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According to the CIA, the current average life expectancy for humans across the planet is 68.7 years, (ranging from the highest expectancy – 89.73 in Monaco, to the lowest – 38.76 in Angola).  Many predict the students in our classrooms today will live to over 100 years, provided the planet can sustain them.  In the past, the focus was on the number – ‘how long will we live?’.. now, the focus is shifting (especially in the minds of young people) to ‘how long will the planet sustain us?’ 
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The core business of schools is to prepare students for prosperous, enriching and positive futures, providing them skills, understandings, resources and attitudes necessary to thrive.  In a recent survey, 7% of youth in the US answered “Yes” to the question “Is the world becoming a better place”. 
93% of schools students said they did NOT believe the world is becoming a better place.
With a barrage of depressing destruction posted on the news daily, apathy is replacing hope in our schools.  As educators, we should be considering the impact this is having on learning and be looking for ways to address this.
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This clip, from DeforestAction’s brilliant cinematographer Patrick Rouxel (Award winning director of “Green“), paints a powerful picture.
No wonder there is depondency and apathy in our schools.  The climate change trajectory of our planet is accellerating in the wrong direction, with new prediction models suggesting billions of people will be forceably displaced within the next 30 years, compounded by increased disease, famine, war, drought and worse.  Even if we completely stop emitting CO2 universally, the amount already in the atmosphere will see the planet continue to warm for 200 years, so stopping emissions isn’t enough.  Al Gore made it very clear that awareness isn’t enough either. We need fundamental change, not incremental reduction in consumption.
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The UN and other ineffective intergovernmental organizations can’t agree on how to take action. Copenhagen was an exercise in avoidance, trickery and wordsmithing.  Governments around the world seem content scheduling more meetings and shaking hands a lot in front of cameras.  Hybrid cars aren’t the answer, and hotels are surely having a laugh when they claim to be taking action by asking us whether or not we want to wash our towels every day.
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Deforestaction is an expression of hope overpowering apathy.  It is young people having a voice, taking real, meaningful action to create a future they can accept – and it can work.   Stopping deforestation in Borneo in one year will make a bigger difference than any commitment we’ve seen from any government in the world. It is just the first step as we have heard, but perhaps the most immediate change we are seeing in our schools is the return of hope.  Hope is borne from the belief that every person can make the world a better place.
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Schools need to deliver learning experiences that create hope.  Empowering students with real world tasks that will make a visible and real difference.  DeforestAction is one example of hope, voice and learning built around meaningful foci and is the kind of collaboration that will see our schools resume their position as the most empowering places in the world. 
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DeforestAction is reminiscent of one of the great quotes from Ayn Rand’s famous book “Atlas Shrugged”:
Gerald Starnes yelled through the noise, “Remember that none of us may now leave this place, for each of us belongs to all the others by the moral law which we all accept!”
“I don’t,” said one man and stood up…… He stood like a man who knew that he was right. “I will put an end to this once and for all,” he said.
His voice was clear and without feeling…….. Gerald Starnes cried suddenly after him, “How?”
The man turned and answered, “I will stop the motor of the world.”
Then he walked out…….
– Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

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Katherine Walraven from TakingITGlobal (TIG) is a brilliant educator. She’s also a passionate champion of transforming education and a key member of the always impressive TIG team.

TIG Website

DeforstAction launched on TIG

Today, she released the first draft of a guide for teachers on how to engage young people in DeforestAction.  Here’s an extract from the guide (find the full guide at www.takingitglobal.com/deforestaction):

DeforstAction Poster

The Teacher Guide Draft 1

As an outcome of the Microsoft Regional Innovative Education Forum in Singapore, DeforestACTION was created as a project-based learning opportunity for students to understand and take action on deforestation in the Asia Pacific.  Eight schools will collaborate with TakingITGlobal (TIG) to propose ideas and collaboratively design an action plan using social networking tools and resources, including blogs, discussion boards, video chat, podcasts and more.

This project is inspired by the book High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them written by renowned World Bank economist, Jean Francois Rischard.  In his book, Rischard argues that the fate of future generations depends on our capacity to quickly and effectively address 20 pressing global issues, including deforestation.

There are two issues related to deforestation: it is getting worse, not better, and the traditional approach to dealing with it, such as international treaties, is simply not measuring up.  The main challenge, he argues, is that we still haven’t caught up with the high-population, fact-paced, globalized and interconnected world that we are living in.  The rate and depth of globalization has far exceeded the development of our institutions and approaches to decision-making.
Identifying technology as a crucial tool in the fight to address increasingly complex and urgent global issues, Rischard notes that the “global issues networks” made possible through the internet should be utilized to keep governments accountable to the people they represent.  These networks of concerned citizens can make decision-making more inclusive by giving people the voice, and hold institutions, businesses, and organizations accountable by monitoring their compliance with globally recognized standards and commitments.

As schools are looking for ways to engage their students in real-world issues through their learning, this collaboration aims to empower students to take on challenges like deforestation through the use of technology.

Why Deforestation?

Deforestation – the Hidden Roots of Climate Change

Deforestation occurs when areas that used to be forested are converted for use in other ways such as logging or as agricultural ground.  The causes of deforestation the multiple and complex.  Local pressures arise from communities using forests to provide sources of food, fuel and farmland. Poverty and population pressure can lead inexorably to the loss of forest cover, trapping people in perpetual poverty. Whilst millions of people still cut down trees to make a living for their families, a major cause of deforestation is now large-scale agriculture driven by consumer demand. In recent decades deforestation has shifted from a largely state-initiated to an enterprise-driven process. The drivers of the demand for agricultural land vary globally. In Africa, it is primarily small-scale subsistence farming. In South America, it is large-scale farming enterprises, producing beef and soy for export markets. In South East Asia, the driver is somewhere between the two, with palm oil, coffee and timber the main products.

As a result, the destruction of forests beyond sustainable levels only increases global warming. Tropical forests cover about 15% of the world’s land surface.  Yet, they are being rapidly degraded and deforested, resulting
in the emission of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Approximately 14 million hectares – an area the size of Nicaragua – are converted for other land uses each year.  This loss accounts for one-fifth of total global carbon emissions, making deforestation the second largest contributor to global warming.  Forests therefore have a vital role to play in combating climate change.


In addition to carbon storage, the forest and it’s resources directly support the livelihoods of 90% of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty and are home to nearly 90% of the world’s biodiversity. Local communities depend on forests as a source of fuel, food, medicines and shelter. The loss of forests jeopardises poverty alleviation, and directly threatens Indigenous and forest-dependent peoples cultures.  Climate change will hit the poorest hardest and so reducing deforestation will help build their resilience to climate impacts.

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