How exactly do we broach the subject of the climate crisis with students? Is there some sort of balance to be stricken between teaching the realities of the scale of the crisis while also maintaining a sense of positivity and hopefulness? How do we deal with rising eco-anxiety among youth that comes with learning and experiencing the climate crisis? These are the questions that teachers shared with me this fall.
The concerns that teachers expressed about wanting to teach students about the climate crisis without sending them all spiraling into a wave of eco-despair is well-founded. As we welcome in 2020, we enter a decade where the 2019 UNEP Report: Closing the Gap asserts greenhouse gas emissions globally have to fall 7.6% each year to maintain a chance of limiting warming to the 1.5°C Paris Target, designated as the safe limit for humanity. The scale of change and transformation that this requires is unprecedented, and can feel totally overwhelming, and even impossible. However, there is hope in that we do know the solutions, and public opinion on climate change is changing, and rapidly.
Figuring out how to navigate these conversations and strike some sort of balance between urgency and crisis, and hope and action is still something I find challenging despite spending seven years studying social science perspectives on climate change in university. Luckily, over the course of my studies I have followed the growing field of climate communications research that is actively exampling exactly how to communicate the gravity of the climate crisis as effectively as possible; which, like the climate crisis does not have simple answers. In fact, this is a subject of great debate (at least within the community of people working on climate change issues) over the dos and don’ts of climate communications. While there is not the same knowledge and consensus on effective strategies to communicate about climate change, as there is about the occurrence and severity of climate change, there are still many useful strategies, tips, perspectives and advice to approach learning and education on the climate crisis.
That is why, in the New Year we will be launching a 3-part series on our blog that will explore some of the research and debate around communicating and teaching on the climate crises. Each blog will focus on an inter-related but specific concern or challenge we have heard from teachers about bringing climate education into the classroom. Each post will synthesize some of the research, tips and tricks, and advice from some of the leading experts, thinkers and activists in the field.
The 3 topics are:
- Climate Communications- doom and gloom vs. false positivity. A common concern that is expressed is how to teach the realities of the climate crisis, but without paralyzing students with doom and gloom narratives. And, on the flipside, not under representing the issue, or delivering a falsely positive outlook of climate change, its impacts or the solutions. This blog post will explore the research on climate narratives- whether there is a ‘right way’ to talk about the climate, and some tangible tips and tricks for effectively communicating about climate change with your students.
- Navigating Eco-Anxiety- This blog will explore what eco anxiety is, how it is affecting youth, and what some new research says we can do to manage it.
- Hope in the face of the climate crisis- The final blog will explore questions related to hope: Do we need hope? What role does hope play? What does hope look like?
Be on the lookout for this series in January!