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This blog was co-written by the thirteen Hilton College boys currently enrolled in Routes to Resilience’s Sygnature Skills at Hilton College. It was produced as a reflection on their day-long immersive learning journey – a special ‘digital’ version necessitated by coronavirus – that took place on Friday 15th May.  The day aimed to embed the boys in a journey where they considered our human impact on, and connections with, our planet.

Our place in nature

We have affected many environmental systems.

Over the evolution of humans, we have moved away from our pre-urban ways of living. Instead of living within nature, using its bounty as a home and as essential for living, we now use it as a means to build our homes and support our ways of living. We extract its minerals and resources to make newer gadgets, phones, computers, cars, cosmetics, electricity, water systems, and food… In this transition, we have started to neglect our relationship with the natural world by using an unsustainable number of resources for non-essential things.

When we reflect on human society today, we see how much of nature we have destroyed and, paradoxically, how much we actually rely on it. We have been greedy and selfish. We have created significant, detrimental impacts as a result of seemingly innocent, everyday activities such as using cars and travelling by plane.  So, it is important for us to understand our place in this giant ecosystem and embed the knowledge that we alter it now at our peril tomorrow.

The environment is a very complex system. One that has evolved so intelligently that it can sustain itself forever. Unfortunately, with human activity, we are causing harm to the environment. This often results in a ripple effect and, in turn, affects humans significantly. We have brought all this despair and pollution on ourselves.

Human Consumption and Inequality

Throughout the immersion day we learnt a lot about human consumption and inequality. Humans, especially in developed economies, consume food, water, fossil fuels and many other resources too quickly for our environment to cope and recover. Our population and our need for resources has only been growing and is set to increase even further in the years to come. A change in consumption is needed.

Instead of always wanting to implement new ideas and always wanting to develop, we should rather take a step back and focus on what we are doing now. The sooner we are able to consume sustainably, the better it will be for both the poor and the rich. However, humans are a uniquely greedy species. In the relatively short time that we have been present on this planet we have managed to cut down a large portion of the world’s forests to build our homes, homes that we took even more space to build. The human race is growing at an exponential rate and if we cannot find a sustainable way to consume, we will have destroyed our planet and doomed our own species. Inequality in the world is at a high and this needs to be solved for humanity to progress.

One factor that affects this hugely is the education gap. The education gap in the world is massive at the moment and this greatly affects the lives of millions of people. Many people who are caught in the poverty cycle are unable to receive decent education and are therefore unable to find jobs that provide financial support. Only seven out of every hundred people have received tertiary education; this immediately puts them at an advantage over others when searching for work. This education gap must be closed to improve equality. Other ways to improve equality include helping people out of the poverty cycle, not by providing them with finite items and handouts, but rather lifelong skills and items for their long-term benefit. Many countries have far more inequality than others: two indicators that measure this inequality in a country or region are the Gini Coefficient and the Lorenz Curve.

Biodiversity

This is the systematic network that governs natural interactions between different organisms in the same environment. The system is interlinking and interdependent, meaning that one small interference in the delicate and complex chain could cause knock on effects with much greater impacts. This means that every factor is significant, from the algae which forms on the rocks at the bottom of the river to the eagle soaring far above it. Unfortunately, this is a principle of nature which is vastly misunderstood. Human activities such as agriculture often unnecessarily interrupt these systems when the systems in fact increase the productivity of farming, and disadvantage it when broken down. This ignorance has endangered many species, with at least 10,000 species going extinct per year and 25% of mammals threatened with extinction.

Empowering those who will need to forge a sustainable future – a note from Routes to Resilience

Our understanding of the impact that human activity is having on the planet and its biodiversity increases all the time. Ignorance  and our lack of action becomes increasingly inexcusable. It is the next generation – the young people of today – who will need to rectify the wrongs of their parents and grandparents to forge a healthier, more sustainable planet. That’s why at Routes to Resilience we create programmes such as the Sygnature Award which empower young people like the Hilton College boys to become the resilient, compassionate and sustainable leaders of tomorrow. Our future is in their hands – let’s help them develop the resilience to shoulder that burden.

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