In the contemporary world with escalating climate extremes and the global impact of the pandemic, SDGs Index Taiwan Organizer and former Cheng Kung University President Professor Huey-Jen Jenny Su delivered a speech at the Global Sustainability Focal Forum at Taipei, Taiwan on 8/4, shedding light on the profound impacts of climate change on the global education system and emphasizing the pivotal role higher education will play in combating the crisis.
“We are now at the crossroads between us and the future generation. Through talent cultivation and knowledge dissemination, step by step, with efforts from the corporate world, a beacon of hope emerges for a more promising future,” Dr. Su expresses.
How a Pandemic Robbed Students of Critical Thinking Development
As our planet contends with the escalating effects of climate change, such as Australia entering its second consecutive year of extreme climate fluctuations marked by frequent tropical storms in 2022, to Pakistan, where relentless heavy rainfall throughout the previous year submerged a third of the country, displacing millions of people, to numerous nations in southern Europe encountering a wave of extreme heat in mid-July of 2023, culminating in over two weeks of wildfires in Greece, prompting the evacuation of countless residents and tourists, extreme climate phenomena from escalating global temperatures have wrought a heavy toll on in-classroom, hands-on learning experiences, depriving students of invaluable opportunities for engagement and experiential learning.
“Taking heavy precipitation alone you can see a decline in the educational attendance index across the world,” Professor Su Stated.
The devastating onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the past three years highlighted the importance of immersive educational environments. The pivot to remote learning has led to substantial decreases in student participation, resulting in insufficient development of critical thinking skills and specialized knowledge. The repercussions of this disrupted educational phase will reverberate through subsequent decades as the upcoming generation grapples with the formidable task of architecting a sustainable future.
From Sustainability Education to Crisis Management
“Not only is education key to human capital, but we are now in total desperation for the proper education of talent for sustainable development,” Professor Su emphasized.
Voicing concern over the inadequate sustainability education in high schools and universities, Professor Su underscores the imperative for nurturing future talent on climate science and the intricacies of environmental and social sustainability. As the climate crisis grows in severity and demands immediate and effective action, this knowledge reservoir will empower emerging talents to engineer innovative technologies and strategies, not only facilitating climate restoration but also acting as conduits for disseminating awareness about the prevailing crisis.
As we navigate the second decade of the internet age, technologies to enhance the accessibility of information have matured and found wide-ranging applications, yet effective strategies and implementation to promote environmental and social responsibilities remain at large unrealized. Professor Su contends that universities hold the potential to offer robust training in fields spanning science, technology, and communication, equipping the next generation with means to raise consciousness on the pressing crisis of climate change and inspire action.
“With diverse learning and quality education you’ll be able to increase information availability, bringing the whole public into some sense of awareness,” Professor Su affirmed.
We’re in this together
In an era where corporate interests intersect with environmental and social responsibilities, corporations are forging partnerships and synergistic endeavors with non-governmental organizations and students, championing the cause of green initiatives, ranging from commitments to achieve carbon neutrality to active engagement in climate restoration.
The realm of the economy, through the mechanisms of green finance, has woven into the fabric of the climate crisis, spurring both established conglomerates and budding enterprises across diverse sectors to pursue the ideals of sustainable workplace practices, workforce development, and product innovation.
“In the same team, there are NGOs, there are corporate leaders, there are skilled workers crafting suitable, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly industries for the next generation,” Professor Su explained.
Participating in this forum were Ambassador and TAISE Chairman Yu-Hsin Chien, Tang Prize Foundation Executive Director Jenn-Chuan Chen, and the fifth laureate of the Tang Prize for Sustainable Development, world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, offering perspectives underscoring the manifold dimensions and far-reaching implications of climate change.
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