The ongoing and worsening slippery slope of climate change has plagued us with countless disasters and setbacks in our daily lives. Our first notion would be the obvious fact that the structural foundations of our society (and – by extension – the society itself) would be heading back to square one since months and years of hard work and effort is liable of being decimated by the effects of climate change in one fell swoop. However, these inconveniences can also ripple through humanity’s progress as a whole, possibly in a way that future generations end up in a disadvantageous situation in addressing climate change.
This piece will give a little insight about education – one glaringly vital aspect of human development, a little take on how climate change is intensifying its damages on the sector, and of how climate change awareness should be inserted into curriculums to assist the generations ahead of us.
Firstly, we have to acknowledge the fact that giving more precedence to this cause is way harder than usual in our current situation. The education sector’s progress worldwide had slowed to a crawl due to the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, now reaching two years of lost experience and opportunities for many students. Stacked on top of this issue is the involvement of climate change itself, along with the causes and effects that make it the significant threat it is today. Weather-related disasters such as storms, blizzards, and draughts often lead to the cancellation of classes. That may be normal in most cases, but when the weather itself begs to differ and ups its intensity and duration, then these 1-2-day cancellations may extend to weeks or even months.
As mentioned before, the causes of climate change aren’t left out of this equation either. Pollution can be dangerous to the education sector in terms of the vicinity. In November 2021, authorities in New Delhi, India, announced school closures due to the growing levels of harmful smog in the area, even considering the expansion of this “pollution lockdown” to protect the population. Even garbage disposal gets a slice of the metaphorical danger pie due to the health implications it may cause based on its proximity with a school. This problem may have been rectified in most nations, but keep in mind that not all countries are developed, and thus not capable of fully solving this issue.
Getting to the main topic, bringing these matters to the students’ attention is a necessity at this point. Understandably, we shouldn’t present this topic to them as a fearmongering or traumatizing tactic. It can be quite easy to mold the bleak narrative we have into a kid-friendly approach to help them navigate their way into the topic. There are stories for that purpose, after all – from the whimsical tale of the Lorax to the world of FernGully (though the antagonist can be nightmare fuel for some kids). As they work their way up through the learning curve, teachers would then be able to parse the climate conversation and bring them up to speed by the time they’ve graduated. Surely, they’d all have different fields they would want to take – even the environmental sector if they’ve grown passionate about it; but regardless of what they decide on, there’s the peace of mind that they’re aware of the world around us.
The good thing is, this has been implemented into curriculums for quite a long run – though the term “climate change education” itself remained somewhat absent. Its facets, however, could be ingrained into the typical subjects such as social studies, general science, and even branching fields such as biology and agriculture. The essence of climate change awareness is present, but it’s oftentimes an afterthought, hardly being a leading subject in itself – and thus not listed as a mandatory or compulsory one to learn.
The world wasn’t far behind in changing that practice, as climate change education (CCE) – which is branched from Education for sustainable development (ESC) – was familiarized by UNESCO via its Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) program in 2010. It recently has prepared a roadmap with climate action as its central focus of the Education for Sustainable Development’s global framework throughout the next decade.
But this isn’t without saying that CCE wasn’t a thing before this; environmental education has been around in countries such as China and England as early as the 1970s. Since then, various countries had been improving this curriculum through various forms of medium (either formally or informally) and even involved cooperation and collaborations between nations.
In the year 2000, Australia brought the subject to the limelight by adopting a national plan called “Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future”, which then opened the door to broader investments into the climate sector through avenues such as the non-profit “Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES)”. This piece of history stands out because the country sort of became a vanguard since then when it came to pushing to make CCE mandatory.
So, this practice is being implemented in countries – some more than others. Even nations that don’t necessarily mandate climate change education are finding ways to increase its presence throughout the school curriculum. Additionally, this practice continues even outside of the education spheres, through various mediums as mentioned before. The temporary closure of schools can be a good way for those in the education sector to find novel ideas in boosting and maintaining the mandate of climate change studies in schools – not only through oral presentation or reading a book but by also engaging in active initiatives such as planting.
The pandemic and the climate crisis of today had certainly brought to our attention the need of addressing these problems instead of brushing them off as something that would pass. At the same time, it can be difficult to find ways on educating students on these matters due to the very troubles wrought on by the pandemic and climate change. But it doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. Making use of these mediums during lockdown is a good way to relay valuable information about climate change via educational programs fine-tuned to the target audience.
Ultimately, education about climate awareness has been ongoing. It just needs to up its game given our precarious predicament. If we’re to supply the future with the information needed to one day curb climate change, it’s through the education sector.