Meet the new Head of Barge Program, Kirsty Shakespeare
Working in sustainability and environmental education for the last six years, I have experienced firsthand the excitement, wonder and impact that a field trip can have on a group of students. Being immersed in a new environment offers students the chance to gain a new appreciation of the history and culture of the country, the ecosystems and resident wildlife and also how our individual actions impact these environments, which cannot be replicated or rivaled in a classroom setting.
To offer this interactive and engaging learning experience to students was one of the main reasons I decided to move to Thailand and join the Barge Program as a Coordinator last August. Having now taken over as Head of Barge, I am even more excited at the opportunities that lay ahead of the program and the students and teachers we work with. I look forward over the coming years to expanding and developing our educational offering and reaching out to more students across Thailand, South East Asia and hopefully further afield.
We welcomed many new staff this summer who share this passion for sustainability and the environment, from the UK, Brazil and Canada as well as Thailand. They bring with them degree backgrounds as diverse as Ecology, Conservation, Indigenous Cultures, History and Geography and offer an array of experience working with students and delivering environmental education. As a team we will continue to strive to provide the highest quality learning experience, engaging and immersing students in the environment whilst supporting the Barge Programs overall vision to ‘Educate and connect individuals and communities to raise environmental awareness and take active responsibility for a globally sustainable future’. I look forward to welcoming you and your students as you join us on a continuing journey towards a sustainable future.
Kirsty Shakespeare, Head of Barge
From our office located close to the banks of the mighty Chao Phraya, we can see the rise and fall of the water level as the tide changes, the rafts of water hyacinth as they float down river and the constant stream of boat traffic. As vital as the river is to Thailand’s, history, development and culture, at this time of year as rainy season draws to a close, for many people, the life giving waters of the Chao Phraya become more foe than friend as water levels rise and flooding occurs.
Why should we protect and educate children about mangrove forests?
Mangroves’ stilt-like roots absorb energy from storm surges, reducing flooding. In October the Barge Program guided 150 children at Bangpu Nature Education Center
, a special mangrove reserve. Bang Pu Nature Education Center is one of many coastal nature reserves in the Thai Gulf and is located just south of Bangkok in Samut Prakan Province. The center is most well known for its mangrove ecosystem and a seasonal flock of seagulls that use this area on their migratory route, which cycles around between January and April. The reserve is chock full of coastal wildlife, including many varieties of waterfowl and mudflat creatures. At the Bangpu Nature Education Center, the Barge Program team facilitated an experience of learning about the importance and richness of the mangrove ecosystem.
Mangrove forests are one of the best coastal defenses against hurricanes and tsunamis. But mangroves have been cut down as coasts developments are built up. With a 35% decrease in mangrove forests in Thailand since the 1960s and one third of the world’s mangrove cover lost between 1980 and 2000 it is imperative that we educate all generations to understand the major ecological service mangrove provides to the Earth system. In addition to guaranteeing the survival of several riverside communities that make sustainable management of the region. The mangrove ecosystem store up to ten times more CO2 per acre than rainforests, slowing climate change. As we know, CO2 warms the atmosphere creating more powerful hurricanes. Our expeditions to mangrove sites are essential to awake in children the understanding of mangrove forest and thereby the vital need to protect it. Protecting mangroves means saving lives.
Thailand's Obsession with Plastic Bags.
When visiting any store it quickly becomes noticeable that people in Thailand love to give out plastic bags. Plastic bags for groceries, plastic bags for snacks, plastic bags for bags. Thailand is one of the largest consumers of plastic bags in the world with the government estimating that Thais use around eight plastic bags a day. Although the government has tried to step in to lower the usage of plastic bags with different campaigns this does not seem to be fully effective as the growth of waste in Thailand is increasing by around 10% a year, with a large percentage of that being from plastic bags.
What makes this large usage of plastic bags so scary is that they take an estimated 1,000 years to decompose on land and 450 years to decompose in water. This is a huge problem in Thailand as the plastic bags are not always properly disposed and only around 16% of them are recycled. A lot of the plastic bags just end up in the canals and the drainage systems in Bangkok. This build up of plastic in the canals and drainage systems has blocked pumping machines and other machinery used during the monsoon season to stop flooding in Bangkok. This also means that once the flooding subsides that these plastic bags (plus more) make their way into the water system.
In conclusion, Thailand has a huge problem with plastic bag usage and disposal. At this time, despite small campaigns by some stores, it does not appear that the usage of plastic bags within Thailand will diminish in the next few years. It seems only a top down ban on plastic bags will have any huge effect. However, at the Barge Program staff are serious about this issues and want to work bottom up educating children about environmental solutions to create lasting effects for Thai community.
If you would like your students to experience a mangrove adventure or to become more aware of environmental issues, email us at email@example.com
and visit our website: barge.threegeneration.org