Access to schooling is not always guaranteed and more and more frequently this is caused by climate change. Climate education, though, represents, in its different forms, a very powerful weapon in the fight against climate change: this is why it is fundamental that the right to education be guaranteed. All things considered, the climate crisis is an education crisis.
By Mayra Boscato | YPA Italy
The Fourth Sustainable Development Goal of the UN Agenda 2030 aims at ensuring access to inclusive and equitable quality education, as well as to promote equal lifelong learning opportunities for all. At present, the efforts made to achieve this result are still insufficient, due to many reasons. In particular, in recent years, climate change has significantly affected not only the quality of education but also prevented the possibility to have access to it. It is estimated that every year the education of more than 40 million children is put at risk by the consequences of extreme weather events, such as floods, that continue to increase in intensity and frequency. As Kristin Halvorsen, former Norwegian education minister, stated, education is a fundamental right, and it is vital that it is guaranteed since it is demonstrated that children that are educated and their families are better prepared to face a crisis and recover afterwards.
While climate change often has negative consequences on education, on the other hand, especially when effectively delivered, “climate education” can instead represent a very valuable resource to achieve climate goals. Howevre, during an event on climate education and youth empowerment held as part of COP26, Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International, expressed considerable concern, due to the awareness of how often children live firsthand the effects of climate change, as well as of how frightened, even distressed at times, they are by the uncertainty of their future.
Climate education is commonly seen as a subject independent from the others, to be taught and learned at school, perhaps in the context of civic education. Climate education is much more than that and comes in different shapes. Some prefer a holistic approach, where students are educated to be critical, self-confident and independent, and are not trained separately in individual subjects, but as well-rounded people and citizens. Furthermore, climate education promotes a market where consumers are aware of environmental and climate issues. Not only that: in a context of forward-looking climate education, young people can be trained to have the skills needed for the green jobs of the future, and not to embrace jobs that, in a scenario of fully-implemented ecological transition, will probably no longer exist or be in low demand.
In some realities, climate education takes the form of what is called “non-formal education”. Zubair Hossain, from the Scout Movement Representative from Bangladesh, states that this form of education helps people to learn about climate change outside the classroom by facing real problems. In other words, learning-by-doing contributes to solve climate-related issues in the community.
In more than 70 countries and 56.000 schools around the world, the concept of climate education takes shape into the so-called Eco-schools. This school model encourages young people to engage and to commit to the environment near them, giving them the opportunity to actively protect it. Education starts in the classroom and then expands to the community level and the level of the international network of Eco-Schools, by engaging the younger generations in action-based learning.
Children and young people in general are the future, but it is equally important that adequate climate education opportunities are offered to everyone, across age groups and categories. Climate Fresk is an association that, strong from a solid awareness of the climate change threat, aims to raise awareness on climate science through educational material and workshops, with the aim of possibly reaching the largest number of people around the world, offering climate education opportunities also to private companies.
It is unequivocally clear that education and climate change are deeply connected: although the younger generations are not responsible for the current climate crisis, they are the ones who will be forced to face it firsthand in the decades to come. Accordingly, it is necessary to urgently provide them with the tools to do so. In other words, it is true that the climate crisis coincides with an education crisis, but education can still really contribute significantly to saving the planet.