Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

What would our kids think?

By Arron Wood - posted Thursday, 1 March 2012

Children comprise twenty per cent of the population, but are one hundred percent of our future. From my work involving 55,000 students and teachers across Australia I also know that young people have so much to offer right now when it comes to solving environmental issues.

However, I wonder what our children must be thinking and feeling as adults squabble and bicker. Children in the classroom displaying the same behaviour as we've been subjected to by our senior politicians over the last weeks, if not months or even years in Question Time, would be standing in the naughty corner and enlisted in programs to make them play nice.

When I spent time with the United Nations in New York a study was released announcing 'One in five children already has a psychological disorder and by 2020 mental illness will be one of the top five causes of death or disability in the young'. This is backed with stats of 1 in 4 Australians suffering depression during their life time, kids as young as five being diagnosed with clinical depression, 25% of people in our jails mentally ill and surveys rating mental illness as one of the top causes of missed worked days for the Australian workforce. And yet against all this, my experience of kids engaged in environment work tells such a different story.


12 years and over 2600 workshops with kids teaching kids on energy, water, waste, biodiversity and climate change has resulted in 100's of on-ground projects with communities across Australia coming together around an issue that unites us all – the environment. However, while the kids remain optimistic and active, the complex negotiations going on globally, the pronouncements by the uninformed, the many different levels of understanding and vested interests in the status quo make me less so.

I can't help asking, at a time when the country's attention has been so focused on leadership, 'Who can lead us?' There are 7 billion people in the world today, of that, 1 billion own 80% of wealth; 2 billion people have no access to clean water, there is a massive and growing gap between rich and poor and we are all facing an uncertain climate future. In spite of this house sizes in Australia have doubled in the last thirty years and we're consuming more resources and energy than ever before. Let's not lose sight of the fact that it doesn't matter how well we do in education or business, without a sustainable and healthy environment we are all diminished.

The thing that saddens me most is that we have so many of the answers. We have ordinary homes that use 90% less water and power than the average home, we have modern irrigation techniques that allow enough for agriculture and the environment, we have some of the best scientists and technologies in the world, we have cars that can run on green electricity - my hometown of Mildura sees the sun as a huge industry for them in the future.

It sounds a bit clichéd, but I am deeply proud to be an Australian. To see our farmers battling Coal Seam Gas companies for the right to keep providing our food, to see the big end of town's response to asking them to pay for the privilege of digging up the rocks that belong to every Australian, and on top of all this go through the last week or so of our political leaders intently focused on arguing among themselves leaves many of us asking where is the grand vision and leadership our kids deserve?

The world obviously needs more leaders that have a social conscience and an innate sense of responsibility for the future of life on this planet. Leaders that are selfless and beyond the machinations of party politics who lead for the long term. Education and schools offer a very powerful opportunity to reinstate positive sustainability and community values and can be the catalyst for environmental and social understanding and action in our communities, but they can't do it alone.

It was the coming together of the National Farmers Federation through Rick Farley and the Australian Conservation Foundation through Philip Toyne all those years ago that gave rise to our hugely successful Landcare movement. Back then they were two seemingly unlikely partners, but these men encouraged their constituents to put aside their differences for the greater good and long-term prosperity of our country. Ultimately whether we are teachers, bankers, miners, nurses or even politicians we must all seek a sustainable future -we all need fresh water to drink, clean air to breathe and food to sustain us.


If we want leadership then we must provide students with the necessary social, academic, emotional and practical skills to cope in our increasingly complex society, but we must also embody the values we wish to see. Above all every student needs the motivation to learn and the capacity to take that learning through to action. Hope and a belief in a bright and compelling future is a very big part in keeping young people motivated to want to do more, to learn more.

They deserve leadership that is about action and inspiration. I've seen the kids that come out of environmental work of many kinds – they are resilient, optimistic, have a sense of future, are capable public speakers and can communicate ideas in many different forms. If the only outcome is that these young people can cope with the ups and downs of life then that is an amazing gift.

So perhaps we should ask our son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandchild what they think of the current vision for Australia? What they think of the people taking care of their future? And when our kids tell us they are worried, I challenge politicians and business leaders to put differences aside, to shelve selfish personal ambition and work hard for a brighter future for our great nation and our kids.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

5 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

2007 Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year Award winner Arron Wood was awarded a Churchill Fellowship taking him to New York and Geneva working with the United Nations. As winner of the United Nations Individual Award for Outstanding Service to the Environment Arron was also the 2001 Young Australian of the Year (National Environment Winner) and is currently the youngest Board Member of the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA. He has a communication and education consultancy business driven by his strong interest in getting the community involved in the environment. Arron initiated and now runs the highly successful International River Health Conference for students from around the world. Arron received The Centenary Medal for outstanding contribution to conservation and the environment, awarded by the Governor-General in 2003 and the prestigious Melbourne Award for Contribution to the Environment. Arron was selected to complete the Al Gore Climate Change Leadership Program and he is a Clean Up the World Ambassador and Clean Up Australia Board Member. His first book Inspiring the Next Young Environmental Leader has already sold 5,000 copies.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Arron Wood

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Arron Wood
Article Tools
Comment 5 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy