I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may you bring in the new year with joy and peace. May the holidays also offer you all the opportunity to recharge, rejuvenate and spend quality time with loved ones.
Happy Holidays everyone!
Head of School
I would like to wish all our students, families and staff a happy Term III holiday break! Best of luck to our Year 12s as they undertake their final preparations for the HSC examinations.
I look forward to seeing you all refreshed and recharged for Term IV.
Head of School
I have had a number of comments and responses to my Behind the Green Gate article of a couple of weeks ago about the School Strike 4 Climate which is happening on Friday. I do thank all of the parents who wrote to me – some thinking that I had made the wrong decision, and others who agreed with or supported my stance.
I also received a letter which was signed by a very large number of (mostly) younger Old Girls, encouraging me to take a different position.
I met with two of the SCEGGS Alumni who were signatories to that letter – Olivia Schmidt and Stella Maynard. They are two of the most impressive young adults you could ever wish to meet. They were thoughtful, considered, intelligent, well-informed. They were also so empathic – wanting to demonstrate solidarity with students at SCEGGS who are rightly expressing significant concern, anxiety and sometimes despair surrounding climate change, but also demonstrating empathy to me, understanding the complexities of my position and wanting to listen, understand and engage with me on my concerns and hesitancies. I couldn’t be prouder of those two and would hold them up as beacons of all I want our young people to be!
I have been somewhat swayed by them both! I have already articulated my beliefs around Climate Science, and I repeat it here for clarity:
As I said last time, I believe the scientific evidence which tells us that the currently observed Climate Change is real and anthropogenic, and that the impact of human life on our world is significant. I believe that Governments should be doing far more long term thinking and specifically much more than they are doing currently about Climate Change, to protect the future health and sustainability of our planet.
I asked my Scientist friend (Prof Tony Haymet, Distinguished Professor and Director & Vice-Chancellor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California) about how to think of this. Here is what he said:
Yes, things are looking very bad for planet earth. Most of the heat caused by burning of fossil fuels has gone into the ocean (93%), causing sea-level rise, changes to fisheries and ecosystems, changing ocean currents, and changes to rainfall for almost all our farmers. Air temperatures are rising inexorably. Glaciers currently on land are melting, adding even more to sea-level rise. It’s bad. When I visited Bangladesh twice earlier in 2019, I felt famine was just around the corner.
Fortunately, we know EXACTLY what is causing this. It is not natural. It is 100% caused by humans emitting extra Greenhouse gases (GHG). What we have done in 150 years, we can undo, although simple chemical kinetics tells us it will take much much longer in the reverse direction than in the forward direction. Up to 2000 years according to Susan Solomon at MIT.
More good news: we know how to produce all the electricity we need without making more GHG. For example, California will do that by 2030, possibly sooner. In transport, we can use electric small cars, or hydrogen power small cars, all running on pollution free fuel. For trucks and construction equipment, we have more research to do. But no-one in my world is daunted.
For aeroplanes and big ships we need to manufacture liquid fuel which uses up as much GHG in its manufacture as it emits. We can already do that with fuel produced with algae. Aeroplanes have flown on algae fuel. The US Navy has green ships.
We need to reduce GHG pollution from agriculture. We have more work to do, but there are plenty of young scientists and farmers stepping up to the challenge.
Probably we will overshoot the “sustainable” amount of GHG in our atmosphere. So we need to actually remove some. Again, we have not perfected that technology yet, but there are great ideas out there, and pilot plants in operation. Sweden for example has CO2 removal built into its GHG legislation.
So what’s the problem? The problem is politicians, and vested interests who have been allowed to pollute “for free” since the industrial revolution, clinging onto their historical, mistakenly-granted privilege.
So what do we need? We need more young, ethical, well-educated scientists & engineers, farmers, economists and politicians. We need great teachers to educate not just this generation but the next and the next and the next until we have recovered from this global pollution overload.
I am not yet convinced that time off school to protest is more important or significant than doing a whole range of other things – some local action, some global movements (but in a student’s own time!). But it is a moot point anyway – you don’t get permission to strike either! So if parents give written permission for the girls to go to the strike, they will be marked Absent without Leave, but they won’t be punished, or “thought badly of”, and no negative consequences will flow in any way. I have been persuaded that this is a “unique and significant moment in international public advocacy about the future of the planet”.
As always, please let me know your thoughts and ideas about all this.
Head of School
Message to all in the SCEGGS Community
There has been some media coverage about the Bill in the Senate to remove exemptions from the Discrimination Act and the Fair Work Act for schools on the basis of their religious affiliations and beliefs. There is also attention on a quite different debate – consideration in the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney about the use of church property for a range of activities.
I think it is important to let you know what I think are the implications of these things for SCEGGS. I want to make it clear first of all, that I don’t want SCEGGS to have any exemption from any Discrimination Act or the Fair Work Act based on our religion. I believe that all people are made in God’s image and are loved by God, regardless of their sexuality and identity. SCEGGS welcomes all - regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or religion.
SCEGGS is operated by a company, SCEGGS Darlinghurst Limited. We are, however, proudly an Anglican School, and we have always had excellent relationships with the Diocese of Sydney. I expect that to continue. The Anglican Church is, and has always been, a broad Church, and there is a great diversity of views within it. I expect that we will be able to negotiate any issues with the same sensitivity and strength we have shown when controversial issues have been raised in the past. SCEGGS has always demonstrated an ethos which includes acceptance, respect, love, inclusivity, social justice, equal rights, courage.... We will continue to do so.
I know that we have students, staff, parents, and alumni who are members of the LGBTIQ community. Who they choose as their life partner, who they fall in love with, is a matter for them. They are warmly welcome at SCEGGS. I know we have students who are dealing with issues relating to their gender identity. They will be loved and supported. And I know there will be others in our community who view this differently – coming from a different interpretation of the Scriptures, a more traditional, evangelical outlook. We acknowledge and value their beliefs too. And of course, there are those within our community who are still trying to work out these sorts of issues for themselves! To everyone in the school community, we offer our hand in friendship. We will continue to encourage and support students who want to examine controversial questions, and to take a stand on important current issues. We will continue to encourage our girls to talk, to listen, and to learn from each other, to come to a greater understanding on the whole range of complex issues raised in the evolving society of today. We will continue to maintain our ethos of open-mindedness and inclusivity.