Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,
On Saturday September 4 I read an article on the BBC website with this title: How aircraft conquered Antarctica. I was incredulous. How absurd to think of any explorer, using any machine, ‘conquering’ any part of the planet, let alone one as remote, rugged, and challenging as the Antarctic. What arrogance, what hubris.
When I saw this headline, I was transported to a report that I had once read and remembered from years ago about the first documented ascent of Mount Everest. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary reached the summit of the highest peak in the world on May 29, 1953. At the time, so this report claimed, newspapers in the English-speaking world wrote of their conquest of Mount Everest, and about how it had been conquered by these two intrepid climbers. But, apparently, the media in Kathmandu, and Nepal generally, wrote about how the two mountaineers had made friends with the majestic mountain.
What folly it is to fight natural phenomena, to see our relationship with the natural world in terms of combat and conquest. In so doing, we conquer ourselves. And that seems to be exactly what we are in the process of achieving right now – anthropogenic meddling with the fine balances of our lifegiving planet are putting our species and many others in danger. Which is why I wrote last week about the importance of a major theme at our school for this year: We grow as we learn. I tried to spell out there some of the environmental implications of this theme.
At Keystone, we have many meeting and taskforce groups that plan and help the smooth running of our large school. In addition, we have a number of Standing Committees that meet from time to time to address and discuss important matters that are not necessarily part of our regular school routines. One of these is the Environment and Sustainability Committee, which will meet in 4 sub-committees this year. Here is the description of this committee which was sent to all Keystone employees at the start of the school year. I quote:
Environment and Sustainability
Baldeep Sawhney, Jeremy He, Malcolm McKenzie, Anna Hou, Chairs
Environmental awareness and the sustainable practices that come from such awareness are an essential part of the educational purpose of Keystone Academy. The Environment Committee will promote environmental awareness and an active culture of sustainable living on the Keystone campus. 4 subcommittees will carry out the work of this group: Recycling; Energy; Growing and Gardening; Food and Food Waste.
· Overseeing and evaluating the recycling efforts of the Keystone community;
· Working with the physical plant staff to help reduce our consumption of energy, and to be more focused on ecological and environmental changes to some of our practices;
· Consulting with the catering services and the food committee to ensure a healthy and environmentally appropriate diet, including vegetarian days and other modes of ecological eating, as appropriate;
· Helping student environmental groups in their efforts to raise environmental awareness and sound practice;
· Helping teachers to develop curricular materials for, and the awareness of sustainable living in, their classroom practice;
· Assisting where appropriate with the Keystone gardening and growing program;
· Ensuring that every student at Keystone has at least one significant environmental experience, which must aim to be transformative, during his or her time at the School.
These are the areas that this committee will engage with during the rest of this year. In addition to these day-to-day tasks on our campus, we have outlined in our Schoolwide Strategic Action Plan the following four ‘big ideas’, made easy to remember by the acronym EAST:
A Academic challenge additional to the routine curriculum
S Service to our communities, local and further afield
T Teacher training, perhaps with private and public school teachers learning from each other in summer seminars
The first one, environmentalism, is described in our strategic plan like this:
Infusing environmentalism and sustainability in and through all that we do on our campus, and perhaps acquiring a farm or outdoor center;
MEETING WHAT IS POTENTIALLY THE BIGGEST PLANETARY NEED OF THIS CENTURY
After all the above, and my comments last week about growing and gardening, it is probably unnecessary to repeat this sentence from the charge of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, but I will because it is so very important:
Environmental awareness and the sustainable practices that come from such awareness are an essential part of the educational purpose of Keystone Academy.
If you wish to assist in any of these endeavors, particular or general, please do contact one of the 4 sub-committee chairs, or your PTA representatives.
With warm regards,
Head of School