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What does COP26 need to work?

A week into COP26 and as expected the media is pulsing with commentary, critique and commitments.

The importance of these weeks of COP can not be understated. Yet the true test and judge will be time. For all the talk, wranglings and agreements to have any meaning we must look ahead at the weeks, months and years to come. We must hold the suits in their boardrooms and government offices to account, to ensure the promised steps are taken and that the spirit of COP26 is maintained. But we can not put all our eggs into the ‘change from above’ basket. We must take our own individual actions to help sustain the world that we want and need.

Who are the ‘we’? The ‘we’ is you, your neighbour, your community, each and every one of us seeking to ‘do our bit’.

Who are the ‘we’? The ‘we’ is you, your neighbour, your community, each and every one of us seeking to ‘do our bit’. Through our everyday decisions we can actively and consciously take steps to ensure change is from the bottom up and not dependant upon historical top down power structures. In this sense we are all part of the COP26 journey towards meaningful change.

The ‘we’ are the vocal minority calling for ever more rapid action by governments and industry. At our recent Festival of Learning we were joined by such individuals, Elian Hooper and Yasmin Belhadj of Teach the Future Wales who shared with us their reflections on the current system of education within Wales and the work they are doing as activists campaigning to implement mandatory climate education into the curriculum. A further organisation we are partnering with is Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) who are working to galvanise the student voice across UK Universities. Both are great examples of the potential power of the vocal minority. The role played by such youth centred organisations are hugely important, but what we at Cymbrogi recognise is a pressing need to help turn the vocal minority into a vocal, and active, majority.

The ‘we’ are the disempowered, the non-vocal majority, comprising both educators and learners, that exist across our Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Colleges. It is to this non-vocal majority that we at Cymbrogi seek to give support, as it is their voice we want to activate and their actions we wish to facilitate. Through our ‘What Matters?’ Cymbrogi companions Educators Journey, our Young Changemaker Programme and through our upcoming Tomorrows Changemaker Programme we are creating the means to develop the knowledge, hone the skills and redirect mindsets towards ‘sustainable learning for a sustainable future’. Through our method, guided by our Cymbrogi Learning Compass, we aim to help learners undertake this journey of empowerment beginning with a re-connection with the non-human world.

For many individuals and communities across the UK our exposure to the natural world has diminished. It can be suggested that this decreasing exposure is resulting in a growing disconnect from nature, with this non-human world becoming a distant 'other' to whom we have no relationship and thus no compassion for. With the decrease in this relationship and the subsequent erosion in compassion for our non-human world, how can we come to expect that the current generation moving their way through our education system will be in a psychological position to take action and help deliver the spirit of COP26?

So at Cymbrogi we advocate for a position which believes that in order to develop a pro-environmental mindset and consequently pro-environmental behaviours we need to foster a compassion for the non-human world, just as we do for the human world. To achieve this we have created the physical space, Cymbrogi HQ, for young learners to come, understand and reconnect with the non-human world in a creative and interests led way.

Recently we hosted a group of young learners from Stepaside Community Primary School who, through our Young Changemaker workshop (Pledge), had the opportunity to re-engage with nature through nature-games, through a bug hunt, through an exploration of the local ecosystem and through just being in and with nature. From this starting point we introduced the learners to systems thinking and circularity comparing the life of a leaf to that of a plastic wrapper from their lunch boxes. Through Changemaker Case Studies we helped learners recognise that change was possible and from here engaged learners in Design Thinking practices to consider how they could design plastic out of their lives and the lives of others. Across the day learners developed Cymbrogi Core Four knowledge and skills that they could take back into the classroom and their everyday lives, helping them lead a more sustainable and circular life, to better own their wellbeing, to look at the world creatively and to interact with others in a more collaborative way. But this is just the start of their journey and on Monday the 8th of November we will reconnect with the learners of Stepaside and hear the Pledges they have been designing, the small acts they wish to undertake to make the change they want to see in their world.

So as COP26 unfolds, over the next week and beyond, what steps are you taking to be the sustainable change you want to see now and into the future? What steps are you taking to help the disempowered non-vocal majority to find their voice, to hone their voice and to use their voice? Only through the crescendo of all our voices will COP26 have meaningful and lasting impact.


Join us at Cymbrogi Learn, online or onsite at our inspirational Cymbrogi HQ in Pembrokeshire, and become a member of a growing community of thinkers and doers in the field of 'Sustainable learning for a sustainable future.'

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