Dieufort Deslorges, ASPnet National Coordinator of Haiti, at the International Seminar on Climate Change Education in Paris, July 2009
“In addressing climate change, the actions of individual students can mobilize the whole community”
Climate change is a truly global challenge. It will impact all ecosystems and human societies.
Addressing climate change requires involvement and action at local, regional and global level. Mr Dieufort Deslorges, national coordinator of the UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet) in Haiti, who attended the International Seminar on Climate Change Education at UNESCO, Paris, 27-29 July, 2009, explains how ASPnet students in his country have taken action.
How is your own country affected by climate change?
Haiti is touched at two levels. First, tropical cyclones are getting more and more frequent. While cyclones normally hit Haiti every two years, last year we experienced four serious cyclones within two weeks. At the same time, deforestation is advancing at a rapid pace: people use more wood, and there is no reforestation. As a consequence, one of the biggest cities in Haiti was completely flooded twice within four years, and inhabitants from two other cities had to be relocated.
Can education mitigate or at least decrease the effects of climate change?
Yes, it definitely can! Since 2007, the Haitian National Commission for UNESCO has been working very closely on this issue. The UNESCO Associated Schools network plays a central role in pilot-testing pedagogical material related to education for sustainable development, including climate change education. In addition, we encourage extracurricular activities on climate change education. One of our main tasks is to sensitize all actors involved in education to climate change: school principals, students, teachers and the communities themselves.
Which activity of the UNESCO Associated Schools could be considered a good practice?
Our most visible activity is our National Youth Rally. It all started with a student committee that wanted to organise a common activity among all ASPnet students and teachers of the country. In 2007, students set off for the first rally. In 2009, ASPnet and non-ASPnet students as well as teachers from the whole country repeated the idea. They visited two cities devastated by floods. The pine forest that surrounded them had been seriously deforested by human activity. The participants started planting trees, and not only involved teachers and parents, but the local communities.
What is the way forward?
The students participating in the rallies have now taken the responsibility of replanting trees every year. This is a great example of the multiplier effect of ASPnet: a local initiative started with a small number of ASPnet students and managed to include students and communities from all over the country!
What do you expect and hope for from the International Seminar on Climate Change Education?
Our National Commission is interested in sharing the experiences of other countries and in adapting existing pedagogical materials to our local context. We are also looking for the best strategy to include local and national authorities, governmental and private partners to mobilize for climate change education. We can always learn from others and improve our activities.
The interview was conducted by U. Storost, ASPnet International Coordination Team, UNESCO, Paris