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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 February 2018

UAE symposium teaches children to preserve the planet's resources

The event taught 120 children the importance of climate change and the environment

Children at the Beyond COP21 Symposium on climate change and the environment held at the Ajman Academy. Antonie Robertson / The National
Children at the Beyond COP21 Symposium on climate change and the environment held at the Ajman Academy. Antonie Robertson / The National

More than 100 students from six schools across the UAE were taught about the importance of preserving the environment, recycling plastic and water, as well as food waste on Thursday.

The Beyond Cop21 Symposium, which took place at Ajman Academy, held discussions and an exhibition to raise awareness of natural history, archaeology and the environment in children.

Ajmal Hasan, a member of the Dubai Natural History Group and one of the speakers, said: “There are foxes, gerbils, snakes and hedgehogs, but people don’t know. They think the desert is abandoned and just full of sand and rocks. I want to change that misconception.”

Mr Hasan said that society isn’t doing as much as it should to promote nature to the younger generation and that children need to be shown there’s a world beyond digital.

He said: “There are parks where [children] can go out and look for plants and animals to understand the importance of preserving them. Habitats are being lost and nature will take a backseat if we continue this way.”

Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder and managing director of social enterprise Goumbook, spoke to the children about her Drop It campaign, which aims to encourage people to replace single-use water bottles with filtered water from taps.

Speaker Ajmal Hasan, education manager at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, at the symposium in Ajman. Antonie Robertson/The Nationa
Speaker Ajmal Hasan, education manager at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, at the symposium in Ajman. Antonie Robertson/The Nationa

“It started two years ago and it was very successful, but we realised we were missing out on youth,” she said. “Sometimes with adults, you face the reaction that these things won’t be a problem, but children realise it’s their future at stake – their food, water and they’re much more active. They’re the agents of change.”

In the exhibition, children were able to learn about Dubai’s Sustainable City which is built on three pillars that involve the environmental, social and economic. “We have solar panels on all our villas, recycle 100 per cent of our water and carry out urban farming for our residents,” said Shar Dean, educational coordinator at the city.

“We made puzzles for the children with pictures of the city for them to understand team work and there are aspects of the city that relate to carbon emissions at the back of every puzzle.”

She said youth was the key to motivation and changes. “It’s their future and we have a generation of people my age where consumerism and designer labels have been the focus,” she said. “We’re not supporting our community and we’ll have a lot of depressed young individuals if we don’t act now.”

Solar energy was a focus of the event with the children learning about solar cooking and the power of the sun. “I’ve seen a lot of children coming with many questions,” said Rhoshan Thomas, sales engineer at Beacon, a UAE solar energy production and management company. “It’s important for them to know about it because everything now is about sustainability. Children are the future and they should have an environment that they can live in so we have to teach them and the sun is the most sustainable energy here.”

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For Terra Loop, the food loss and waste consulting firm, schools are an area where much food is disposed of. “We’re about food waste primarily,” said Steve Bishop, partner and operations director at the company. “We go into hotels, measure how much food they’re wasting and suggest ways in which they can reduce that waste. Within a school, we’re hoping to work with young people so they can audit their own schools.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, one third of food produced around the world is wasted every year, which is enough to feed the 780 million hungry people on the planet four times. “The UAE imported 10 billion tonnes of food in 2016 so around a third of that is wasted on average, which would be about 3.27 million tonnes,” said Ryan Ingram, founder of Terra Loop. “Children are essential. They can have many more opportunities throughout their lives to make a change so it’s very important that they’re aware.”

The symposium was the third in the UAE with more set-up in the United Kingdom, Jordan and Singapore next month.