Green issues can take centre-stage with young voters

Students highlighted traffic problems and solutions through an educational promotion on the benefits of walking and through greater usage of bicycles

EKOSKOLA is more than just a Parliamentary sitting. It is the culmination of a programme in education for a sustainable development (ESD) in our islands
EKOSKOLA is more than just a Parliamentary sitting. It is the culmination of a programme in education for a sustainable development (ESD) in our islands

Development and increased economic growth have become the buzzwords of our times. Our islands are going through an unprecedented economic boost and although we must work hard to maintain the momentum, we must work even harder to ensure that our youngsters continue to enjoy and share in this ‘feel-good factor’ in the future. Today’s youngsters are the citizens of tomorrow, the politicians of the future and the people who will be setting the standards with which our people can lead an even better life.

EKOSKOLA, now in its fourteenth Parliamentary session is just that. These youths, who attended this special Parliamentary session, put forward a specific motion on what they believe is wrong, on what is lacking and on what could be improved. The biggest concern expressed is that we politicians who attend this session, listen to their recommendations but unfortunately we do nothing or very little about it. This is what we need to change. This year’s motto was clear – Aghtu Kasna! (liberally translated: Heed our concerns).

Addressing the politicians during the sitting, students emphasised the fact that their future depends on the decisions that we take; that we listen but do not seem to understand and that we fail to act even when things are deemed to be urgent.

EKOSKOLA is more than just a Parliamentary sitting. It is the culmination of a programme in education for a sustainable development (ESD) in our islands. It includes the participation of an ever-increasing number of schools in Malta and Gozo that have engaged in the integration of ESD in the curriculum through a whole school approach aimed at bringing about an institutional change of behaviour towards sustainability.

Students highlighted traffic problems in Malta and they have suggested monitoring of the pollution caused by traffic and solutions through an educational promotion on the benefits of walking and through greater usage of bicycles. They also suggested ways of improving facilities and safety measures for those using bicycles. Another interesting topic was that of the introduction of an underground transport system. A new ‘metro’ system would reduce the number of vehicles on the road; restrict the need for additional new roads and thus create or conserve more area to the benefit of a greener society.

On the environment they spoke about the danger and damage caused through protracted use of plastics; ways of limiting the use of plastic and heavy fines for those abusing the recycling measures introduced. Some schools have actually taken the initiative to regulate waste themselves and they have introduced ‘School News’ to convey their message to all students. They also believe that all politicians should be aware of the enormous amount of waste that schools and schoolchildren themselves generate and they are confident that we should try to limit waste before we devise ways of recycling it. Students argued that it is their right to ask for measures to have conventional energy projects turned into ones with renewable energy.

Water shortage and the erosion of our water table was also discussed. A particular school has researched water usage in the school itself and in the households nearby. They took it upon themselves to prepare and distribute a questionnaire, analysed the response and then presented a plan of action to minimise wastage of water as much as possible.

They encouraged us politicians to defend open spaces and to truly prohibit building in ODZ sites. We have been urged to promote a green Malta through the introduction of vertical gardens and roof gardens, in schools and in office buildings and to ensure that the planning process for local plans and urban planning, enforces the need for open, green spaces that will be accessible to the whole community.

EKOSKOLA has been very pro-active in promoting young people’s voices on sustainability in local and foreign fora. Students did not just air their concerns but actually described what they expect and ways to go about it. They also acted on their recommendations for solutions by way of promoting their ideas through social media and they are now, rightfully suggesting that EKOSKOLA itself sets up regional committees and regular meetings with the elected Members of Parliament of their constituency to follow up on their concerns and suggested solutions.

These are the students that will be voting in the next elections, they are the ones who want to use their vote wisely and politicians need to give them more opportunities to discuss their ideas for a better quality of life, now and in the future.

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