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Japanese Students say “No more disposal chopsticks” upon mock-internship at ESD

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is all about learning our way to a sustainable future. Japanese middle school students visited UNESCO in January to seek ideas on t career options and also to consider the future world we want.

On 30 January, 5 students age 14-15, from l’Institut culturel franco-japonais, a Japanese school in Paris, visited UNESCO’s ESD section as part of their career development activity to experience a mock-internship for half a day. After an introduction given on ESD and its World Conference to take place in Aichi-Nagoya Japan this year, the students engaged in a role-play exercise, improvising as reporters conducting interviews with UNESCO staff on climate change, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction.

“I was shocked by the fact that carbon dioxide emissions reach 36 million tons per year. The planet is in a very critical condition” said Tatsuki Fukunaga, who covered the issue on climate change. He raised another question: “If we do nothing on ESD, how many more years would be left until the end of the earth?” A girl-reporter Towako Hono came to realize that “three key themes on ESD such as climate change, biodiversity and disaster risk reduction are all in fact interlinked which is why we need a holistic approach to cope with the environmental issues of today.”   

Mr. Kenichi Morishita, the school teacher who coordinated the visit, however, said that those comments are “too ordinary” and urged the students to think even harder. “ESD is all about action. Understanding and discussing sustainability issues is not enough.”

Encouraged to do more, the students committed to concrete actions that can further support ESD, such as developing an “ESD newspaper” to advocate various sustainability issues at school; launching a campaign “No more disposal chopsticks. Bring my chopsticks;” making a request for the school librarian to purchase sustainable development related books; and building physical and mental resilience in case of natural disasters.  At the end of the day, Mr. Morishita concluded, “Students learned that these simple activities can make a difference. They will eventually make up a strong force which will change people’s mind.”

As clearly stated in the Global Action Programme on ESD, UNESCO supports youth in their role as change agents for sustainable development. UNESCO will continue to investigate the way to mobilize youth so that they can fully play their role.