Climate change and empowerment of children and youth through education

By Simi Mehta*

Youth constitute the majority of the population in many countries and have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, which has the power to transform our societies towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. Tackling climate change requires concerted coordinated government action as well as conscious and informed efforts by individuals. Therefore, it is essential to strengthening both formal and informal education on climate change and viable lifestyles.

The Impact & Policy Research Institute New, Delhi, Centre for Climate Change & Sustainable Development hosted a planet talk on the State of Environment: a distinguished lecture on Climate Change and empowerment of Children & Youth through Education. The programme was chaired by an eminent panel of members. Donna Goodman, Founder of the Earth Child Institute was the speaker of the panel. She is a renowned author as well as the founder of Goodman Productions. The discussion was chaired by Manish A Thakre, Head- Urban Program & Policy, Save the Children India.

Starting with the moderator of the session stated that in the present scenario climate change discussions are primarily focused upon however the questions arise to top-down these discussions as bottom-up discussions on combating climate change and action have remained isolated and haven’t received much policy support. Thus it is important to empower youth towards climate change who would face the brunt or be the beneficiaries of the present scenario.

New Generations of Inequalities

Donna Goodman highlighted the basic framework of global conventions that shaped and regulated global climate change. A new generation of inequalities is opening around education, technology, and climate change, she added. Working for the UN she authored a book titled everybody counts and every drop matter, where she documented every UN organization that worked relating to the Children and Water. This was where the clues showed her that climate change was the major driver of water scarcity.

In 2007 she put a brochure and a video on climate change and children in association with UNICEF. She criticized that none of the conventions had a youth constituency or earth constituency. She highlighted the necessity to have children and young people as stakeholders. It was only in 2008 that children and youth were added as stakeholders by the UNFCC when they decided to adopt them.

Climate Crisis is Child Rights Crisis

Donna Goodman explained about the UN’s Children’s Climate Risk Index. There are approximately 1 billion Children of which half of them live in high-risk areas. The Index is composed of many indexes across climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses, as well as child vulnerability. She proposed a simple policy for the guidance of climate change and education for the empowerment of young people. She also insisted on the need for having national and subnational policy mandates and financial support with sustainable budgets.  

Secure Sustainable, Value based resources

She further emphasized focusing on specific, achievable behavioural change, encouraging team building and problem-solving, fostering a connection with nature, promoting public commitment to take actions, monitoring change, and celebrating success as ways towards securing sustainable value-based resources.

“Empowering today for sustainable future for all” Says Goodman

Mother Nature Sensitive Education

Manish A Thakre mentioned that Delhi is facing the highest population crisis in the recent past. It almost took another delayed ten years to realize the consequences of climate change and how it affected the planet. He agreed with the speaker that the education of the young generation about climate change is vital and making them the stakeholders and partners of climate change does away with consequences of the thriving issue in the imminent future. The empowerment of the children and their education helps in generating local solutions to the conflict.

He enunciated the need of sensitizing the children about nature. The educational curriculum has to be sensitive about Mother Nature so as to create awareness among the younger generation, he added. According to the discussant mere education will not do away with the crisis, but there lies the need to engage or involve them practically to combat and deal with global climate change.

In the session that followed the speaker, Donna Goodman mentioned that the greatest challenge of young stakeholders is to get the adults to take seriously what the younger one says. This is what has been described as sad and pathetic. She reasonably substantiated by the above statement the necessity to generate awareness among the young minds and to sensitize them about the need to care for and protect Mother Nature.

Pertinent Questions and Concluding Remarks

A question was raised of the route learning and parental pressure that induces the children to evade and ignore their fundamental duty of protecting nature and How can the existing curriculum be aligned in an eco-friendly manner to this Donna replied that the existing curriculum set by the local and national governments around the world ought to be reshaped and remapped to involve, engage and educate teachers, parents, and children about climate change. This is a tremendous and challenging task as she described. 

The second question raised was aligned that how can the political actions be mobilized and how can one combat the cynicism that comes from the indifferences from the corporates, the government to take significant steps to address the crisis? And whether the children or the youth can make any significant change without any support or proactiveness from any of these major players who are very influential in their very domain? In reply, Donna added that clubbing together the youth with ethical and moral educational and environmental professionals can solve the problems better.

Mr. Manish explained their project in the Philippines which was part of the Disaster reduction as the place being highly prone to natural disasters. The project included practical lectures about climate change in one part and the other part is the practical drills where the children are trained to measure rainfall using rain gauges in the practical sessions.

The speaker in the session that followed explained the relevance of environmental economics. She also added that she regrets not being much into the green jobs in her younger days. Mr. Manish also instigated the scope and relevance of journalism and environmental economics in the upcoming future. The chair insisted on the necessity of having the policy to make future generations safe.

Mr. Manish recommended the need to have a very strong database at the regional sub-regional and local level, as the absence of data is a major issue that limits the policymakers of today. He also explained social and environmental advocacy. He insisted on urban planning and reshaping the curriculum by bringing the necessary changes and modifications to support the youth to do better.

*Acknowledgment: Abraham Joseph is a research Intern at IMPRI

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