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Climate action through sport

Copyrights: Jadir Taekwondo Association

Climate action through sport

At the Jadir Taekwondo Association, children are engaged with the pressing issues of climate change and encouraged to take action through their Taekwondo activities.

Clutched tightly in the hands of young children at Jadir Taekwondo Association (AJTKD) are bright ideas. Bright ideas that start off as a dim light in each child’s hand travel around a classroom, gravitating towards other dim lights that spark and grow brighter as they connect. Soon, an entire classroom is glowing bright. 

At AJTKD, young students immersed themselves in education about climate change that sparked new ideas and solutions to the biggest crisis humankind is facing. AJTKD’s environmental education team, led by Myrka Suarez and supported by Nathalia das Chagas, Dhiraj Khanabadoshi, and Maria Garcia, taught AJTKD’s students about climate change and specifically the impact on the Amazon rainforest.

The students were separated into two groups: children and adolescents. The younger group were given cards illustrated each with a unique image which included water, trees, cars, forest fires, smartphones, and more. Each child was then encouraged to engage with their peers, reveal their cards to each other, and group with other children whose cards were relevant to their own. From there on, the students developed their own ideas on how different things affected the environment and created their own unique solutions on how to “fix” the consequences.

Meanwhile, the older group engaged in hands-on scientific experiments about erosion and were educated on the issue of deforestation. As the students discussed with one another, ideas bounced off each child, inspiring ideas, and sparking new ideas to solutions to climate change issues.

The environmental team shared some thoughts on AJTKD’s activities and climate change.

Why do you think climate change education is essential, particularly for young children?

Myrka: I believe that climate change education is essential in early childhood because that’s when we learn to create habits and our mindset. Climate action is constant, nothing to do only once. The sooner we teach (and learn) about climate action, the easier it is to learn about the importance of the environment and which actions to take. 

Nathalia: Although we have access to much information nowadays, many people deny climate change. Children need to understand that our way of life affects the world and that we are responsible for most environmental problems that we are facing today. Also, our activities here can affect other countries and their way of living. If we teach it to them today, we are helping the next generation. 

Dhiraj: Climate change is no more a fancy term. With rapidly changing patterns of the climate, the concern is growing for a stable environment. No mission can be successful without the involvement of the young generation, they are the future catalyst of change. Young children are the foundation for decades to come and if we are to tackle climate change optimistically, they are the future pathfinders. 

How do you suggest we educate others on the topic of climate change?

Myrka: I think we need to be compassionate and understand that not everyone has the same opportunities we have to take climate action. We can all do a little bit but we cannot be perfect environmentalists. I believe in education but also in inspiration! In this sense, leading by example and inspiring others to do the same is key for climate action.

Nathalia: It’s important to adjust our communication to fit exactly the community we aim to educate. More than that, it’s crucial to understand that we cannot blame people for their daily choices, but that we can offer more sustainable options.

Dhiraj: It is not an easy question to answer in a few paragraphs as it covers various dimensions. In my personal opinion, a simple answer would be - through short-term impact-driven programs. People are not interested in long lectures (even though they are meaningful). People behave as if they don’t have time for such meaningful issues. The irony is they are running for a world which will not exist if they don’t stop, ponder and educate themselves on the grave issue of climate change. 

What was your favorite part (or most memorable moment) about these activities?

Myrka: Definitely the meetings with my volunteer colleagues. Dhiraj, Nathalia, and Maria are great and full of energy. Every meeting with them is a pleasure. One day I hope I can join them on the dojang.

Nathalia: Many children, before having a guess, sought the opinion of a friend. Then they told me their ideas. It was interesting and sweet to see them share their suggestions.

Dhiraj: Firstly, being a part of this organization gives immense satisfaction as I realize how relentlessly members are preparing a young generation for building a sustainable society. We are not always full of ideas, but when we discuss, new ideas pop up to bring a smile to our faces. Once an idea pops up (even in its crudest form), half of the work is done.

Why are you particularly interested in the topic of climate change?

Myrka: I have been passionate about the environment since I was a teenager, which is why I studied biotechnology and focused on environmental remediation. I am currently doing a Masters in Environmental Sciences

Nathalia: As an environmental engineer, it’s my responsibility to educate others on this matter. By doing so, I’m also able to understand their point of view and their own social/personal issues. After that, I can do my suggestions by adjusting to their reality.

Dhiraj: My interest in climate change goes back to my childhood. I didn’t have any exposure to climate change education (because of my limited resources and economic background). I lived more than two decades of my life in a clay and bamboo house with lots of surrounding trees. I came to know about air pollution in my primary classes. From that time onwards, daily practices around me used to make me worried about the future. Gradually, I got to know more about climate change. I am very particular about contributing to climate change at a minimal level. I never bought a motorcycle or car, I am more into bicycles. You can call it a vow that I made to myself. Many find these things very idealistic and painstaking, but for me, these are simple practices and believe me, simple acts matter. I personally believe learning and change is a continuous process and we have to learn, unlearn, and relearn in order to lead a sustainable life and therefore a sustainable society. 

Do you think there’s a limit to spreading awareness and educating people in terms of producing tangible change? If you believe there is a limit, how do you think we can get people to take action?

Myrka: I do not believe that there is a limit because there is always something new to learn, and everyday around the world, there are new solutions and ideas to try. However, education and action need to go hand in hand. Our future is in our hands and the actions we are willing to take.

Nathalia: Yes, we need to be serious about this issue. Our actions are important and we need to put effort into this. If everybody contributes a little, we can change an entire situation. Most of all, it's important that we make sustainable choices daily, giving priority to companies that share a green point of view and that take action on this subject. Also, it must be something that is always in discussion, so we don't end up postponing and giving little attention, since it's an urgent problem that can affect our future.

Dhiraj: It will not be wrong if I say there’s a limit to spreading awareness and educating people in terms of producing tangible real change. It is this limitation that would compel us to brainstorm new ideas to make people take action. I would say we need to take joint actions and initiatives through various drivers of change such as the government, NGOs, community workers, media, experts from disciplines like C4D, and research and development in changing people’s perspectives on climate change and its impact both on a micro and macro level.

Myrka, Nathalia, and Dhiraj are volunteers from Netherlands, India, and Brazil, who each bring their unique experiences to AJTKD’s youth. Their role at AJTKD is clear. They foster enriching environments for youth to create new solutions to climate change and facilitate collaboration to grow these ideas. At AJTKD, leaders nurture the small dim light of ideas to grow into larger, brighter ideas. Eventually, these bright lights will lead humankind to a more sustainable home. 

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