This is an original article by Vinnie Chua from Global Initiatives.
Sustainability is a concept most people only learn about through social media and news articles. In most places, sustainability is not taught in classrooms or from an early age and thus, it is not deemed as important as other topics such as mathematics or the sciences.
But as many of us are increasingly aware, sustainability is important and can be largely attributed to the intensification of climate change in recent years.
When we emphasize the importance of sustainability and inculcate environmental values during a child’s formative years, they will grow up with an understanding of why they need to protect our Earth and how they can go about doing so.
A poll conducted in the US found that 80% of parents and 86% of teachers are supportive of the teaching of climate change in schools as they feel that this will be the generation most severely affected by it.
Photo by Alyson Hurt on NPR
In this same poll, however, it was found that less than half of parents and teachers are teaching their children about climate change.
A majority of teachers cited the reasons being climate change was out of their teaching scope and that they simply did not have the resources and knowledge to help students learn about it.
But teaching our youth about sustainability and how to tackle climate change is pertinent, especially in this day and age where the effects of climate change are starting to manifest in disastrous ways.
The Future of Climate Change
Photo by IPCC: Global Climate Projections
Most projections predict that climate change is going to be catastrophic. Not only for the natural environment but for human welfare as well.
May 2020 has been the hottest month on record, with the record just having been broken in April, which had just been broken in March and so on so forth. This year has presented itself with soaring temperatures all over the world and it’s just going to go up from here.
Global warming has devastating consequences. From increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters to food and water crises, the outcomes are definitely bleak. Economic ruin will soon to follow.
It is predicted that if we don’t take action, by 2100, average temperatures will rise by 4ºC, and GDP will fall by more than 30%. And these figures are considered optimistic.
Around the World
UNESCO has introduced Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to encourage action for the environment and to lead more sustainable lifestyles. They have since been working with governments around the world to integrate such learning into educational programmes.
In the midst of the pandemic, New Jersey has been the first state to mandate the incorporation of climate change into the K-12 curriculum, starting from the year 2021-2022.
Though this is wonderful news, the pandemic has resulted in a potential breakdown of the nation’s current outdoor environment programmes.
It is projected that up to 65% of outdoor education aspects will have disappeared by the end of the year. These had been crucial in exposing and teaching children about the natural environment around them.
Italy has also recently introduced the education of climate change at the core of what the students learn, ensuring that the knowledge they gain in school comes from an environmental perspective.
New Zealand, on the other hand, has introduced an optional curriculum that can be adopted for youth aged 11-15 years old that aims to ease eco-anxiety and prepare youth for environmental activism.
And these are just some of the newer examples. Countries such as Australia, the Dominican Republic and South Korea have already introduced such programmes years ago.
Preparing Our children For Calamity
It seems that many countries are catching on to the importance and urgency of educating their youth on climate change and sustainability.
Having knowledge of climate change and learning the skills to act upon it is crucial and will empower our youth to tackle this disaster.
Environmental values, however, should also be cultivated at home. Parents should bring children up with sustainability at the core of their actions, making them aware that every little thing they do can affect the environment.
With this in mind, children will grow up with respect and care for the environment and will also better internalise what they learn in school.
Sustainability and the environment are of utmost importance. By educating our children in these areas, the world will be able to stand a fighting chance against our common antagonist: Climate Change.