Ask a group of young people what they worry about the most, and the most common response is likely to be “global warming” or “climate crisis”, or an answer that in some ways can be traced back to this most pressing issue of our times. It’s an issue – or more correctly, a complex bundle of issues – that spans boundaries of all kinds, and manifests in multiple unexpected ways. The underlying tone of the response may range from anger to frustration to anxiety to helplessness, or, in the rare case, a determination to change things.
As educators, we are important intermediaries of that potential for change. Our tools are information and conviction. The former can be offered through curricular inputs, but the latter is more complicated and challenging. Conviction includes attitudes, beliefs, a sense of ethics, and the willingness and energy to engage with something not just in abstract but also in the very material, practical ways.
Each year as the Teacher Plus team tosses around ideas for our year-end thematic issue, we come up with any number of possibilities, but this year, it seemed like there was one thing we needed to talk about more than anything else, and that was the Climate Crisis. We’ve been through an exceptional year in terms of extreme weather events – the epic floods in Pakistan, the high temperatures across Europe and North America, the forest fires in Australia, and famine in parts of Africa, just to name a few. Countries are haggling over miniscule differences in “acceptable” levels of carbon emissions and who bears the responsibility for historical wrongs that have led to current states of vulnerability. The just-concluded rounds of talks at COP27 in Egypt attempted to negotiate aspirations of development with a hard-headed look at the consequences of rising sea levels and disappearing glaciers and pin governments down on implementation of the Paris agreement. As many predicted, there was much discussion but little agreement!
It all seems too much to assimilate, too much to think through, and too difficult for us to deal with at an individual, or even community level. What can we do, in our personal and professional capacities? What should we demand that governments do? How can we push big companies to be more responsible? As the “stocktaking” exercise at COP27 put it, it is now all about “ambition, accountability, and acceleration” if we want to mitigate the effects of a crisis that is already upon us.
As I said earlier, we need to use the tools we have at our disposal, to even begin to take tiny steps toward mitigating this big threat. To arm ourselves with information. And to develop an attitude that fosters participation and responsibility. This issue is a small attempt to offer a bit of both: information and inspiration. From small ideas to make our homes and schools “greener” spaces, to nudges toward different ways of thinking about our futures, to more conceptual questions on how to equip ourselves with the information we need to managing those futures.