How Teaching A Math Problem To A Child Can Help Solve Climate Change

World leaders achieved something extraordinary last December at COP21 in Paris; a binding agreement, which will be signed this week in New York, that unites all countries in a shared duty to fight climate change.

But in the weeks before the Summit, there were doubts and skepticism. We had seen it all before - political leaders with high hopes leaving without an agreement. Even though the world recognized there is a problem, it seemed like our understanding of how to fix it is divided. So why would this time be any different?

Fortunately, in December political heads came to a miraculous agreement at COP21. However there was also recognition that a political solution can only go so far. Fighting climate change requires all of us, citizens, businesses and charities to make changes, large and small, to our daily lives.

An African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I want to say it takes the world to save the earth. Hence, it is my strong belief that to fight climate change, we must bring about a behavioural transformation for this generation and the next. We need to kick-start this at the basic level: education.

Education is the most powerful tool we have to do this. I always dreamed of an innovative, green school as a model for Africa, that could help promote the whole region's sustainable development as well as equal opportunity and meritocracy.

This is the philosophy behind Ecole Ruban Vert, a school which I founded in my home country of Gabon.

Sustainability is at the very core of the school - and we take a very different approach to equipping our students with the skills they need for the future.

Respect and understanding for the environment is instilled at the earliest opportunity as a value and an attitude not in standalone classes but integrated through every aspect of the physical surroundings and curriculum.

For example, in math classes we do not teach children how to calculate the area of an abstract square, but the area of habitat which an Elephant in Gabon needs to survive. The basic equation is the same, but green relationships become ingrained in each student who learns this. Something that is built upon in every subject as they progress through the years.

Education for Gabon and for Africa must have an eye on the future. A future that is increasingly uncertain. However, if our children understand why 11% of our national territory has been allocated to the preservation of flora and fauna then we would have prepared our young people with the right skills and values and we might succeed where leaders before them have failed.

I will accompany the President of Gabon to ratify the COP21 agreement this week. My hope is that through projects like Ecole Ruban Vert and others, when world leaders reconvene in 2030 to assess our progress meeting the goals we agree to today, the behavioral transformation I advocate will have reached a sustainable pace. It is my hope that world leaders will then share a more unified understanding of climate change than their predecessors did. Only then can it be easier to agree how we create a more equal and sustainable world.