Young People Are Key to the Climate Emergency, With Education the Best Tool to Help Them


As the UN prepares to drop it’s landmark climate change report, experts have cautioned that greater investment and innovation in educating children about environmental issues is needed to help future generations respond to the climate emergency.

An international group of researchers from Monash University, Exeter University, University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Stanford University, have identified that education is a cornerstone in supporting the necessary behavioural changes that are needed to address climate change.

In a recently published research paper, the researchers argue that environmental education, particularly within the areas of humanities, arts and social sciences, is the only way to gain unified support to promote lasting social and environmental change.

Professor Alan Reid, from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, says environmental and science education helps people to identify fake information and ideologies, and understand and respond appropriately to warnings about the climate emergency.

“The deepening environmental crisis will continue to worsen if there is not significant support and investment in environmental and science education,” Professor Reid said.

“Governments and other organisations need to direct more funding to education innovation to help young people address the complex, interlinked trends in the deteriorating state of ecosystems, biodiversity and climate, amongst other environmental issues.”

The experts add that consensus on our current environmental predicaments must also be supported by those in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and wider society.

Professor Jo-Anne Ferreira from USQ, says the research identifies the importance of a whole-school approach as opposed to quick curriculum fixes for addressing the climate emergency.

“We also need to look at investment and innovation in lifelong learning and non school-based provision, alongside examining the focus of current initial teacher education and continuing professional development,” Professor Ferreira said.

“Global leaders should be discussing how to reimagine, recreate and restore environmental education to reduce the consequences of the environmental crisis. Countries should embed environmental and science education throughout society in ways that make sense locally,” added Professor Justin Dillon from the University of Exeter.

The research paper highlights international surveys that show many governments continue to fail to support and invest enough in environmental and sustainability education across pre-school, school, college and university settings.

“Ensuring any form of environmental education is relevant, coherent, fit for purpose, funded appropriately, and available to current and future generations within and beyond the curriculum will be crucial to addressing sound and pertinent warnings from scientists,” said Professor Reid.

The researchers conclude that as a collective we must consider the role of education both critically and creatively in influencing and shaping any of our individual and collective behaviours.

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