We understand the science. What are we going to do about it?
Where we address the issue in high schools, we generally pigeon-hole climate change into our science curriculum. But social studies, especially government and civics, offer critical tools for understanding and engaging with the issues.
This 2021 study demonstrates the need for perspectives beyond science. The researchers surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 in 10 countries around the world. The findings are not only that young people fear for their futures, but that they feel betrayed by their governments.
The study breaks the data down by country, showing that these feelings are held by young people around the world, even more so by youth in the global south and less powerful countries. (The study left me wondering about whether youth of different racial/cultural heritage and economic class within our own communities would answer the questions differently. As the authors state, these findings call for more research!)
How should we teach about the climate crisis, particularly when we agree with what these young people are saying?
Below are links and excerpts – to the Young People’s Voices study, and then to two articles that find hope and possible ways forward, without sugar-coating.
Posted: 7 Sep 2021
Elizabeth Marks, University of Bath
Caroline Hickman, University of Bath
Findings: Respondents were worried about climate change (59% very or extremely worried, 84% at least moderately worried). Over 50% felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. Over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change. Respondents rated the governmental response to climate change negatively and reported greater feelings of betrayal than of reassurance. Correlations indicated that climate anxiety and distress were significantly related to perceived inadequate government response and associated feelings of betrayal.
Here’s a five-step plan to deal with the stress an become part of the solution.
January 10, 2020
By Emma Marris
Ditch the shame.The first step is the key to all the rest. Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. . . . the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account. . . . Join an effective group. These sweeping, systemic changes are complicated and will be hard won. No single person alone can make them happen. Luckily, there are already dozens, if not hundreds, of groups dedicated to climate activism. . . . Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against. . . . This is a future where the economic inequality, racism and colonialism that made decades of inaction on climate change possible has been acknowledged and is being addressed. It is a time of healing. Many ecosystems have changed, but natural resilience and thoughtful human assistance is preventing most species from going extinct. This is a future in which children don’t need to take to the streets in protest and alarm, because their parents and grandparents took action. Instead, they are climbing trees.
The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.
September 8, 2019
By Jonathan Franzen
Some climate activists argue that if we publicly admit that the problem can’t be solved, it will discourage people from taking any ameliorative action at all. This seems to me not only a patronizing calculation but an ineffectual one, given how little progress we have to show for it to date. The activists who make it remind me of the religious leaders who fear that, without the promise of eternal salvation, people won’t bother to behave well. In my experience, nonbelievers are no less loving of their neighbors than believers. And so I wonder what might happen if, instead of denying reality, we told ourselves the truth. . . . even if we can no longer hope to be saved from two degrees of warming, there’s still a strong practical and ethical case for reducing carbon emissions. . . . All-out war on climate change made sense only as long as it was winnable. Once you accept that we’ve lost it, other kinds of action take on greater meaning. Preparing for fires and floods and refugees is a directly pertinent example. But the impending catastrophe heightens the urgency of almost any world-improving action. In times of increasing chaos, people seek protection in tribalism and armed force, rather than in the rule of law, and our best defense against this kind of dystopia is to maintain functioning democracies, functioning legal systems, functioning communities. In this respect, any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action. Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combatting extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action. Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions. To survive rising temperatures, every system, whether of the natural world or of the human world, will need to be as strong and healthy as we can make it.