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#TRVSTLOVES Education On The Climate Crisis

Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas, and inspiration from across the world that demonstrate how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. We’re looking this time at education efforts across the globe that are striving to teach young people about the climate crisis.

When did we really become aware of climate change?

Climate education - time is running out
Photo by Tobias Rademacher on Unsplash

Change, as we know, often starts with the youth, and this is especially true when it comes to climate change, with young people in the unfortunate position of inheriting the world’s past mistakes. But when did we really become aware of the situation? 

According to a history of climate change, the 1980s marked a sharp increase in global temperatures, and many experts see 1988 as a critical turning point  - this is when a series of climate events led to people starting to pay attention to the possibility that human action was warming the planet.

The climate change exam

Given the importance of education, which exists to promote learning, understanding, and action, there appears to be very little around the subject of climate change since the “critical turning point” in the late 80s. If you went to school in the 80s or 90s, climate change was unlikely on the curriculum, at least not in connection with the climate crisis and associated actions. 

In fact, it’s only now, in 2022, that the UK is launching a new climate change exam to focus on protecting the planet. The new natural history GCSE is set to launch in 2025 and is in response to campaigners pushing for young people to understand the importance of protecting the planet. Given the situation's climate change facts, gravity, and urgency, this move can’t really come quick enough.

While this is some form of progress in the UK, it goes without saying that this is a global issue. Educating young people on the importance of the climate crisis will only be fully effective if a change is happening worldwide - so what’s going on elsewhere in the world?

Disagreements about the approach

Kids in School
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

At the end of last year, journalist Katie Worth started looking at how climate change is taught in America. She spoke to teachers, students, and their families and poured over various textbooks. 

Her findings were rather revealing, although perhaps not surprising - the subject of climate change appears to be a contentious subject where everyone has a different opinion. There were many disagreements about approaching the subject, even among the teachers. 

Perhaps more worrying is an academic that Katie refers to during her interview on the Havard EdCast- they undertake regular surveys, interviewing around 1500 science teachers to ask what they are telling their students about climate change: 

  • one third tell their students that "many scientists believe that climate change is natural." 
  • one third tell their students that climate change “is still being debated.”
  • a third appears to be providing more accurate information about how the actions of humans are directly causing the plant to warm

Given the above, it’s fair to say that there’s still an extraordinary amount of work required to teach young people not only the importance of climate change but to understand why it’s happening. Young people need to be provided with supporting statistics and science to help understand the message. 

According to the research by Katie, the problem is that the level at which children are being taught in schools depends on the level of interest or knowledge their particular teacher has. 

Despite this, according to the 2021 Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 78% of registered voters “support schools teaching children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming.” So the demand appears to be there, but now it’s up to the education system to deliver.

Students go on strike over a lack of education

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Over on the other side of the world, Australian students are striking in protest against the education system, which they believe is failing children. Just last month, Sydney pupils made a stand outside Kirribilli House as they feel that the government is not adequately responding to or educating young people in Australia about the climate crisis. 

According to University of Sydney researcher Dr. Blanche Verlie, many young Australians are learning more out of school than in school. While there is resistance to the strikes from the NSW Education Minister (who doesn’t want children out of school on strike), you have to admire the determination of these young people who are demanding from their government a better education to care for their planet.

Dealing with a change that’s already here

While we’re looking at education around the world, we also thought we’d take a look at Asia, where climate change is still considered a ‘peripheral topic.’ 

Sal Gordon, the head of the Green School in Bali, says that 

“education has been stuck in a time capsule for 200 years. It’s out of date, but if you can change that model you will automatically start educating for a sustainable future.” 

He believes that part of educating children about sustainability is finding a reconnection with nature, which, he argues, many humans have lost over the years. This is such a great approach because when we truly connect with something, we will care more about it and work hard to nurture and protect it.

Education in areas such as South Asia is particularly poignant because it is considered a climate-vulnerable area, where millions of children’s lives are already being affected by rising temperatures. 

Education here is different; it’s around building resilience and dealing with a change that’s already arrived. Aysha Siddiqa, Physics Teacher in Pakistan, says 

“I tell my students that plantation is a very good solution to reduce global warming and air pollution. I advise them to do a practice of plantation in their homes and their surroundings.” 

The approach here is one of reaction, and it’s quite a stark contrast to the education in the developed world, where there’s an effort to teach children that climate change is actually happening. Given that change is already here let's just hope that we’re all now taking steps in the right direction. 

Sam produces our regular #TRVSTLOVES where she seeks out inspiration, news, and ideas from across the globe that both highlight and celebrate how actions can make for social and environmental change.

Sam is passionate about seeking out small businesses that are implementing remarkable and exciting projects to tackle the climate crisis; she enjoys exploring how their innovation will help change the future of our world.
A degree in English Literature from the University of Southampton has given Sam the research expertise to share and contextualize stories around innovative projects, legislation, and changemakers.

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