Tara Stafford Ocansey aims to embed sustainability in every child’s educational experience

Tara Stafford Ocansey is a mom, community advocate, and the Executive Director of the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, from New York.

Tara Stafford Ocansey is a mom, community advocate, and the Executive Director of the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation, from New York. Her personal and professional mission is to establish sustainability as an integral part of every child’s K-12 learning experience.

Tara feels driven by her work because when she looks around her, she sees the beautiful world being divided by intersecting challenges of climate change, social and environmental injustice, and economic inequality. Tara and her colleagues at CELF see young people facing a growing mental health crisis, with mounting evidence showing us that depression and anxiety can be attributed to spending more time in screen spaces and less time in green spaces. Yet, she also sees educators with a greater resolve than ever helping their students develop the skills, knowledge, and values to build a brighter future.

Tara and her team at CELF help students fall in love with nature by getting them outside for meaningful learning experiences and equip teachers with the required pedagogical skills and confidence to guide their students on how to tackle complex sustainability challenges.

We asked Tara about her views on creating a healthier planet, and this is how she answered.

How would you define a healthier planet?

I define a healthier planet as one where us humans feel a deeper sense of connection with all other living things around us, including each other. I think that sense of community is the place from which we develop a sense of care and stewardship, and realize we can do more with less. At the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation, we define sustainability as incorporating what we call the “3 Es” of Environmental integrity, social Equity, and regenerative Economy. I think a healthy planet incorporates and prioritizes all of these aspects to inform how we go about structuring our lives and our relationships with the natural world.

What changes do you hope to see in the future?

I hope to see marginalized communities who are most impacted by climate change and environmental injustice lifted up as the voices that we should be listening to when making decisions about how best we can address climate change and other shared human and environmental challenges. I hope to see place-based sustainability and climate change education integrated across the curriculum in all of our systems of education and in our communities. I hope we can find more joy and connection as we implement these solutions together.

How can we humans do better?

I love how creative and social we humans are. I’d like to see us put our human creativity and ingenuity to better use to develop more circular approaches to how we produce and use the things we need so that we eliminate waste from our lives as much as possible.

At Neste we believe that all solutions are needed to create a healthier planet. What kind of greetings or encouragement would you like to send to others based on your beliefs?

Our modern life glorifies grind culture. To be productive is to be worthy. But maybe we are already worthy just by our very existence. Maybe we can all agree that it’s okay to slow down a bit. If we slow down, maybe we’ll realize that we don’t need as much, that we can find joy in the little things in nature and all around us. And when we do that, maybe we’ll find that we’re generating less pollution and emissions, healing the planet and ourselves in the process.

We are all powerful! I’m grateful for YOU, and I believe in your ability to make positive change!

Tara's video on how she reimagines the future will be coming soon. Stay tuned for its release.

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