Greta Thunberg, a Swedish girl on the Autism Spectrum, has become a force in the climate change conversation on a global level. It is nothing less than inspirational, particularly for our students. In August 2018, she made a decision not to go to school to protest the indifference of world leaders to engage in the discussion about climate change. She writes her own speeches, which have delivered a clear and consistent message:
“The climate crisis is a black and white issue. We need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases and I want you to panic.” . Thunberg, G. (2019) p. 29
She does not dismiss the complexity of the issues but condemns the failure of world leaders to act. Her rallying cry has mobilized children and adults. There is no tolerance of political posturing in the emerging movement that is not backed up with clear action to balance emissions with removal of greenhouse gases.
In 2015, 196 countries agreed to limiting global warming to well below 2 C, preferably below 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial times. The COP26 summit is aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. That means balancing emissions with the removal of greenhouse gases by trees and healthy oceans. This will be a crucial test for the global community given that developed countries like US and Canada remain huge consumers of gas and oil for heating and transportation demands and those is developing countries requiring greenhouse gas emissions in the production of things such as cement and steel to develop their infrastructure of schools, hospitals and housing. Loud voices will need to ensure problem solving and accountability measures are in place.
The point of the new curriculum in British Columbia is to encourage engagement in the curriculum through the development of core competencies. We want our students to develop their thinking skills, communication skills, personal efficacy and social skills so they deeply engage in learning that matters to them. Many kids are terrified about the climate crisis. We do want them immobilized by fear, but to be engaged in problem solving. We want educators to support students in asking questions and coming up with a plan to find possibilities or answers. We can support students in learning about effective forest management that prevents the mass fires we are seeing that dump carbon into the environment. We can also help them plan and celebrate ways to limit emissions of carbon gases by biking and walking to school.
CBC is encouraging questions about COP26, climate science, policy and politics in an effort to make their news coverage more responsive to readers. Use firstname.lastname@example.org and the many available sources so that students feel supported in this learning.
Greta Thunberg repeatedly states:
“Your generation is failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you.” p.99
Eyes are on all of us. I applaud Greta Thunberg for her success in mobilizing the world with a consistent message that has inspired political will to act. However I grew up in the day when I lost sleep over whether a nuclear bomb was going to rain down on us during the Cold War. I want our students to understand the issues around climate change but not to feel helpless or overly anxious. I want them to feel that they have support from the adults in their schools and from each other in making their voice heard. The purpose of education is to empower our students. We want our students to live that as their reality.
Thunberg, Greta. (2019). Greta Thunberg. No One is Too Small To Make A Difference. Penguin Books. New York.