I am sending this to my colleagues at the school I work at, today, in the emotional heat of organising and participating in what are often very worthwhile events and activities, it is too easy to forget that whatever we do has consequences. By the way, WWW means ‘what went well’ and EBI means ‘even better if’, used in our school evaluations with students.
“If you are planning a balloon release, for whatever reason, please watch the linked video [https://www.facebook.com/BalloonsBlow/videos/1074667645876949/] . This sort of activity is contributing to significant harm, both on land, to domesticated and wild animals, and particularly at sea, where many more balloons than people realise end up, adding to the growing and severe problem of plastics and other similar man-made detritus in the oceans. Even genuinely “biodegradable” balloons do a lot of harm to livestock and birds etc before they eventually break down, as shown in the video.
I request that we choose instead activities that at least minimise harm, such as releasing hydrogen-filled soap-bubbles [helium is a finite resource] or that bring actual longer term benefits to our environment and community. This would be more in keeping with our purpose as a school.
Perhaps in this context our evaluation could then read something like this:
WWW: we showed the children how to commemorate/celebrate without causing pollution and harm, we released bubbles….
EBI: we will show the children how to commemorate / celebrate by adding something lasting and beautiful to the area, we plan next time to plant trees.
That was a year ago. A few staff emailed me back with supportive comments. The staff who planned to release balloons did so anyway. There was no discussion of the issue that I was aware of and no response from the Head. I was not surprised, except perhaps in getting any kind of response at all.
I continue to see what should be shocking levels of ignorance, thoughtlessness and wasteful behaviours among teaching staff and management levels in schools and I do what I can in my role as a technician to avoid or mitigate this. There are some who are the opposite, of course, but they seem rarely to get into positions of real influence or get disillusioned and leave the profession.
I try not to let these experiences make me cynical, even if my circle of influence shrinks to my own arms’ reach, I can do things differently in my own space. It does however weaken my motivation and sense of loyalty to organisations and people whose declared purpose I believe in passionately, when I see them behaving in ways that run counter to that. Dis-illusion perhaps, seeing things as they are…? I want to use that as the basis for more effective action, a work in progress.