As the summer holidays come to an end, students look towards the new school semester and work out what the new school year represents. For some, it can mean making new friends, getting involved in different extra-curricular activities, improving academic results or to develop themselves further as an individual.
For educators, the new school year represents one key thing: opportunity. The opportunity to reach out to new students, the opportunity to educate students, the opportunity to enlighten students on world issues.
At Thirst, we are filled with excitement for the new opportunities to work with students, teachers and schools in Beijing to spread awareness about sustainable development. More specifically to increase awareness about water scarcity in China.
China has 20 percent of the world’s population, but only has access to 7 percent of the world’s freshwater. Much of this water is becoming depleted faster than it can be replenished and is becoming polluted. At the current rate of consumption and with its current infrastructure, Beijing will exhaust its ground water resources by 2025, leaving it to rely on even more heavily on external water resources. By 2030 supply of water in the whole of China will not be able to meet demands if significant changes are not made. Though the Chinese Government has already committed RMB 4 trillion to water infrastructure until 2020, Thirst believes that a grassroots approach is also needed as part of the solution.
Providing education about sustainable development, including water issues, in schools is critical to altering consumption behaviour and instigating change. Thirst is creating an informed young generation who know how water is consumed, not only through municipal use, but also through ‘invisible water’, that is water wasted in industrial and agricultural production. By utilizing low virtual water products and reduced water consumption, China help pioneer environmental reform.
The young generation that Thirst programs target, are the consumers of the future. They will be able to change their behaviors, put pressure on companies to reduce their water footprint and move Chinese and global industries towards sustainable development. These young people are future leaders of China and the world.
Thirst also engages with teachers in Beijing who are promoting sustainable development education in their schools. In order to support teachers who are developing more environmentally aware students, Thirst has created a network initiative called ‘TAPS4Water’ (Teachers Applying Positive Solutions). The networking event is a platform for teachers and those interested in education for sustainable development to discuss best practices for environmental education, as well as create a network for information sharing and support.
Sustainable development in the classroom is vital to address issues that will affect the future of the world, but are also impacting our lives today. Water is one of many environmental issues, but for China, it is the most defining. Although water pollution and scarcity can seem overwhelming at times, teachers who are part of TAPS4Water are encouraging China’s youth to emerge as real pioneers for change. As the Chinese proverb goes “水滴石穿’‘Dripping water wears through rock’- Persistent effort overcomes any difficulty – and we must persist.
The next TAPS4Water will take place on September 22, 2014 at the Thirst office. Please register at https://yoopay.cn/event/taps4water-sept.
Thirst is currently facilitating free ‘We Water Experience’workshops and club activities at schools across Beijing and China. This program is sponsored by the Foundation for UNESCO and Inditex. Please contact us for more details. Visit http://thirst4water.org/en/
Rebecca is a recent graduate of The University of Melbourne, completing her Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma in Chinese. Rebecca’s focus lies in developmental economics and sustainable development, especially in China. She has joined the Thirst team to help facilitate development of Thirst’s education workshops, and help build new campaigns to help Thirst increase it’s impact in China and around the world.
Photos: Courtesy of TAPS