Climate Justice and Carbon Neutral Schools: A Perspective from the European Periphery (Lesvos, Greece)

In the heart of the Aegean Sea lies Lesvos, a remote and rural island known for its rich cultural history and breathtaking landscapes. However, behind this idyllic façade lies a region grappling with numerous challenges, including aged and declining school infrastructure, economic hardship, and the repercussions of the ongoing refugee crisis. These challenges make Lesvos a focal point for examining climate justice and the pursuit of carbon-neutral schools. Our Learning Venture (LV) has chosen to address these critical issues, recognizing their profound impact on education and the community’s future.

Why Focus on Climate Justice and Carbon Neutral Schools?

Climate justice is not merely an environmental issue but a matter of social equity. It ensures that those most affected by climate change—often the least responsible for it—receive the support they need to adapt and thrive. Lesvos, one of the three most impoverished regions in Greece, exemplifies this principle. The island faces significant climate change impacts, from rising temperatures to increased frequency of extreme weather events, which exacerbate existing socio-economic vulnerabilities.

Education is a powerful tool in the fight for climate justice. Schools can become centers of sustainability, not only teaching students about environmental stewardship but also embodying these principles through their operations. By transforming schools into carbon-neutral havens, we can provide students with a healthier learning environment and instill in them the values and skills needed for a sustainable future.

The Role of Education in Addressing Local Challenges

Lesvos’s schools are struggling with outdated facilities, inadequate resources, and a lack of support to address the influx of refugee students. These issues are compounded by the island’s geographic remoteness and economic difficulties. Our LV aims to tackle these challenges by fostering a bottom-up, youth-driven approach to sustainability education. This involves:

  1. Empowering Students and Educators: We start by partnering with schools, involving students, educators, and administrators in co-designing sustainability programs. This ensures the relevance and feasibility of the initiatives, making everyone feel valued and invested in the process.
  2. Promoting Collaborative Competences: By equipping the school community with collaborative skills, we enable them to work together towards shared sustainability goals. This collaboration extends beyond the school walls, engaging local communities, businesses, and policymakers.
  3. Utilizing Theatre as a Medium for Engagement: Theatre has a deep-rooted tradition in Greece and serves as an effective tool for engaging students and communities. Through plays that address themes of sustainability and social justice, we create an emotional and intellectual connection that drives home the importance of climate action.

Climate Justice in Practice: The Lesvos Example

Lesvos has been at the epicenter of the EU refugee crisis since 2015, significantly impacting its educational infrastructure. The arrival of refugees has brought a new influx of students, further straining already limited resources. Moreover, the island’s exposure to climate change makes sustainability education crucial. Against this backdrop, our LV is implementing localized solutions to create carbon-neutral schools.

We address the shared challenges faced by formal and non-formal learning environments, focusing on revitalizing decayed infrastructure and enhancing educational capacity. Our approach is holistic, integrating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the curriculum and promoting solution-based learning. By engaging students in hands-on projects that address real-world challenges, we empower them to become advocates for climate justice in their communities.

Looking Ahead: A Call to Action

Our efforts in Lesvos are just the beginning. By sharing our experiences and insights, we hope to inspire other regions facing similar challenges to adopt and adapt our model. We invite future LV members, the Open Schooling community, and the Science Education x Climate Change community to join us in this journey. Together, we can create a network of carbon-neutral schools that champion climate justice and sustainable development.

For those interested in learning more about our work or collaborating with us, please visit our project website. Let us unite our efforts to build a more equitable and sustainable future for all.