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Finland innovates with digital ‘climate game’ to focus youth on the planet

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Photo © Youth Academy

An exciting digital game which sends a young person into the year 2044 via a time machine to solve climate change challenges is one of the ways Finland is engaging youth in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

The game “Possible World” is the newest element in the Ilmari Project, a cooperation founded in 2003 by Youth Academy (link is external), a non-profit organization building links between young people and society, and three environmental organizations, Dodo, Friends of the Earth Finland and Finnish Nature League.

The Ilmari Project supports young people’s own projects on a range of topics by providing tools and training for adults who work with them. Its main aims are to encourage youth to make sustainable choices in their daily lives and to collectively take climate action.

Their climate change programme is implemented through themed school visits for upper elementary schools all over Finland. The project trains young climate change ambassadors, typically university students, to go into classrooms to conduct visits and 90-minute workshops to engage schoolchildren on climate education and sustainability. It also develops tools for teachers´ use such as the interactive climate game, runs a climate internship programme and organizes an annual Youth Climate Summit.

Maija Vuorjoki, Project Manager at Youth Academy, who has been instrumental in developing the climate change game, said: “In Finland young people understand about environmental challenges. But we want to show them it can go way beyond switching off lights to organizing collective action around worldwide projects.

“We really feel that our work is like sowing seeds and we are hoping that many will flower. As the biggest climate education organization in the country, the main arm of our work has been classroom workshops, but we are getting very good feedback from the game which combines science and storytelling. We chose students to actually build the game and it was also developed to offer a way for schools outside the big cities to engage youth.”

Since its inception, the project has reached over 60 000 pupils and 2000 teachers and the Youth Academy has trained 450 young ambassadors to visit schools and conduct climate change lessons along with creating a wide range of climate education teaching materials. Youth Climate Summits have been held annually since 2013 and each event has drawn 100 participating pupils and 30 teachers to create and plan a climate project for their schools.

The Climate Internship project runs in 6 cities and 17 working places (organizations, enterprises, community offices) placing youth aged 13-16 years as interns. The interns have a digital platform with climate-orientated tasks and their training involves working with ‘climate glasses’ on. They first research how the enterprise is already reducing its ecological footprint and find out what could be done better. In the process they may interview people about how different types of work affect climate change and how that could be mitigated or simply observe different aspects of the workplace.

Another side project of Ilmari is a website, the Teachers’ Climate Guide (link is external), specially designed to offer climate change information tailormade for each subject on the Finnish curriculum. Long-term Ilmari volunteer Pinja Sipari has been instrumental in developing the site.

“This is the result of input from over 100 environmental and education professionals and although it was created for the Finnish curriculum it can be easily adapted to other countries’ needs,” she said.

“Some schools still see climate change as a natural science phenomenon and we have to tell young people that it is also a ‘people problem’ and explain the global causes and consequences.”

Finland is further innovating in Education for Sustainable Development in its exploration of feelings and emotions surrounding climate and environmental change.

“The current debate in this country is how we should express and process the grief, anxiety and guilt we may feel about what is happening to the planet before moving on to act positively,” said Pinja who is teaching teachers how to talk about such feelings themselves and with their students.

“Young people, and indeed their teachers, are not usually given the space or possibility to describe how they feel about global challenges. We are exploring how to provide that,” she said.

For the future, Project Coordinator Maija hopes not only to scale-up the school programme but to conduct further and more extensive feedback from teachers and students which will allow further refining of what they offer. All that depends on further funding.

In the immediate future there are plans to continue developing the digital game and training teachers to use it as a part of their work.  There are also plans to create new participative climate project workshops for schools (from primary to high schools/ vocational schools) and share good practices internationally

UNESCO

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Human Rights

UN Security Council demands COVID-19 vaccine ceasefires

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(file photo) World Bank/Vincent Tremeau

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously passed a resolution calling on all Member States to support a “sustained humanitarian pause” to local conflicts, in order to allow for COVID-19 vaccinations. Briefing journalists afterwards, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus argued that more could be done. 

While welcoming the historic resolution and upholding the importance of vaccine equity, he said that “concrete steps should be taken” to waive intellectual property rights to increase vaccine production “and get rid of this virus as soon as possible”. 

“The virus has taken the whole world hostage”, Tedros said. “The UN Security Council can do it, if there is political will”. 

The Council resolution calls for review of specific cases raised by the UN, where access to vaccinations is being hampered and to “consider what further measures may be necessary to ensure such impediments are removed and hostilities paused.” 

Vaccine deliveries 

Tedros noted that Côte d’Ivoire had received its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with more to be shipped to other countries in the days and weeks ahead – with the goal of getting vaccination underway in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. 

Crediting the UN-led vaccine initiative COVAX, he said that fragile progress has been made, but that vaccine supplies and distributions must be accelerated. 

However, he warned against bilateral deals with manufacturers producing vaccines that COVAX is counting on. 

“I understand full well that all governments have an obligation to protect their own people. But the best way to do that is by suppressing the virus everywhere at the same time”, underscored the WHO chief. 

“Now is the time to use every tool to scale up production, including licensing and technology transfer, and where necessary, intellectual property waivers. If not now, then when?”, he added. 

Yemen: ‘Opportunity for peace’ 

In a bid for more funding, the WHO chief said that Yemen remained the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with more than 20 million people desperately needing assistance. Some five million are at risk of famine, while half a million children under-five risk death without urgent treatment and the continuing spectre of COVID-19. 

