You would be hard pressed to turn on the news this week and not see a story about Greta Thunberg and her appearance at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. And so it was, when my middle-school son breezed by my home-office, that I was watching a clip of the 16-year-old activist speaking to an audience of roughly 250,000 protesters in New York city. “Wait, what was that?” he asked. I hit replay and we watched it together:
“We are a wave of change. Together and united we are unstoppable. We will rise to the challenge, we will hold those who are the most responsible for this crisis accountable, and we will make the world leaders act. We can and we will. And if you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you. Because this is only the beginning.”
The crowd cheered, I felt a lump in my throat, my son moved on with his day.
But later that night, as I was pulling the covers up to his chin, he asked me about CO2 and the atmosphere and wondered why we couldn’t just send the extra greenhouse gases out to space. The conversation was meandering and included topics like Mars, the giant millipede at the Vilas Zoo, and “what if piranhas got into Lake Wingra?” But as I turned out the light, it occurred to me that he had been thinking about that speech and about climate change.
He might not have the scientific solutions today, and he will likely never be on a stage in front of thousands of climate supporters, but he’s thinking about it. His whole generation is. I know I wasn’t lying in bed in the 80’s thinking about how to save the Earth. I’m glad these kids are. And I’m glad they’re speaking out and I believe they’re making a difference.
Did you Know…
Greta Thurberg started her #FridaysforFuture school strikes to protest global inaction against climate change just one year ago. This week she spearheaded a following of over 4 million people from across the globe in joining the Global Climate Strike. The Strike is thought to be the largest of its type in world history.
The Global Climate Strike preceded the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, which took place on September 23rd, 2019 in New York. The Summit called on global leaders to create “realistic plans [for]…reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.”
To Do This Month:
- Make a direct impact on your environment by participating in one of the many work parties or volunteer restoration days at various Nature Net sites, all listed on the Nature Net events page.
- Visit NASA Climate Kids with your children and pick out some activities or projects to do together that are both fun and educational.
- Watch the movie A Beautiful Planet, which discusses the earth and climate change in a kid-friendly manner.
- See the autumn leaves as you walk through Olbrich Botanical Gardens during their Guided Garden Strolls, which go through October.
- Find more upcoming family-friendly events on the Nature Net events page and get involved with community happenings at your local environmental organizations!
While driving the crew to soccer practice last spring, a story on National Public Radio caught my attention. When I hear “climate change” and “education” in the same story-line, my ears tend to perk up. After the raucous, cleat-wearing pre-teens were happily on the field, I Googled the article to listen again with full attention. I posted a link on social media with NPR’s headline of “Most Teachers Don’t Teach Climate Change; 4 In 5 Parents Wish They Did.”
To this, a teacher-friend decried that teachers should not be made the scapegoat. They are often required to teach specific curricula and are continually expected to teach with a mind to improving standardized test scores, she said. I understood. And I agree that we certainly have reached an interesting educational paradigm in the US today. However, I see this article as a beacon of hope, a hope for a shift in that paradigm. One where teachers (82% of whom believe the climate is changing (vs 74% of the general public)) feel empowered to teach about climate science. And one where state and federal policies support their efforts. Plus, it turns out, the headline was misleading. More teachers than parents think climate change and its impacts should be taught in schools (74% vs 68% respectively).
Climate education is more critical now than ever and if parents and teachers are ready, we are too. The environmental and climate science education fields have been at work for years, developing resources and thinking about age-appropriate ways to educate youth on these topics and encourage their civic engagement and action.
Here are a few resources to get us started:
More from NPR: “8 Ways to Teach Climate Science In Almost Any Classroom“
Climate Science & Climate Education Curricula:
- Climate Generation
- National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Climate Literacy
- Midwest National Climate Assessment
- Beyond Penguins & Polar Bears
The previously mentioned NPR article also notes that only 45% of parents talk about climate change with their children. Maybe we’re all talking about it more now that Greta Thunberg gives us reason to have deeper bedtime discussions. But if you’re not, no fear! We have resources for that too:
Rainforest Alliance: 5 Tips for Talking to Kids about Climate Change (Without Freaking Them Out
New York Times: Climate Change is Scaring Kids. Here’s How to Talk to Them.
United Nations: Act Now
Video Resources: The Kids Should See This
And because becoming a planet crusader begins with a love and appreciation for nature at a young age, check out this awesome podcast from Hidden Brain for some rationale for getting outdoors:
Hidden Brain Podcast: How the Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life
There’s really no secret to it. Educate yourself, talk about the success stories, and encourage them to act. And here’s a bit of info on the Giant African Millipede in case you need it!