Did you know that the Periodic Table of Elements has existed since Mendeleev shaped it in the 1860’s? The world has changed significantly since then, but the Periodic Table is still a fundamental foundation for the world we live in. In the UK it is part of the national curriculum and so anyone who attends school should be aware of the Periodic Table’s existence. At least that is what the Badger thought…until this week.
The Badger was walking with a companion in the local park which has a beautiful lake. It’s a popular place with all age groups. We stopped for a sandwich and a drink at a park bench overlooking the lovely lake with its many different species of ducks, geese, and waders. Nearby a group of about a dozen millennials, just about the age to be leaving College for University, were having a picnic, and discussing their aspirations, beliefs, and ambitions. One was dominating conversation in the group and proclaiming they were going to be an environment and planet sustainability ‘activist’. They seemed to be very vocal and have strong views about what governments must do to fix the world’s problems. What passion…and naivety…the Badger thought as he threw a few bits of crust to a friendly mallard. (I know. Bread is junk food for ducks, but this mallard was clearly hungry).
The youngster droned on and on, and even the Badger’s walking companion commented that they liked the sound of their own voice too much for their own good. And then a young lad in the group piped up with a killer question. ‘Do you know what the Periodic Table is?’, he asked. ‘No, and I don’t need to’, was the swift response. The young lad just said ‘The Periodic Table captures all the elements that make up our world. How can you be an environment or planet activist if you don’t know its elements?’
The orator shut up. The Badger almost clapped. The young lad asking the question will go far! But isn’t it a bit worrying that someone can go through an education system, aspiring to be a green activist, and not know something about the Periodic Table? If you want to be a young ‘green’ activist – and there’s nothing wrong with that – then surely you cannot say ‘I don’t need to know’ about the Periodic Table of elements that are at the heart of the gadgets we use and all life on the planet?
Anyone aspiring to be any kind of green activist should needs an awareness of the Periodic Table to be credible. In fact, perhaps we should all remind ourselves of the elements (and their scarcity) that underpin everything on the planet by refreshing our knowledge of the Periodic Table. You can find it on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s site here.