Christine Stayte, a passionate environmentalist
An inspiring interview made by Estefanía, that shows us more in depth Miss Christine’s sustainable lifestyle and her inspiration behind ESD.
- Since when and how did your interest in taking care of the environment began?
I belonged to quite a conservative family and I was growing up in a small country town. It belonged to a very famous Australian island called Fraser Island, which is an amazing ecological wilderness but it also had very important sand on it. I was a small child when sand mining was going on but I always remembered that it stuck in my mind. I was about 10 or 11 when they stopped it.
When I was about 15 there was another area in Australia called the Franklin River, that was in Tasmania. The government wanted to damage and destroy all this area. I remember being extremely alarmed and it is what really kicked off my initial interest in the environment.
I recall writing a letter to a politician named George Georges. He was extreme left wing and in fact what we would consider to be a socialist in those days. He wrote me back this letter and it was the beginning of my deep concern for the environment and my love for sustaining and conserving environmental areas.
- What is your favourite thing about the environment?
This quarantine brought me right back to the thing that I’ve always loved. Before the environment issues and after they came into play, my favourite thing is to take my shoes off and touch the grass, touch the Earth and touch the sand.
About 3 or 4 weeks ago we went to Mercado de Surquillo and on our way back, we walked past Parque Kennedy. I took my shoes off and I ran, stood on the grass and did a mini meditation. And people were staring at us and came on and said: “What are you doing?” and I was like: “No, nothing, we are about to leave.” But that is the thing I love. I love being able to touch the real things, the grass and smell the plants and feel the sticky and the wet.
- Who are your main role models that inspire you to change the world and why?
My number one role model is doctor Jane Goodall. I think that she is one of the most inspirational women, scientists, adventurous, risk-takers that I have been privileged to know and learn from. In fact, I just finished doing a Master Class with her and she is just so inspirational, so devoted and so committed to her beliefs. Her work with monkeys over the last 60 years had just been phenomenal. And there are so many amazing people who’ve pioneered the path of conservation and environmental preservation over the years, but I think Jane probably embodies everything from the beginning to now.
- How did you accomplish to take action and raise awareness in your family and community?
In my family I brought my children up with the ideals of reusing and recycling, even before it kind of became a trend. My children will always tell the story about how I used to buy toilet paper made from recycled paper. And it was so much harder than the other stuff so they are always like: “ugh god remember when mom used to buy the recycled toilet paper?” And that sounds gross because it is recycled toilet paper. Another thing was that we’ve always had compost in our family home and always used that on our gardens. Furthermore, I tried to change behaviour and change ideas through role modeling. But that has not always been easy because I have not always had that realization of the evils of consumerism.
There is this one story that kind of consolidated everything for me. It was in 2012 and my daughter was getting married. She was in the middle east and came back to Australia by Malasya. She’d been on this massive shopping spree and I don’t know how many suitcases she had. Anyway, I was helping her pack and I was looking at like 17 handbags and 35 pairs of shoes and I said: “Why do you have all this stuff? We’ll never use it all.” And then I walked away and I thought: “Oh my god, I’m the same! I have all this stuff for the purpose of buying. I’m not careful about what I purchase.”
So from that point on I made a commitment to not buy anything for a year; no shoes, no handbags, no clothes, no nothing. At first it was difficult because you don’t realize how an addiction consumerism is but then after a couple of weeks, the addiction went the other way. My not buying anything went beyond 12 months and extended to 18 months. It’s been a permanent life-changing activity forming because now I never buy unless I need and I’m very careful about what I buy. I feel like I’m a good role model for my family and when I stand up in front of students and other people and say: “This is what we need to do”, I know that I’ve done it myself. I don’t feel like I’m a hypocrite when I profess that this is a better way to live your life, better yourself and for the world.
- How was ESD created and how did you implement it at school?
When I first arrived at school in 2012, there had been quite a big conference in Lima involving the Latin America Head Conference people. From that, the LAHC decided that they would ensure that everyone of their schools had an ESD committee or an ESD policy to start with. As soon as I saw that happening I said to Mrs. Bayley: “I’d really love to lead that because it is really something I am very passionate about and I feel that I would bring a lot to it.” So the next year I started working on my own and writing the policy.
Then I created the ESD committee, which was adults from primary, secondary, early years and administration. Then the following year, I think it was 2013, we started the primary ESD committee. After that, the parent committee and a couple of years later we got our first form V Counselor or Officer (as they would call on those days).
And it grew from there. Now we have an amazing Council and it spread right across the school community. One of my big sayings is:
“From little things, big things grow.”
We were fortunate enough to find people in each of those specific stayhold groups; the parents, the students, the primary students and the teachers. That is why we are able to successfully grow the work in our school, because we have been able to find those passionate and committed people.
If I go back to the motto which basically says:
- What do you consider that is the main message of ESD? What does ESD mean to you?
