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In an event held at the UAE’s only ecological school, the Arbor School, the Finnish Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion and the real-life Finnish Santa Claus highlighted the importance of adopting and adapting a circular economy in order to combat the current climate crisis the world is facing and empowering our youth to be part of sustainable change.

The Arbor School was selected to host Santa Claus due to its forward-thinking approach to education, environmental ethos and core ethics of ecoliteracy, sustainability and environmental justice. Held in the school’s Reflection Garden, attendees were taken on a sustainable journey from Finland to the UAE.

Commissioner General of Finland for Expo 2020 Dubai, Severi Keinälä, addressed why Expo 2020 Dubai is such an important milestone for other countries seeking to transition to a circular economy, stating, “Finland was the first country to launch a national circular economy road map,  developed by The Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, in 2016, and has ambitions to reform its economic model by 2025. We are already witnessing economic success, sustained preservation of natural resources and positive integration across all industries. Many believe the circular economy is only about recycling. However, it is much more complex and requires systematic change and countrywide participation to reduce our current rate of consumption and overuse of natural resources.

“Expo 2020 Dubai will be a platform for Finnish businesses to showcase their innovative solutions and demonstrate the impact and contribution they are already making to ensure we reach our 2025 goal. The UAE is also making great strides in its efforts to implement its own strategy and we are grateful to be part of that change in the lead up to Expo 2020 Dubai.”

Santa Claus delivered an open letter to all those sitting in positions of power, urging them to listen to their youth and include them in the conversation surrounding sustainability and environmental issues. He also presented a wishlist for the circular economy, identifying seven key areas countries could target to adopt and adapt a circular economy, including creating a clear and decisive plan in line with the Paris Agreement; developing robust legislation and standards; implementing financial incentives; reducing harmful subsidies; introducing tax reforms; ensuring life-long learning to expand knowledge and international cooperation. Students from the Arbor School’s eco-counsel presented their own letters containing their vision for a brighter, more sustainable future to Santa Claus.

Pioneers in progressive education, Finland is ensuring citizens at all levels of education play a key role in the road map’s execution. During the 2018/2019 school year, over 70,000 children and young people from primary school to university age studied the circular economy as part of the national curriculum.

Speaking of the importance of education, Finland’s Ambassador to the UAE, Marianne Nissilä, stated, “The decline of biodiversity and subsequent challenges made to traditional societies and economic strategies are driving countries to make drastic changes and develop sustainable solutions to guarantee the future our youth deserve. We believe education is the foundation of any significant change. With professions of the future becoming more and more diverse, it is vital we prepare our younger generations by giving them access to the knowledge, understanding and the appetite essential to effect positive change. The main theme of the Finnish pavilion is ’Sharing Future Happiness‘ and we recognise that in order for us to achieve this happiness, we must do more to ensure those around to experience it have a voice in how it is shaped.”

Brett Girven, Principal at the Arbor School, demonstrated how their ecological approach to education has developed and is equipping and inspiring UAE students to question their impact on the planet and assume their responsibility as stewards of their own future. He explained, “The education we offer at the Arbor School is an essential response to the changes occurring in the world.  An Arbor student will leave us with a new kind of understanding; one that is rooted in the concept that we cannot solve problems in isolation, we must solve for pattern. The circular economy is a manifestation of that kind of concept or understanding.”

The event concluded with a tour of the Arbor School’s three large biodomes which feature a tropical forest, a green playscape and an ecological makerspace, as well as the school’s greenhouse, where a wide range of fruit and vegetables has been harvested this year, grown by the students in partnership with Emirates Bio Farm. These carefully designed educational spaces encourage independent learning and innovative thinking.