UAE pupils were given a taste of the adventurous life when explorer Robert Swan took centre stage at NYU Abu Dhabi campus this week to inspire them to make positive changes in the world.
Mr Swan was in the capital as part of a Roots & Shoots event, a programme created by Dame Jane Goodall and supported by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi aimed at encouraging children to implement practical and positive changes for people, animals and the environment.
During his speech, the 61-year-old - who is the first man to reach both North and South Poles unassisted - drew much attention to the importance of addressing climate change.
“While generations before have passed the buck, this generation simply has no choice but to deal with the problems,” Mr Swan said.
Pupils from various schools in the capital asked pertinent questions related to these difficult issues. “There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and I think they’ve gone away buzzing. It’s important we give them that positivity because no one is inspired by negative, are they?”
To date, the UAE has over 80 schools signed up to the Roots & Shoots programme. Schools and ambassadors are encouraged to champion their respective projects in their own countries and then apply the knowledge and experiences on a global scale.
Tara Golshan, Executive Direction, Education, said the programme has grown significantly in the four years it has been operational in the country. Having seen schools campaigning for issues like the reduction in plastics to building sustainable vegetable gardens in the middle of the Al Ain desert, she believes a lot more good work is yet to come.
“When someone turns around to me and says we can’t do that, it’s not possible, or there’s only one of us I just say just come out and see what some of our schools are doing in the Middle East, in conditions that are pretty difficult to do these things in.”
Another area Mr Swan hopes will gain even more traction in the region is the focus on harnessing renewable energy.
“What is great about the UAE is that they’re starting to realise that they can lead for the future,” he said.
“I think people are starting to say right, there are new forms of energy and we can provide those for the planet and the technology of those new energies will come from the UAE.”
Next month Mr Swan, together with his son Barney, will set out to conquer the South Pole.
While the trek will not be new to the explorer, the two aim to walk the 900 kilometres using renewable energy.
This has never been done before but Mr Swan hopes it will inspire the youth and their parents to do more too.
“If those two lunatics are doing that on renewable energy, what are we doing at home? We’re going to give people lots of solutions that they can undertake themselves that are convenient and easy. People need inspiring and we’re going to try our best to do just that.”
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