“Enough for everyone today, enough for everyone in the future”
I think that is what it means to me. To live your life in such a way that you take what you need and not what you want. That you ensure that you are always looking after other people while you’re doing that. So looking after yourself because a good self is good for everyone else, looking after those around you, looking after those beyond you and of course looking after this incredible ecosystem within which we dwell. Because the perimeters of that ecosystem, the perimeters of the environment, determines how well we will continue to do this. Once we push beyond those perimeters, once we push beyond the resources that we have at our availability, then we are depleting into the future’s deposit. And we can’t do that because we don’t have enough to replenish. That’s my main understanding and belief that sustainability means that we live within our means to ensure that our children and our grandchildren and as the old indian saying says:
“Seven generations beyond us should be able to live because of us.”
- In the future, what areas related to sustainability should the school focus on developing? What is the next step that the school should take?
Well I think ESD has comed up a long way in ten years and we need to move beyond the really basic things. I mean, I still think that we still need to focus on recycling and water conservation as all those kinds of nuts and bolts ESD concepts because that’s what ensures those resources that I was talking about are preserved and conserved. But I think our community is quite sophisticated in our understanding of sustainability now, and we need to push ourselves and deepen that understanding.
Last year all the primary teachers became United Nations accredited Climate Change teachers. Every single one of them. And I know that there is growth in their understanding and conceptual development around sustainability, agriculture, water, gender equity, education and health. All those things related to sustainability have enhanced and deepened their understanding of what Climate Change means.
I think that every member of our community, every student, every teacher and every parent should be encouraged to develop their knowledge and understanding of climate change and of environmental sustainability in order to come up with their own way to solve problems. Unless we have that deeper knowledge we’ll only be touching the surface as a community. If we expand our cognitive understanding of what these concepts are, then we can do much much more and we can reach more people as well.
- During this quarantine, are you doing something to help the environment? And can you give us some ideas of sustainable things we can do?
That is a very good question. I think the most important thing we are trying to do during this time in quarantine is to shorten the gap between farm and table. We are trying to cut all of those processed products that we so often use for convenience because we don’t have time to think about what we’re doing with our eating. But during this quarantine time we have a little bit more time. So with Mr. Mal is that we’ve been trying to take the basic product, the rule product, and use that to create our meals rather than using canned products or packaged products that are overpriced. In this way, we are able to support local producers so we buy a lot of our stuff as our fruit and vegetables, our beans, our legumes, all those sorts of products at a market so that we know that the money goes much closer to the original producer. Therefore we try to ensure that those people have an income during this time because as we know the demographics of our country is that most people are very poor and they work in an informal market area. They are not eligible for financial assistance often. It also ensures that our health is maintained because we are not using so many things that are not as natural and we are cooking good healthy food, which is very important.
And of course the most important thing is that we are meat free. We are basically vegetarian, almost vegans. We actually started in January. We have decided to no longer eat animal products at all so we are trying to substitute all sorts of things as dairy products. That for us is a very important step to helping the environment and the world because as we know all of these pandemics that have started in the last 40 years approximately (right from HIV to now the Coronavirus) have all been transferred to humans through eating meat. And one of the things that Jane Goodall is very passionate about is stopping that life meat trade in Asia and of course the world.
Trying to reduce the packaging use as well is something we are doing. We have lots of glass bottles and glass containers that we use, that we have acquired from buying things. In conclusion, basically trying to minimize waste, maximize health and not eat animals.
- What would you tell someone that wants to start being more sustainable, where should they begin?
Consumerism is a very big issue when it comes to sustainability because it generates waste, our rubbish and our over dependence in single-use plastics. If you notice, everything we buy always comes in something plastic and it is the most permanent disposable product ever created. What has revolutionised many parts of industry and business, has left us with a legacy that will never go away. It is causing unheard of catastrophes all over the world from our seas to our land. So number one is reducing what you buy, reducing what you consume and being sensible of what you buy.
The second thing you can do is reduce animal products that you have in your diet. We’ve chosen to go vegan/ vegetarian, although I will be having fish sometimes. Just reducing the amount of beef you eat in your diet will make a huge difference because the beef industry is the number one cause of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions in the world. It’s the number one user of water and agricultural land to grow crops to feed cows. Therefore it’s a major destroyer of the environment.
Reduce your consumption, reduce the amount of meat that you use and generally just try and be resourceful in your world. Try to reuse things. Get things that are broken and fixed, especially in this country because nowhere else in the world is so inexpensive to have things fixed. In Australia it will be more expensive to get an electronic device fixed than buy a new one. But not in Peru, so you are in a great place to be able to do all that.
Last one is to always try to buy locally. Always buy what’s being produced and grown in your own country. In that way you’ll stay seasonal as well and you won’t be buying imported products that again has a massive change in supply issues as far as transportation. These are the four important things I would suggest when you are trying to be sustainable in the world.