“Children know more cell phone brands than tree names”

  • The Galician teacher Miriam Campos Leirós, head of Teachers for Future Spain, advocates implementing a ‘green’ education in all subjects

Snacks without plastic wrap, clothes that serve for several generations, dining rooms without food waste and math problems where students calculate how many liters of water is needed to make jeans. These are some of the battles he has waged Teachers For Future, a movement of teachers that aims to bring environmental education to the classroom. In Spain it is led by Miriam Campos Leirós (Mos, Pontevedra, 1977), environmental activist and 5th grade teacher at the Galician public school Mallón.

¿Cómo surge Teachers for Future Spain?

Boys and girls know more brands of mobile phones than birds or trees, so in 2017 a group of teachers concerned about the environment and school curricula created the informative blog El guiño verde. Then the media focused on Greta Thunberg and some Catalan students, very mobilized at the university, contacted me. From there, I got to know the Fridays for future movement and Teachers for future. In 2019, I asked for permission to represent him in Spain and The Green Wink became Teachers For Future Spain.

How many cabbages have they reached and how many want to reach?

We do not have an official record. Our goal would be to reach 28,000 educational centers. In September we launched the ‘28,000 for the climate ‘campaign.

One of its star programs is ‘zero residue recess’. What does it consist of?

Since the late 1980s we have been taught the importance of recycling. Ok, but the priority should be another word with r: reduce. If I don’t use plastic I don’t have to worry about taking it to the yellow container. Also, not all plastics are recyclable. What we propose is that the sandwich or fruit for the students’ breakfast come in a tube and the water in a thermos. So there is no longer any waste. In addition, it tends to coincide that lunches with more plastic and packaging are the least healthy: industrial pastries and ultra-processed foods. Reducing waste is not only good for the planet but for our health.

It is a program implemented, for example, in the school that Princess Eleanor attended, which is private. How do you get depoliticized green education?

Our programs are available to all centers, whether public, subsidized, private or religious. Caring for the planet affects us all. Above ideologies are people.

The new education law permeates environmental education curricula. What grade do you give to the norm?

Right now there are very committed centers, but it is something that depends on the good will of the cloister. In many cabbages there is a person responsible for sustainability, but not an official figure. LOMLOE, in effect, says that caring for the planet has to be part of the educational project. It is a great step and we trust that the autonomies respect it when they apply the norm on a day-to-day basis. Saving the planet is a romantic concept, but completely wrong. The planet can go on without us. What we are talking about is saving ourselves as a species. Our quality of life will be better or worse depending on the environmental conditions. This has to be taught in a transversal way in all educational stages. There will be those who are limited to celebrate the day of the tree or the environment. That’s fine, but it falls short.

It is also insufficient to have only a mini-garden in a school or to go on an excursion to the mountains once a year.

Exactly. This is a daily job. Our footprint is palpable in the clothes we wear, the breakfast we eat or the way we go to school. We do not want administrations to fine us for using plastics, what we are aiming for is to reduce plastic. We must claim public transport in conditions that make it easier for us not to take the car.

Are mothers and fathers aware?

There is everything. There are those who tell you that they have no time for anything and offer industrial pastries to their children for a snack. The quality of life is also worrying about what you put into your body, which is the piggy bank in which you accumulate your savings. We see that, in many homes, it is the girls and boys who pressure their parents to do things right. I don’t like to put an accusing finger on anyone. I miss a public campaign in favor of sustainability, as it is done to prevent traffic accidents or drug addiction. Here we only talk about nature in the classrooms when there is a flood or a natural disaster.

How is environment taught in the subject of mathematics?

I give you an example. Let’s stop doing problems with eggs and chickens and let’s put exercises to calculate how much water it takes to make a sweater or a T-shirt. Or the difference between buying some oranges from Valencia or Chile. Let’s talk about droughts and see the miles that climate refugees have to travel.

What else school initiatives do you have in your bedroom?

Two that make me especially excited. One is intended to alert students to hoaxes and ‘fake news’. Whether we like it or not, all children have a mobile when they turn 10 years old. They seek information and we have all seen the destruction that denial has done during the pandemic. We want children to know how to go to reliable sources and to distinguish between serious and rigorous information.

And the other?

It puts the finger on the sore of excessive consumption. So many gifts, so many purchases, so many packaging, so many costumes, so many single-use toys, so much Christmas, so much Halloween, so much ‘black friday’ & mldr; It’s okay to overconsume. We have to emphasize that the best gift is not the most expensive thing in a store but a cake made by you.

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