This current crisis comes at a time, after years of conflict, when there is now a real opportunity for peace in Yemen. We have to act on it”, he said, urging donors to generously support the 2021 Response Plan for $3.85 billion during a High-Level Pledging Event next Monday. 

Strategic Preparedness  

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, WHO officially launched its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) for 2021.  

It builds on achievements, focuses on new challenges, such as mitigating risks related to new variants, and considers the road towards the safe, equitable and effective delivery of diagnostics and vaccines as part of the overall strategy to successfully tackle the pandemic, according to the WHO chief. 

“The 2021 SPRP outlines how WHO will support countries in meeting these objectives, and the resources we need to do it”, he said.   

Proud son of Ethiopia  

During a separate ceremony, Tedros said he was “deeply humbled” to receive the African Person of the Year award.  

“I do not accept this award only on my own behalf, but on behalf of my colleagues at WHO, who work every day, sometimes in difficult and dangerous situations, to protect and promote the health of Africa’s people, and the world’s”, he said.

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Health & Wellness

Over 500,000 people have been inoculated against COVID-19 in Moscow

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The number of people who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Moscow has reached half a million, and over 500,000 of them have already received their first jab. Every day between 12,000 and 20,000 residents of the city sign up for vaccination.

Vaccines are being administered in 100 vaccination points in city polyclinics and 20 popular public places, where mobile teams have been deployed. The list of categories of citizens entitled to vaccination is constantly expanding and the city’s vaccination campaign is picking up pace.

The list of categories of citizens prioritized for vaccination also includes Muscovites over the age of 60 years old (who form the largest risk group and are most vulnerable to COVID-19). More than 9,000 residents of 33 retirement homes have already been vaccinated. In addition, vaccination is recommended for people with chronic diseases who need to stay at home, as well as college and university students over 18 years of age.

A convenient online vaccination appointments system has been set up specially for Muscovites in the mos.ru portal. It can be accessed by going to ‘Doctor’s Appointment’ in the list of services and selecting ‘Vaccination Against COVID-19’.

In addition, vaccine appointments can be made via the My Moscow mobile app, the Moscow Gosuslugi government services website and the emais.info medical services portal, as well as by calling a vaccination center. The vaccine is administered in two doses, with appointments for the second injection being made automatically.

Many large employers are requesting on-site vaccination of their staff, and this network will be gradually expanded. Naturally, the throughput capacity of such organizations and, most importantly, the employers’ wishes are being taken into account.

Detailed information on the vaccination program has also been posted in the portal’s special project.

The Sputnik V vaccine consists of two components requiring two injections, and provides a reliable immune response. Volunteers will first be injected with the first component of the vaccine, with a second vaccination following 21 days later. Only the first appointment needs to be booked, as the doctor will arrange the patient’s second visit on the day of their first vaccination. To ensure that people do not forget about their re-vaccination, they will receive an SMS message the day before it, reminding them of the date, time and clinic they need to attend.

The vaccination process takes at least an hour, including a 10-minute examination by a doctor before the vaccination and 15 minutes spent preparing the vaccine, which is stored in frozen state (with five doses in one vial) and thawed for five patients at once when they have been examined. Post-vaccination observation and examination take a further 30 minutes. Each patient receives a certificate recording the two injections and confirming that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The vaccine was produced using a biotechnological process based on the most modern technological platform created by Russian scientists. It is safe because it does not contain the coronavirus. It is based on special structures (carrier vectors) created in the laboratory that contain only a part of the virus gene. Upon encountering the vaccine, the human immune system produces protective antibodies.

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Human Rights

Belarus human rights situation deteriorating further

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Large crowds have demonstrated their anger at the results of the presidential election in Belarus. Photo: Kseniya Halubovich

A “systematic crackdown” against dissent in Belarus is continuing, months since the country’s disputed presidential election last year, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has told the Human Rights Council.

In comments to the Geneva forum on Thursday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that curbs on demonstrators had got worse since last August’s poll returned President Alexander Lukashenko to office.

Those protests had led to “mass arbitrary arrests and detentions” of largely peaceful demonstrators, along with “hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment”, Ms. Bachelet said, before noting that “not one of the hundreds of complaints for acts of torture and ill-treatment” had been investigated.

The High Commissioner highlighted concerns about Government proposals which would reportedly “enable harsher punishments” for those taking part in peaceful demonstrations from now on.

To date, nearly 250 people have received prison sentences on allegedly politically-motivated charges context of the 2020 presidential election, Ms. Bachelet said.

‘Unprecedented’ human rights crisis

The OHCHR report “covers serious violations” of rights between 1 May and 20 December last year. “The events that unfolded before and immediately after the election have led to a human rights crisis of unprecedented dimension in the country”, added Ms. Bachelet.

All of the violations detailed “committed with impunity, created an atmosphere of fear”, she said, noting the further deterioration since December.

She said journalists were being increasingly targeted, “and human rights defenders both institutionally and individually. Just last week, large-scale searches of human rights defenders, journalists, and organizations such as the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Viasna (A Minsk-based human rights centre) were conducted, reportedly in connection with criminal investigations for ‘mass disorder’”.

Release innocent protesters

She told the Council it was “essential for the future of the country that respect for human rights, and the broadest possible civic space, be established. All those who have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights should be released.”

The rights chief called for “thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations” into all the allegations of serious violations, with perpetrators being brought to justice, as well as an “immediate end” to the Government policy of harassment and intimidation of civil society and media workers.

“I further recommend comprehensive reform of the national legal framework”, she concluded. “Our report includes specific recommendations, which address key systemic issues, including with respect to fair trials, due process and the independence of the judiciary.”

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