Jonathan Paul is a Year 12 student at The Armidale School with a passion for environmental sustainability.
Jonathan, how did you become interested in sustainability?
My passion for sustainability first started in Year 10, when my Geography class, taught by Mr Toakley, studied Waste Management. I was absolutely amazed at the level of waste we, as humans, generate and in particular how this waste is managed. Mr Toakley painted a rather bleak outlook, saying that we cannot continue with our habits forever, as we will eventually run out of oil, at which time we will probably be living in our own garbage. This was rather confronting and along with my senior studies of Economics and Geography, I was further encouraged to pursue my interest in this ever so important topic.
This led to the creation of an ‘E-Team’ at TAS. How has this worked?
In term 4 last year the new group of prefects, including me, set out to generate five key goals for 2011. One of these goals was to improve environmentally sustainable practises around the school. Because I was passionate about the environment, I volunteered to take on the task of achieving this goal and in doing so, established what is now known as the TAS E-Team. For me this was very exciting, because nothing of the sort had ever been done at TAS. The group consists of Junior, Middle and Senior School students, passionate staff members and local environmental activist, Hadley White. Once the E-Team gained momentum, meetings were held every two to three weeks. At meetings, ideas were shared on how to better improve and promote environmental sustainability around the school. In the one year that I had to establish and drive the E-Team forward, a considerable amount was achieved – the most notable changes being the replacement of polystyrene soup cups with ‘Bio Cups’ and an increased awareness of the importance of sustainability within the school community.
You were a member of the panel with Tony Windsor at the community forum to support renewable energy. What did you speak about?
I spoke about the importance of supporting renewable energy. In my speech I attempted to draw parallels with a situation that many people in the audience would be able to relate to in some way. I said, “Unfortunately over the last three years, both of my grandparents were diagnosed with cancer. They were faced with the task of deciding between two options:
“Option 1: They could refuse to have treatment, and in doing so, enjoy what little time they had left by travelling Australia in a caravan, drinking martinis and playing bridge. Ultimately within a year, they would pass away.
“Option 2: They could choose to have the appropriate cancer treatment, and in the short term suffer. But … in the long term, it was likely that they would recover and go on to live a longer more prosperous life.
“The same can be said for our planet. Currently it is unwell. We as a community choose the fate of this planet. We can either choose:
“Option 1: Which would involve everyone leaving the town hall, pretending that nothing has happened, continue consuming our valuable resources and ultimately bring about a quick death.
Or we could choose:
“Option 2: This, like cancer treatment would involve some pain. Pain for business, as they would see reduced profits. Pain for farmers, as they would see increased costs. Pain for households, as they now cannot afford what they used to. BUT, ultimately, like those who get treated for cancer, nine times out of ten you will survive.”
I asked everyone in the Town hall what option he or she would like to take? I then went on to say, “For me, it is option two. Why? It is pretty simple: without a planet, we do not have an economy. We do not have a society and we do not have existence.” I said to everyone, “I would like to grow up one day and know that I could go skiing without having to worry that I would be polluting our planet whilst travelling there. What’s more, it would be wonderful not to worry about the snow depth because of rising temperatures around the world. Even more so, I would like to take my son skiing one day and not have to tell him that there is no longer any snow, because previous generations were too apathetic about adopting renewable energy sources.” I told everyone that “Ideally, I would like to be on a ski lift powered by renewable energy, informing my son that like his grandparents who both chose to have treatment and who both survived, that the people of our planet did the same, and as such survived.” I then finished by saying, “As a famous Australian politician once said, ‘It is time for change’.” As l once said, “If not now, when? “If not you, then who?””
What of your future, Jonathan? We understand you have been awarded a scholarship to Bond University?
Now that I have finished 14 years of schooling, I am keen to get out and explore the world. Next year, I am off to Scotland on a gap year to work in a school just outside of Edinburgh, called Loretto. I leave early January and return late December 2012. While over there, when not working at the school, I plan to visit Central and Western Europe, go skiing and join a hockey team in Edinburgh. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to Bond University on the Gold Coast. Due to my gap year, I will defer the scholarship until 2013. While at Bond, I plan to Study a Bachelor of Business. In doing this, if possible, I would like to take on some units in the area of Environmental Sustainability. After graduating at the end 2014, I will just wait and see what happens. Ideally I would like to try and move the business world towards adopting more environmentally sustainable practices.
Good luck with your future Jonathan; we’re sure we will hear more of you.