This week, September 20 - 27, millions will walk from their homes and places of work to join young climate strikers as they demand urgent action on the most pressing issue of their time: the climate emergency.
Many educators support these walkouts, with some institutions going as far as cancelling classes the day of, and with many teachers committing to a ‘no major assignments pledge.’ Locally, UBC has endorsed the strike and the BCTF has come out in support.
And yet, in the absence of class attendance, this seems to be the ultimate teaching moment. We can learn so much from this youth-led demonstration of power, solidarity, diversity, and determination -- and if past climate strikes serve as any indication, we can witness some real beauty in the process. In the words of Greta Thunberg, “If you still say that we are wasting valuable lesson time, then let me remind you that our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction.”
I personally participated in some of the major climate protests and student walkouts in London this year, and the energy was second-to-none. It was incredible to stand witness as thousands of students from varying grade levels and post-secondary institutions systematically organized. Even more surprising was that, amidst the clamour of Brexit negotiations, British parliament was disrupted enough to declare a climate emergency. Government listened. The point of this anecdote being: demanding action through activism can not only have an impact, but it is also an astounding first-hand glance at democracy in full force.
In the vein of using these strikes as an optimistic teaching moment, BTCEA wants teachers across BC to be able to access our Climate Action Unit FREE OF CHARGE this school year. This unit aims to provide educators with action-oriented tools that can help overcome eco-anxiety and dispel climate myths in the classroom. After all, knowledge is power!
This is an incredible rallying cry for teachers to empower students, and so we also want to point any interested parties towards additional resources for talking about the strikes, and climate issues more broadly, in the classroom:
Tell the story - why strike?
In August 2018, Sweden’s Greta Thunberg began skipping school every day to demand climate legislation ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections. Following the elections, Thunberg continued to strike on Fridays, inspiring thousands of young people worldwide. Youth around the world have since joined in protesting in front of their local legislatures on Fridays, beginning the #FridaysForFuture movement. In a culmination of all these efforts, strikers from 117 countries are calling for massive global climate action on September 20th and again on September 27th—a full week of concentrated action that the strikers are calling the #WeekForFuture movement.
The IPCC Report
One major catalyst for strikes this year was the publication of the 2018 UN IPCC report. Don’t have time to read the entirety of the report? No problem. Here are some quick facts to share with your students: (1) Currently, changes to land cause ¼ of man-made emissions. Agriculture and food production, deforestation, and desertification are some of the biggest sources of climate change. (2) 1 billion people could be fed if global food waste was halved. (3) Scientists predict that if more than 40% of the Amazon is deforested, we risk passing irreversible tipping points beyond which major rainforests could not survive. Read more key facts, summarized here.
Join in and support your students (if you can)
If you are willing or able, join this call to action yourself. To participate in Vancouver’s events, visit the Sustainabiliteens' Facebook page. A full list of events can be found there.
Can’t strike? Make sure your students have the resources they need to participate
Here’s a full list of information about the climate strike, what you’d need to bring, and creative ideas for artwork. This list also includes a guide to the legal parameters of public organizing.
Encourage your students to continue to demand change, even as this strike comes to pass, by writing letters to the government. Here are some tips for how to write a letter to your MP.
- Tell the story - why strike?
We hope to see you engaged in this exciting time for eco-social education. In closing, Greta’s positive words serve as a far better conclusion than my own:
“It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. In other words, it will take cathedral thinking. I ask you to please wake up and make changes required possible.” - Greta Thunberg