By 1979, I had travelled to Australia and lived in Paris, teaching English firstly to ‘migrants’ in Sydney, and then to executives and businessmen in Paris.
I had thought that the TEFL qualification I had received from International House in London, shortly after my son’s birth in 1973, was to be only a temporary measure, to be used abroad.
But, when I decided to settle in Brighton, I found that there were many language schools here, looking for teachers. The hours and holidays fitted in perfectly with my son’s schooling.
During this time, I had joined both ‘Friends of the Earth’ and ‘Greenpeace’, both founded in 1969, and my interest in environmental matters was stronger than ever. I am a member of both to this day.
The students I taught were a mixed bag : lots of Swiss-Germans, a handful of Japanese and Brazilians, students from Saudi Arabia, Libya and the Yemen, and many Iranians ( however,they all vanished after the 1979 Revolution, and many language schools closed as a result ).
It was to these students and in these schools that I began to teach these young people, mostly teenagers, about ‘The Greenhouse Effect’. It was a useful teaching method and tool for discussion in class.
I would draw a pie-chart on the whiteboard showing all the factors that contributed to a rise in global temperature. I remember being fascinated to see that nearly a quarter of all emissions came from animal-created methane. Sperm-like squiggles showed CO2 going up into the atmosphere.
The students were fascinated. It was their first exposure to this phenomenon and they thanked me for telling them about it. Many would come up to me and say:’ When I go back to my country, I am going to study this subject more’. They were all concerned.
Incidentally, I would sometimes write ‘CHINA’ on the board, and suggest the possibility that China might become a super-power one day. But this was hotly contested with howls of derision. ‘No chance’, the students would say. ‘It’s never going to happen’. ‘China is communist’. ‘They have no natural resources’ Mrs Swell ( Sewell was hard for the students to pronounce).
It just shows you how wrong people can be.
As I wake daily in the early hours of the morning in a complete panic about the fate of our beautiful planet, unable to sleep, I think of the fearful legacy we have handed down to our young people. I pray that they may be able to save us, as young people have always done. I support dear Greta and all the kids on the Extinction Rebellion protests.
After all, my generation fought for civil rights and helped halt the Vietnam war.
But what is so wicked about the ‘climate change catastrophe’ facing us all is that the consequences of global warming were known for many decades before now – and NOTHING was done.
So when I witness the terrible floods and man-made drought in southern Africa, the world-wide wildfires in the Amazon, Bolivia, Peru , Australia ,California and weather events elsewhere, and especially the suffering of the poor animals and wildlife caught in this maelstrom, I break.
I am broken.