Also required, of course, is the funding of professional development programs for teachers so that they can teach such a revised curriculum.

 

In conclusion, by retrofitting our schools, electrifying our school bus fleets, and by integrating climate education into the curriculum, Ontario’s education system could not only provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to build a more just and sustainable future, it could also play a key role in bringing that future into being.  We urge the provincial government to fund it. 

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