Phil Smith nominated for Earth Prize International 2020

One of our long time AAEE members and supporters, Phil Smith, who is also Founder and CEO of Speaking 4 the Planet, has been nominated for the prestigious Earth Prize International 2020 for his role in developing an environmental education program that creates opportunities for young people to speak about their environmental concerns and about their future.

The Earth Prize is an award given by the Permanent Secretariat of the World Environmental Education Congress Network. The 2020 international awards ceremony will be on 10 October in Italy on Lake Maggiore.

The Earth Prize is an international prize recognising those who contribute ideas, actions or innovations which will change behaviours through lifestyle choices,” Mr Smith said.

Phil Smith is being nominated for his innovative Speaking 4 the Planet initiative.

Phil kicked his initiative off at The Jannali High School in 2013. Speaking 4 the Planet (S4P) is an Arts-based approach to sustainability education that uses competition, such as speeches, theatre production, writing, creation of artworks, memes and TikTok, to focus attention on environmental issues.

Speaking 4 the Planet has been adapted for schools and universities. It creates opportunities for young people to voice concerns for the state of the planet and propose changes for the future - their future.

“Speaking 4 the Planet evolved out of my forty years of work in Arts education and environmental advocacy,” Mr Smith said. Phil was one of the leaders in establishing the NSW Sustainable Schools Program in 2005. He has been president of the Australian Association for Environmental Education, and in 2019, he convened a conference for the NSW chapter of the Association. Phil also writes about sustainability and advocacy issues. He currently works part-time in teacher training programs at Western Sydney University.

“Each competition focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals and local sustainability issues. The events invite students to be quirky, to challenge existing ways of thinking.”

“A good example is from Engadine resident, Josh Warren, who won the 2015 Speaking 4 the Planet competition held at Sylvania High School in NSW. Josh wrote and delivered a speech entitled “How many dreams equal a nightmare? The answer is 7.3 billion.” It focussed on how we all dream for more ‘stuff’ but our desire for the latest gadget or car is a drain on the planet. He argued we need to put the Earth’s well-being at the centre of our dreams.

There have been many outstanding and moving contributions by primary schools as well as high schools. Another from the Armidale event supported by the local Catholic Schools Office always comes to mind. Students from Armidale High School won the drama category in 2017 with a piece that cast Earth as a company. Humanity was the boss, Nature was the hardest worker. As things progressed, the environment and profits began to decline. Humanity called Nature into the office, ranted and raved, and then sacked Nature. Conditions on Earth deteriorated. Again, Humanity called Nature back into the office. The boss begged Nature to return. ‘I will,’ she said, ‘but there will be conditions.’

“Our young people often show great insight and deep connection with the environment, even at a global scale. Speaking 4 the Planet has enabled many to speak, act, and draw on their passions and beliefs. Youth voices matters.”

In the eight years since it started, S4P competitions have been held in many local government areas in metropolitan and regional NSW. Right now, primary and high schools in five local government areas in the east of Melbourne are participating in the inaugural Victorian S4P. In 2019, the competition became international with an event in Christchurch, New Zealand, and another in Thailand as a significant part of the Youth Camp that preceded the 2019 World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC) in Bangkok.

“This year has seen further innovations. A schools-based S4P event was conducted online. Over 300 schools across NSW were invited to participate,” Mr Smith said.

“Also, working in collaboration with Deakin University, a national S4P event was run for teacher- education students. This initiative attracted trainee teachers from five states. And an online Global Speaking 4 the Planet competition is currently underway for high school students and trainee teachers around the world,” Mr Smith said.

“My nomination for this prestigious award would not have been possible without the support of so many students, schools, teachers, councils and, in particular, the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre,” Mr Smith concluded.

We wish Phil all the best for his nomination!!