Change begins small. One word, one idea, one conversation can lead to a change in the course of humankind. Right now, we need change more than ever to save our home, planet Earth.
On June 5, change began with a group of young, brilliant, and curious minds exploring ways to save the planet. The occasion was World Environment Day, created by the United Nations to encourage environmental awareness and action in support of our planet. Throughout the week, Jadir Taekwondo Association (AJTKD) was proud to do its part, educating its students and their families and empowering them to make a change. Beyond their usual taekwondo training, students got the chance to participate in two educational activities about the environment, overseen by a pair of experts in the field.
Paula Castro Brandão, an environmental scientist and AJTKD volunteer from Wageningen, Netherlands, connected with students in Brazil to deliver a live presentation about an important topic: sanitation. All around the world, people are affected by unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation. In 2020, two billion people lacked safely managed drinking water, and 3.6 billion people lacked safely managed sanitation. Throughout Brazil, many communities still lack basic sanitation and do not have access to clean water. Hence, this topic was of great importance to AJTKD’s students in Brazil.
Paula highlighted to students the crucial importance of access to clean drinking water and the consequences of its absence, such as disease and diminished quality of life. Furthermore, Paula focused her presentation on something the children could apply in their daily lives: the use of water filters—particularly cheap, accessible, and efficient filters—to ensure they consumed clean water. The message stuck with the students, as they recognized they could apply the lessons they learned from the presentation to their daily lives and make a change starting within themselves and their families.
“I know that not everyone can drink clean water because of bad sanitation,” said Larissa de Abreu, 11, after the session. “We should have clean water everywhere because it's important for our health.” Thiago Garcia, 10, agreed: “I've learned that, if I didn't have a water filter at home and had no clean water available to me, I'd probably get sick,” he summarized. “It's important to have clean water.”
This presentation was conceived to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, which is all about ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. At AJTKD, change starts at the grassroots level as children learn about clean water and sanitation and gain the confidence they need to instill these lessons in their lives.
Next, Nathália Miranda, an environmental engineer and AJTKD volunteer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, delivered a presentation about endangered species. She showed the students that planet Earth is a home we share with a great many plants and animals. In explaining the planet’s natural equilibrium, Nathália emphasized the importance of every animal in maintaining balance in Earth’s ecosystems. She delved into the topic of predatory fishing, a large environmental issue in which fishing unbalances the aquatic environment, and emphasized that humans could act responsibly by not disrupting the biosphere’s balance. For instance, she made the case that fishing is not inherently wrong, but that it must be conducted with responsibility
As Nathália delivered her presentation, AJTKD’s students were highly engaged, asking questions about dinosaurs, deforestation, pollution, bees, and much more. At the end, she chatted with the students and led a roundtable activity where they were asked to create an imaginary endangered species and find a solution to prevent its extinction. The young children gathered around, passionately talking about solutions to save endangered species.
“We must protect every animal in the world,” concluded Lucas de Abreu, 7, “because they can disappear one day, like dinosaurs. If they disappear, it will be bad for humans too, because they help us with many things.”
This activation paralleled two more of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals: SDG 14 and SDG 15. SDG 14 aims to ensure the sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources. With our oceans under threat, it is crucial for the next generation of youth to learn about the environmental issues for life below water. SDG 15 centers on protecting, restoring, and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, which can involve managing forests and combating desertification as well as halting land degradation and biodiversity loss. Learning about key issues like this will equip the children to think of solutions and take action.
At AJTKD this World Environment Day, change began small—with educators, students, and family. But this change is sure to ripple out, positively affecting the kids’ communities and—eventually—the globe at large. At Jadir Taekwondo, youth are inspired to take action for themselves and their planet. Change starts here.
Banner image courtesy of Anil Sharma, Pixabay. All others by Jadir Taekwondo Association.