x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Green lessons from the icemen

The three-man Greenland expedition led by Adrian Hayes has won an army of enthusiasts in classrooms, where pupils are doing their bit to save the planet.

Fourth-graders from the Jumeirah English Speaking School, above, and Dubai Modern High School, below, are following Adrian Hayes's progress across Greenland and videotaping questions for the explorer.
Fourth-graders from the Jumeirah English Speaking School, above, and Dubai Modern High School, below, are following Adrian Hayes's progress across Greenland and videotaping questions for the explorer.

DUBAI // As Adrian Hayes prepares for another day battling snowstorms and bone-chilling temperatures on the Greenland ice pack, hundreds of schoolchildren in air-conditioned classrooms across Dubai have been tracking his progress.

Three weeks ago, Hayes and two other explorers left the comforts of home and the Middle Eastern heat to begin a perilous trip across the world's second-largest ice sheet. Self-confessed adventure junkies, Dubai resident Hayes and Canadians Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe are on a mission to break a world record - if successful, their expedition will be the longest unsupported Arctic journey in history.

But there is a more important aim, the explorers say: creating "a meaningful climate-change and sustainability awareness project" by raising the profile of these issues among the younger generation. At Jumeirah English Speaking School, class 4B, led by Pete Milne, who taught Hayes's son last year, has prepared a slew of posters to raise interest in the expedition and its aims among other pupils. The eight- and nine-year-olds have already embarked on several environmental projects this year - including field trips with the Worldwide Fund for Nature to the UAE's first protected mountainous area, Wadi Wurayah, north of Fujairah - and are eager to learn more about Hayes's experiences and thoughts on climate change.

"We went to Wadi Wurayah and we planted mangroves and picked up rubbish," said Alice Wait. "We even found a wooden door and a lot of tissue," added Nathan Dubois. "We think it's very sad." Pollution "is turning the world into a dustbin," said their classmate Alexander Wiltshire. Nine-year-old Finlay Munro is one of 14 "ambassadors" elected by the school to spread the message of Hayes's sustainability mission.

"I think it is a giant contribution to the environment," he said. "Personally, I probably would not have gone and done something like that, but I would still like to help and have a minor part in it." The children also are the first of many who will get to ask questions of Hayes through The National, the official media partner of the Emirates NBD Greenland Quest. Their questions - and Hayes's answers - will be featured in the paper and online at www.thenational.ae/greenland.

As soon as Finlay heard he had been appointed as one of the 14 ambassadors, he sent a long e-mail to Mr Milne outlining ways to reduce the school's carbon footprint. "I suggested things like, if we are outside the school on a PE or swimming lesson, sometimes we leave the lights on and also the air conditioning," he said. "It is a waste. If we switched them off that would make a difference. "I thought of a few other things too. Like in the winter, we always study inside and the lights are on. We could sit outside, because then it is cooler and the lights could go off. Even for break times, for the 15 minutes we are outside, we could switch them off."

The ambassadors met the school's senior management team last week to present their ideas for a greener school in the new academic year, which begins in September. "I think [the administrators] were pleased, and they wrote them all down," Finlay said. "Also, we are thinking of putting up a display in the school on the Greenland quest with a bit of information about what is happening, pinpointing his location in Greenland. And I was thinking we should make it out of recycled paper."

Finlay said he and other pupils, including classmate Sophie Shams, often met to discuss how to help the environment. "Global warming could have a serious effect on us when we grow up," Sophie said. "We need to understand it. We will be grown-ups then, so we can make a difference. I think it is important for children to understand how serious this is." Students of class A4 at Dubai Centre for Special Needs, which is working with the Middle East Centre for Sustainable Development to be the first school in Dubai to adopt green building standards, agreed with Finlay.

Rashid Saeed, 24, is preparing for a public speaking competition in which he will argue for water conservation in the GCC. It is an area in which everyone in the UAE can make a difference, he said. "I think it is possible but it will be a challenge," he said. "I also think it is very important that we recycle. The UAE is such a small country, but it has a lot of waste per person." Each of the three schools visited by The National recycles.

At Dubai Modern High School, Celine Riberio, head of primary, said all the children seemed to enjoy learning about the environment. "We are very environmentally conscious," she said. "The pupils are taken on field trips and we do our little bit to preserve the environment. We have a recycling campaign where they bring in cans, bottles, old batteries. They are very interested in this issue." Fourth-year students initiated a jute bag campaign, creating satchels for themselves and backpacks for the younger children.

Gathered around a desk in their fourth-grade classroom, Omkar Nair, Arjun Pillai, Nalapad Haris and Manna Shammal listed the ways they had tried to care for the environment. "We recycle to save the trees, we save water and we save energy," Manna said. Arjun added: "I think the Arctic region is melting and the world could flood. I think that is really sad." All said they wanted to follow in Hayes's footsteps and visit the Arctic region. "I would take 10 coats," Omkar said.

In that case, his classmate warned, the ice would not be the only thing in danger of warming. "You will be melting," Nalapad said. loatway@thenational.ae