Let’s not go back to business as usual

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Getting back to normal is the last thing we need, argues Chris Etchells, author of ELTFootprint.uk, if it means sacrificing the health of the planet in pursuit of economic growth

I don’t underestimate the business difficulties and personal tragedies caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but many of the measures taken to contain the virus are also good for the planet. We are working from home more; we are travelling less; we are sourcing more food locally; cities are quieter and the air is cleaner. People have glimpsed a more hopeful future where we live in balance with the natural world.

In Doughnut Economics, Kate Rowley says, “The world is experiencing a series of shocks and surprise impacts which are enabling us to shift away from the idea of growth to ‘thriving’.” How can ELT best thrive in the aftermath of Covid-19?

On ELTFootprint.uk, I have outlined a number of steps. First, we need to understand the challenge facing us. According to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have around 10 years to avert the worst effects of climate change. Doughnut Economics describes how we can achieve a “just and safe space for humanity” that meets everyone’s needs within the capacity of the planet to support us. The UN Sustainable Development Goals set out the minimum standards humanity needs to lead a good life.

How can those of us in ELT make a difference? The coronavirus crisis has shown that online learning can be effective and enjoyable. So, if you can teach online, please do. If you expect students to travel to your school, you should be clear why this is better. You can also use your influence to promote environmental responsibility among your students. You could also help your organisation to become carbon neutral, including offsetting student journeys. Check out ELTFootprint.uk, where I’ve outlined how.

“The coronavirus crisis has shown that online learning can be effective 
and enjoyable.”

Above all, don’t be scared. Once we understand the problem and the possible solutions, we can move from fear of the future to looking forward to a better world.

So, let’s not go back to business as usual. Whatever our place in ELT, let’s use the disruption caused by the virus to help deliver a better future. Do it for your students, for your business, for your children and your grandchildren. If we all act now within our own spheres of influence, maybe the light at the end of the tunnel really will turn out to be a brighter future for us all.

Image courtesy of Library