Global challenges require global connections.
Connecting the Climate Challenge is one of the 17 recently announced Creative Commissions, engaging young people around the world to address climate change through art, science and digital technology. It is part of the British Council’s global platform, The Climate Connection.
This project is partnering school children from Nepal – a country truly impacted by climate change and looking to adopt green behaviours – with communities in Scotland. Through the collaboration, school children from ten schools in each country have performed parallel environmental measurement experiments and share stories, actions and findings. The children have been sharing experiences through video pen pal exchanges to explore which of their interventions are most successful and to learn more about each other's climates.
We caught up with Alba Abad PhD, Research Scientist at the University of Edinburgh and Founder and Project lead of Engage Nepal with Science, to find out more about the urgency for us to recognise our role in taking positive action to tackle the climate crisis and the timing of her project taking place in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow this autumn.
Q: Alba, how did you become involved in climate action through science and education?
I have always believed that we are all part of a story, it is just that we often don’t get the chance to tell them to others. Today, I am delighted to share with you the story behind ‘‘Connecting the Climate Challenge’’.
‘Connecting the Climate Challenge’ is one of the initiatives of Engage Nepal with Science, the result of a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh (UK) and the Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology (Nepal). Engage Nepal with Science was conceived a few years ago when I travelled to Nepal to work as an English and Science teacher in 2019, combining my two passions: science and sparking curiosity in others.
Q: Who is Engage Nepal with Science?
We are a group of researchers and educators passionate about spreading the culture of engaging with science to empower, inspire and build confidence in STEM.
We believe that empowerment in STEM is crucial to promote critical and innovative thinking, problem-solving, the boosting of curiosity, and to help us understand the world around us. These are key attributes required to make informed decisions, creating a fairer, more inclusive society, and to foster positive social change. What is the most challenging crisis the world is currently facing where social change and action is needed? Could we also give our two cents and inspire climate action by pairing together communities with different but complementary experiences of the climate emergency?
Q: Can you tell us what the students have learned so far?
There is nothing more powerful than experiencing something for yourself and seeing things with your own eyes! The students have learned from first-hand experience:
- That preservation and conservation programmes have made a difference in bringing back wildlife to many areas in the UK and Nepal. For example, St. Mary’s school in Scotland found that a conservation programme set up in the Borders during the 1950s, has brought back badgers and birds of prey to the area. While in Dolpa in Nepal, snow leopard conservation has seen their numbers increase spectacularly during the last few years in the Shey Phoskundo Natural Park. In places where conservation programmes have not been put in place, animals such as tigers have seen their numbers reduced in different places in Nepal, or insects have been seen to decline in Scotland. This indicates that conservation and preservation programmes have worked really well in the past and schools have started their work to promote such initiatives.
- Students have also learned that there have been very clear changes in seasons during the last few decades, both in Scotland and Nepal, but in Nepal those changes have been more significant. In Scotland the winter season is now shorter and it rains a lot, while 50 years ago it used to be colder and drier. Moreover summers have become warmer and longer. In Nepal it is hotter everywhere throughout the year, there is much less snow in the Himalayas and when it rains, it rains more heavily than 40-50 years ago. Students were surprised that although the changes in the seasons have been quite evident, half of the elder members of their community don’t know about climate change in Scotland and less than 40 per cent knew about it in Nepal. As a result, students have started their awareness campaigns.
- Through their litter analysis, the eco-committees have also learned that plastic is the major pollutant around the world. They have started taking action by organising their own initiatives like weekly river-clean ups and campaigns against waste by Crystal Mountain School in Nepal, or the anti-litter week programme that Blackburn Primary in Scotland will lead during the last week of September.
- To support their learning and boost their communication skills, Nepalese partner schools were also encouraged to participate in the Camera Sika X Road to COP26: Climate change film competition organised by British Council Nepal and Into Film. It was an extremely proud moment when two of our partner schools, Motherland English Boarding School (Arghakhanchi) and Crystal Mountain School (Dolpa) won the 'Most Liked Film Award' and the 'Climate Change Award', with their documentaries The Lonely Steps of a Farmer and Climate Change in the Himalayas, respectively.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
Since the project launch in March 2021, our journey has been a bumpy ride due to the huge challenges schools have been facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are really proud of what we have achieved thus far, grateful for all the amazing people we are meeting along the way, and we are ready for more! So, stay tuned as there is much more to come from us!
Q: How can we get involved?
Title: Connecting the Climate Challenge Closing Ceremony
Date: 10 December 2021 Time: 10.00 -12.00 GMT
Registration via Eventbrite (or please use QR code in poster)