Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Environmental Education

Hello, this is my first time on this Blog. I have Blogged before and found it quite painless but I have never blogged for FOE. Although I have done most other things including dressing as a badger and playing the ukulele in a white coat. Apologies for all the Blogs in that first sentence. I will try to resist saying the word again.

Anyway, to business (not a toast). I wanted to say a few words about BEEP which is the mouth-sized name for The Birmingham Environmental Education Project. Which I am currently in charge of. BEEP is the education side of Birmingham FOE and is slowly taking over all the education based stuff. Assemblies in schools on recycling, environmental art workshops etc. BEEP re-launched in November 2007 with a very condensed lecture on Climate Change by myself and will be one of those names you hear more and more often over the coming months. BEEP this, BEEP that, sounds like Gordon Ramsey before the watershed.

Now the bit where we ask you to do something: BEEP is recruiting volunteer educators to conduct talks, assemblies and the like. You don't have to know much or have any experience, training and support is available. But your passion for the environment will come across loud and clear. Contact BEEP for more information at (replace AT with @). We are also looking for people who want information on the environment, either local or global. Drop me an e-mail.
And one more thing, the BEEP monthly e-newsletter will be starting in January. E-mail to sign up.
Thanks for letting me blog, sorry I let that slip out.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Lime Trees enriching our faith

Trees are beautiful, valued, sacred and necessary to the earth and to us, when we live in a city such as ours it can be even more important to value them.

To encourage such pride in our environment, our parks and our trees we held a Tree Planting Ceremony in Small Heath Park.

We braved the cold, but soon warmed up whilst planting 6 lime trees. Afterward we drank some warm spiced apple drink and listened to Muhammad Imran and Reverend Ray Gaston speak on the importance Trees have played / play in religion.

I loved being in Small Heath Park, it felt important to be there, not just because we were planting trees but to celebrate the parks and green spaces that our city does have. The Tree Officer from Birmingham City Council stressed to us that the biggest threat to these new trees is vandalism. I can only hope that the more we do in marking the significance of the trees and celebrating them that this message will spread throughout the community.

This event is part of a larger project of work focusing on supporting faith communities in the city in environmental initiatives; connecting faith and the environment. If you would like more information on this work then please contact Maud on

This day was supported by Friends of Small Heath Park, Midlands Islamic Network for the Environment, Birmingham City Council and Friends of the Earth Birmingham.

Maud Grainger
Faith and Climate Change Project Coordinator

Monday, 3 December 2007

Environmental aliens in the eyes of foreign students

When attempting to teach foreign students English in a communicative way, it is important to try to engage them with issues that really affect their lives. That means the future of the planet that they live on, surely. Well, if only it was that simple.

In my classes currently I have a lot of students from Saudi Arabia, for whom the concept of global warming is totally alien, as life could not get any hotter in their country with temperatures there in the fifties most of the time. There are also a few students from the Congo, who regularly regale the class with stories of eating monkeys and elephants as being a huge triumph for the villagers where they live and something to be proud of. Then there are the Chinese students, who are proud of their country's progress and can't wait for them to become the world's number one super power. For these people, the idea that taking a bus instead of driving a car is something that should be encouraged is bizarre.

The idea of the lessons is not to preach, but to stimulate debate that will force them to try to find ways of expressing their ideas more clearly. Of all the students we have, you would not be surprised to find out that the most environmentally aware are the Europeans. Funnily enough, from the people in my classes, it is not the Saudis (whose whole stay here is reliant on funding from their oil rich government and private companies) who are the least open to green ideas; it is the Chinese students. I have actually had a student from China saying to me in the past week that she really does not care what happens to the planet, as it won't affect her because she'll be dead by the time it has any real impact. It must be said that she was in a tiny minority, but I was still shocked.

The most common complaint we have from our students about life in Birmingham is that the public transport is awful and they waste huge amounts of time waiting for buses on which they feel unsafe when they do finally come. Yet the concept of public transport barely exists in Saudi Arabia and the students from the Middle East are actually impressed by the fact that life is possible without a car. In fact, a lot of them are very open to the ideas about trying to build a more sustainable lifestyle where car use is minimised, even though petrol costs about 1p a litre in their country. Congestion is a problem everywhere and almost everyone all over the world is desperate for a way to escape the jams and regain the time spent sitting in their cars for something more worthwhile.

If only we had a public transport system to be proud of in this city to inspire them, it would make for lessons less interesting for me, in terms of hearing about their nightmare journeys, but it would give them something to take back and say: “that is what we should be doing”. Let's hope that this can be achieved some time soon.

Joe Peacock