Why Climate Change Education Belongs in Every Curriculum
With climate change finally receiving the attention that it deserves, the conversation around steps to preserve the health of our planet shouldn’t stop with adults.
Stats from the UN suggest that today’s youth have higher social and environmental awareness than any other generation, yet when surveyed, 84% of young people say that they still need more information on how to take action to prevent the effects of climate change.
While scientists have yet to reach a consensus on the number of years that remain before the increasing global temperature yields devastating environmental impacts, average estimates are a mere 11-12 years before risks of flood, drought, and disaster are imminent. That means we need a large chunk of the world’s population – children, adults and the elderly – on board with changing our habits as soon as possible.
In 2015, the U.S. Senate voted “no” on a portion of the “No Child Left Behind” act that would have provided schools with grants for improved climate education and accompanying resources. Unfortunately, this effort was snubbed due to leaders prioritizing political partisanship over crucial, science-backed evidence on the detriments of earth’s increasing temperature and the role that human behavior plays in it.
Our Students’ Generation
The current generation of school-aged children is the generation that will be most impacted by climate change, as well as the one poised with the greatest potential to reverse impending danger. The majority of Americans believe that human lifestyle choices impact the environment, so why does the U.S. education system avoid including the supporting science in the required curriculum?
The answer, per usual, is complex and multifaceted, but it largely has to do with corporate involvement and prioritizing capitalist ideals over the health and safety of our planet. By denying human involvement in climate change, we encourage the propagation of industrial behaviors – such as the use of fossil fuels – that contribute to global emissions. However, educating our children early can play a vital role in future technology, innovation, and business practices that prioritize a healthy earth.
Experts claim that individual action – changing daily habits, reducing plastic and energy consumption, limiting water usage, eating less meat, etc. – is more than just a social media fad, and it actually has the power to incite change. If school is a place for teaching youth how to become productive, happy members of society, it only makes sense to include this kind of ecological information in the curricula.
In addition, climate change education doesn’t have to include only dire, doom-and-gloom types of content. Research on schools with student-led gardens shows that children are more likely to try – and enjoy – eating vegetables that they had a hand in growing. Programs like this encourage connection with the earth, promote healthy and sustainable habits, and offer a safe, positive platform for teaching kids about climate change.
When it comes to preserving our planet, kids are the future. Education is just one piece of a much larger framework for mitigating the effects of climate change. As the time before climate change reaches its devastating crescendo dwindles, passing information along to the next generation becomes a critical step.
How is your school talking (or not talking) about climate change? Have you made a place for it on your curriculum?