It is a baffling year to be an ex-pat in Madrid, even more so to be one focused on starting environmental initiatives while simultaneously working (yes employed) in the swirling un-familiarity that makes up the Spanish public educational system.
Today I’d like to explore a theme that the UNEP World Environment Day defines as, “The dilemma we face between today’s conventional ‘brown’ economy and a proposed new Green Economy.”
After five months of teaching in a public high school, listening to the perspectives of students and teachers on the current state of the Spanish economy, and it’s effects on civil vibrancy, one really begins to understand the relationship between quality education and economic prosperity. I firmly believe, and hope to briefly illustrate here - that a strong educational system is key to embracing a strong, sustainable society.
Moreover, increasing environmental awareness and initiatives in school can help to connect young people (the working citizens of the future) to the very ideas that can move us towards a brighter, greener economic reality, one capable of real growth and stability.
Now this is certainly a challenge in a continent as structurally unstable as the European Union. In Spain specifically, the recently elected conservative government is chopping away at the public sector in series after series of severe budget cuts branded as “non-negotiable austerity measures.”
All “extracurricular,” curricula are on the chopping block, and not just arts and crafts. Well-established programs like La Red de Centro Educacion Ambiental (a network of Environmental Educational centers that mobilize a long list of programs such as Green Homes for Mitigation of Climate Change), and other full courses of study are being threatened with extinction.
This coming from a country that is the third largest producer of wind power in the world, the first country in Europe to require photovoltaic electricity generation in new buildings, and a country with a set policy target of generating 20% of its energy requirements from renewable sources.
A paradox of a system claiming to be spear heading innovation, and yet outwardly acting against the investment in a robust and diverse educational model that matches this projection.
But dire times can yield key opportunities. Opportunities to discuss these facets, to talk about renewable resources and energies, the green job sector, and the relationship between a sustainable planet and a sustainable economy.
At Instituto Carlos Bousono the hope is to get the curious, intelligent student body to think a bit differently about their bottom line. To hypothesize actively about complex systems and relate this to what lies ahead, in Spain and beyond.
We invite them to get dirty, and think beyond the textbook.
We’ll define the Green Economy, and it’s Spanish makeup and from what we’ve seen thus far – they’ll define it right back.